Peek Inside Practice: The Running Backs

In the third of our installments covering spring practice for the Marshall football program, we spoke with Ernie Purnsley, running backs coach. Purnsley has the same, solid unit he did last year. He just hopes the nagging injuries that plagued his unit in 2001 will not return for 2002.

"I'm glad we have a good core back," Purnsley said last week during spring drills. "All those guys have experience and have played in big games. The guys have been working really hard in the weight room. Right now, they're healthy."

And none of MU's running backs are more happy to be back on the football field than senior Chanston Rodgers. The 5-10, 205 pounder from Danville, VA returns in 2002 after suffering a season-ending knee injury early in the 2001 season. Rodgers' recovery is reportedly going much quicker than when he suffered the same injury to his other (right) knee in 2000.

Chanston Rodgers

"He's been positive throughout," said Purnsley of Rodgers' recovery. "He's a strong and determined person. I look for him to be right back in the mix."

Franklin Wallace returns after a 2001 season which saw him rack up 796 yards and 9 TDs, despite niggling injuries that made his performances spotty at best. The 6-0, 190 pounder from Myrtle Beach, SC, enters spring drills listed at the #1 spot on the depth chart. If he remains injury-free, 2002 could be Wallace's best season ever, which is saying alot after his breakout year in 2000.

Franklin Wallace

Brandon Carey enters 2002 also recovering from nagging injuries which relegated the 5-10, 185 pounder from Bridge City, LA to spot duty in the backfield in 2001. Still, Carey did manage to run for 289 yards and throwing 2 TD passes (one to QB Byron Leftwich against Miami). Carey is the slice-n-dice runner of the bunch and again, remaining injury-free is paramount to his (and the unit as a whole) success in 2002.

Brandon Carey

Lorenzo Freeman has walked on to the Marshall football team, and in spring drills has been placed in the backfield as the fourth running back. If he continues to be on the team through summer drills, Freeman may be the most unique story on the team: Freeman went from MU cheerleader in 2001 to running back in 2002. "He's learning," Purnsley said of Freeman. "He's a hard worker, and asks good questions. He just needs to get some experience."

Lorenzo Freeman

So, the big question of the running backs entering the 2002 season is this: Will this be the year that Marshall finally has the 'Three-Headed Monster' in the backfield? Remaining injury free is key to that, and is what kept it from becoming a reality in 2001. Still, Purnsley likes the experienced backs in this unit.

"Our biggest key is to just improve on some of the little things that we did last year that we feel we can do better," Pursley summed up. "We're looking for leadership from those guys, and really just improve each day to be the best we can be."

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