Fresno State has a big group of rookie running backs, but it is unlikely that many of them will see the field soon. Not because of talent, but because of injury.
Nearly every carry in 2015 was taken by an outgoing running back, leaving a brand new offensive coaching staff a lot of work to replace them. Dontel James broke out as the team’s top back last spring in his second round with the Bulldogs. Bryson Oglesby was not far behind until suffering an injury that has left him rehabbing to this day.
Of the Bulldogs’ fall additions:
Each of the three freshmen running backs brought something different to the table this fall that could have been used in 2016, but Saevion Johnson seems to have the best chance of seeing the field sooner rather than later. Johnson’s forte was his combination of power and speed. Though he still has some bulking up to do, he proved to be big enough to handle the role at nearly 200 pounds as a true freshman.
Of the injured freshman, Johnson appears to have the best chance to get on the field this year. He suffered back-to-back injuries last week, but has not been reported as being out in the long-term to this point.
“Saevion is a bigger kid, a 200-pound guy. He runs strong, he’s a hard inside runner. He ran the ball in the first week here really well in the inside run." - Fresno State Running Backs Coach Dave Ungerer
Johnson comes back to take some carries in September. If he gets back to 100 percent, he becomes a regular part of the committee in October and November.
Deonte Perry would have likely had a significant role in the Bulldogs’ committee had he stayed healthy. Unfortunately a leg injury is expected to keep him out for the season.
What Perry brings to the table is speed, and he’s got a lot of it. While he doesn’t carry the weight that Johnson does, he can be deceptively strong with the ball. He will need a year to rehab and strengthen up to handle hits on a weekly basis, however.
“Deonte, he’s got speed. He’s got great open-field speed. Once he gets to the corner, it’s hard to catch him.” - Ungerer
Redshirt - Perry spends this year rehabbing and returns in 2017 as a major threat in the run game.
Justin Rice had a world of potential as a 6-foot-2 and 200-pound freshman - an offensive weapon who could contribute in a variety of ways. Unfortunately, Rice went down with a foot injury on the very first day of camp.
Lucio Ourique - BarkBoard
Rice’s diagnosis would put him out until at least October, which would usually mean a redshirt season. Due to the Bulldogs’ injury struggles in the backfield, they could end up asking him to suit up as a true freshman when healthy if needed.
"The Rice kid is a big, strong guy. It’s just unfortunate he got hurt very, very early. I didn’t see a whole lot of him. But from everything everyone said about the summer workouts, he’s going to be a big, strong back when he gets back from his foot injury. We’re hoping and told (five) weeks or so, so hopefully we’ll have good luck with the foot.” - Ungerer
Redshirt unless an emergency - Rice gets back out to practice in October but stays on the sideline unless the Bulldogs’ backfield somehow gets more depleted after non-conference.