Joining the two veteran tailbacks in camp this spring are sophomore Kevin Moyd and redshirt-freshmen Cory Nabors (a walk on) and Demetrius Sumler. Junior Thomas Perez will miss the spring due to academics, setting him back in the competition to get into Hagan's rotation.
Also expected to compete for playing time in the fall is Juco transfer P.T. Gates, who will be finishing coursework at Saddleback Community College in Southern California through the summer.
While Charles and Ellis are, by far, the most experienced tailbacks on the roster, all the running backs started on the same page last year when the new offense was installed. Hagan said after one day of spring practice this time around he already sees a difference in the players' understanding.
"You can tell that they're a year older in the offense," he said.
Still, there is much to tweak, beginning with some new terminology new offensive line coach Jeff Grimes has brought with him.
Of the young tailbacks, one to watch is Sumler. Sumler said he shed some weight during winter conditioning, and felt "light" on Monday. He's carrying about 208 pounds right now.
Sumler suffered a turf-toe injury last August that slowed some of his progress. But Hagan said the decision to redshirt Sumler wasn't about the injury.
"He would've played with the toe injury if we'd have had a better record," Hagan said. "I didn't want to just play the guy when we're 1-6."
Hagan called Sumler "a slasher. He's got great vision, great hips, great feet. We've just got to get him to understand that you've got to work hard all the time. If he understands that, and he plays hard, plays fast, he can be great."
Sumler said the toe felt fine Monday, but it's the type of thing that can flare up again even after it's seemingly healed. He said he wants to be one of the tailbacks Hagan depends on in 2007.
Hagan feels the same way.
"He's gonna be," Hagan said.