Stable of Backs

Marshall has had a history of great running backs. The current Marshall roster has multiple capable running backs on the roster. How deep is the Herd? Who all is coming into the program over the summer. The answer is, very deep, and two quality assets will join the team in June/July.

Running back has been a position at Marshall University which has seen stars come and go. In the mid 1980’s Ron Darby was leading the Herd to National Championship games. After his tenure ended, stalwarts like Orlando Hatchett and Glenn Pedro. In the mid 1990’s the Herd saw stars like Erik Thomas, Olandis Gary and Doug Chapman role through the program. Then of course in more recent years, two time super bowl winner Ahmad Bradshaw and later, Darius Marshall suited up for the Herd.

In the past few years Marshall was led by a group called the Baby Backs, in Kevin Grooms, Steward Butler and Remi Watson, before tough man Devon Johnson took over last season. This season should be the senior years for all four of these backs. However, recent legal issues with Steward Butler will cause him to join Kevin Grooms as two players currently no longer with the program.

Watson has battled injuries throughout his career. He appeared to finally put those behind him last year, beating out Butler to be the first off the bench behind Johnson. But a late season injury put him back on the sidelines watching. Watson did not participate in spring camp, but should be ready to go this season.

Watson ended the 2014 season with 546 total yards and six touchdowns. On his career, Watson will head into his senior season with 1,046 yards on 209 carries, and 13 touchdowns. He has shown the ability to catch the ball out of the backfield as well. As a freshman in 2012 he hauled in 11 catches in limited duty.

Tony Pittman came on strong this spring. Pittman brings a different set of skill sets to the position as he is both big and runs with power. Pittman scored one touchdown last season in very limited duty. He expected to come into the season battling for the fourth spot with fellow sophomore to be Brandon Byrd. However, Byrd has left the program, and with the Butler injury, Pittman is now in a position to head into summer battling Watson for the right to back up senior Devon Johnson.

Johnson of course is coming off one of those truly special years. When you are good enough to get your own spoof account on twitter, you know something is going right. @47sStiffArm, aka, Rockhead’s Stiff arm has nearly 700 followers. Johnson came to Marshall as a linebacker/running back out of Virginia. He started off on the defensive side of the ball, but quickly moved to tight end. In his first two years of action, he grabbed 21 catches for 360 yards and 5 touchdowns. Last season he was moved to running back and the results were off the charts.

Johnson made a huge splash, hitting big play after big play after big play. By the time his season ended, he had tallied 1,767 yards rushing and 17 touchdowns. The highest single year production since Chris Parker’s 1,833 yards in 1995. His one year of production was enough to put him 16th on the all time rushing list at Marshall.

The loss of Butler, which at this point, is assumed to be permanent, does limit the Herd’s depth, but it shouldn’t be enough to hurt the overall rushing attack. With back ups like Watson and Pittman in the fold, as long as all three stay healthy, they should be able to more than carry the load throughout the 2015 season.

However, if one of them do go down, who is behind them.

Former local product out of Cabell Midland High School, David Gaydosz, had a very good spring. Gaydosz was able to get in quite a few reps with Johnson and Watson being held out of contact and with Byrd away from the program.

Marshall also welcomes 2014 Non qualifier Keion Davis into the fold as well as 2015 signee, three star Delvin Weems from Sandy Creek High School in Georgia. One of these players should find themselves in the mix when August rolls around.

If, for some reason, injuries and lack of production would rear its ugly head, the Herd staff has a potential ace up its sleeve if need be. Hyleck Foster, the sophomore to be slot receiver is a former running back who lit it up in the state of South Carolina. He also lined up at running back in Marshall’s most recent game, the Boca Raton Bowl, in December.

One way or another, the running back position, which has never been a problem at Marshall, will continue to not be a problem in 2015. And one other note. DeAndre Reaves is also capable of moving back to running back if needed.

Stay tuned to Herdhaven for further news and notes.

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