I am very excited with what we have available to us at the Running Back position. This was a big concern heading into spring because of the injury last year to Tony Hollings that caused him sit this spring out.
We went into spring with 2 guys returning from injury, a true sophomore did not look ready for action last season when forced into action earlier than expected and a walk-on that just recently earned a scholarship.
It was those last two players, Michael Sampson & P.J. Daniels, which have made the coaches and fans less concerned about having to lean on them next season in case Hollings doesn't return to 100%.
Sampson & Daniels have been a very productive duo this spring. Between the two, Sampson is the more likely one to be a home run threat and Daniels runs hard and uses his low center of gravity and quickness well to burst through the first lines of defense. Sampson looks like a totally different player from the guy that seemed to lack confidence as a true freshman. He is patient enough to wait for the line to create holes for him and once through the holes, he uses his good speed to get into the defensive secondary, sometimes picking huge chunks of yardage at a time.
Sampson showed off some of that ability during the spring game when he took the 2nd snap of the second to the house for a 65-yard touchdown. He ended the game with 12 carries for 111 yards (9.3 YPC). His spring performance reminded many practice regulars of Hollings' spring last year, without all of the fumbles.
Daniels ran well in the spring game as well. He racked up a solid 54 yards on 11 carries (4.9 YPC) behind a patchwork second team Offensive Line and was key in igniting the offense's first scoring drive.
Ajenavi Eziemefe began spring strong but was slowed throughout because of injuries. He came into practice looking slimmer than last season and poised to concentrate mainly on being a Tailback. He may have a tough time now getting PT back from Sampson & Daniels. He seems to lack the pure speed of Sampson or the explosiveness of Daniels. He is more of a power back that will make most of his hay bullying his way between the tackles and on short yardage situations.
It was also disappointing to see that Jermaine Hatch is still not the same back that he was before his injury against LSU in the Peach Bowl. Apparently he looked really good in one of the Saturday scrimmages but I was unable to attend that one. Everything I saw before and after that though told me that he still needs some more time. Hopefully summer workouts will get him to where he needs to be but the old knee injures may be taking their toll either physically, mentally or both for Hatch.
Sampson & Daniels carried this group to one of the best grades I'm giving out this spring. The remarkable thing is that this group had such success without its best player, Hollings, or the highest rated RB talent we've seen at GT in sometime in Reshaun Grant.
In the fall we could have 3 backs with the capability to take it to the house on any given snap. Certainly Hollings can if healthy, Sampson has the ability and Grant's reputation for breaking long ones is known by those that follow recruiting closely.