Spring top 12: Rodney Stewart

Colorado running back Rodney Stewart ran for 1,318 yards in 2010, the fifth highest single-season total in school history. With new coaches emphasizing the development of a strong running game, Stewart figured to be an integral part of things once again this spring and he didn't disappoint. Stewart is No. 4 on our list of the best Buffs of spring ball.

It might be too steep a climb for Rodney Stewart to reach and surpass the Colorado career rushing record held by his position coach, offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy.

Stewart will enter his senior year with 2,744 rushing yards in his career trailing only four other Buffs, including Bieniemy. Another 1,300 yard season would make Stewart the program's career rushing leader and it also would make him the first Buff in history to rush for more than 4,000 yards in a career.

But it's important to keep some facts in mind when considering whether Stewart has a legitimate shot at the accomplishment. For instance, a big part of the reason he was able to put up such big numbers in 2010 was the lack of a quality backup for more than half the season because of an injury to Brian Lockridge and the departure of former Buff Justin Torres, who had earned playing time early in the campaign.

Stewart simply isn't likely to come close to the 290 carries he had last season, which were second most in one season in CU history, trailing only Rashaan Salaam during his Heisman Trophy season in 1994.

It's likely Stewart will give up carries this year to at least one other back and more likely several others. Redshirt freshman Tony Jones had a strong spring and looks like he will earn opportunities and Lockridge should be able to contribute once again at some point in the season after he fully recovers from a serious ankle injury he suffered in 2010 and required reconstructive surgery.

A true freshman running back might also make an impact.

Another factor will be the switch to the West Coast offense. Stewart might not get as many carries, but he will probably catch more passes out of the backfield.

Records aside, Stewart is a luxury to have because he has so much experience as a four-year player. His maturity helped him adapt quickly during the spring to new coaches and a new scheme.

Stewart ran 14 times for 55 yards in the spring game and also caught two passes for 31 yards. He finished the spring having rushed 36 times for 129 yards and four touchdowns in the three main spring scrimmages. He also led the Buffs with 12 receptions for 85 yards and a touchdown.

Coach Jon Embree has encouraged Stewart to participate on special teams to give him some experience there and a fighting chance a year from now to make an NFL roster. So fans should count on seeing Speedy used in more diverse ways in 2011.

If things go his way in a big way, perhaps Stewart will get a nice pat on the back in a late season game from Bieniemy after he breaks his coach's record.

Want to read past editions of the Spring top 12?

Daniel Munyer

Josh Hartigan

Nick Hirschman

Kyle Slavin

Paul Richardson

Jack Harris

Tony Jones

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