Position-by-position -- The Running Backs

The Tar Heels played three freshmen running backs last season. All are healthy and ready for a run in '01. There are some new faces at full back, including Kitwana Jones, moved late in the spring from linebacker.

Name Number Year Height Weight AVG Yards TDS
Willie Parker 15 So. 5-11 200 4.2 355 4
Andre Williams 34 So. 6-0 217 4.2 165 0
Brandon Russell 31 So. 5-11 185 3.5 508 3

Running backs 

Brandon Russell, who started at tailback as a true freshman in 2000, was busy playing baseball for UNC this spring.  Two other talented running backs, Willie Parker and Andre Williams, got lots of repetitions at tailback this spring.  

Both players turned in tidy performances in the Blue-White game.  Willie Parker gained 119 yards on 14 carries.  Parker, who has a penchant for using his speed to get outside, could have the inside track at the starter's spot. 

After the spring game, Bunting said, "[Willie Parker] can really hit it to the outside, but [he seems] to want to go outside all the time; break it outside. Of course, it is up to us to stop that – but he has got great speed, and he will break some big ones for us." 

If Parker has an edge on contender Andre Williams [spring game, 15 carries, 88 yards], it is not much of one.  Bunting had high praise for the Northern Durham graduate, "[Andre Williams] is going to be a great player here before his career is over, he going to be an All-ACC player, he is going to be a thousand-yard rusher.  He has really come a long way -- he has grown up – that is what he has done." 

Before UNC fans get too carried away, Coach Andre Powell is quick to add some words of caution, "Everything from my players to this point has been typical – inconsistency -- and that is based on being over-saturated with new terminology, and a new coaching style.  Some days you will have a great practice, other days, not so good.  But that is typical." 

The backs themselves are excited about working with Coach Powell.  Willie Parker says, "Coach Powell is a great coach.  You can learn a lot from him.  You just have to listen to him and do what he says, and play physical.  It makes me feel good to know he has sent guys to the first round of the NFL.  He knows what he is doing.  I feel that if I listen to him, I can be one of those types of running backs." 

Andre Williams says, "Coach Powell is teaching us techniques and the things we need to think about.  As a group, we just need to listen to him and he will give us the knowledge to perfect our games."  

Coach Powell has coached some great running backs at Virginia, including Terry Kirby, Thomas Jones, and Antoine Womack.  How does Powell feel they compare to the talent he has at UNC? 

"I don't want to make comparisons; I don't think that is fair to these guys or to Jones and Womack., says Powell, "All I am going to do is take the ones I have got, work hard, get them to be the best they can be, and be judged on that. 

"I don't want to say I want a 1700-yard rusher like Thomas Jones.  I have got two kids here (at spring practice), and I got one playing baseball I am going to coach (Brandon Russell) and try to get them to be the best they can be.  If that is 800 yards, it is 800 yards." 

He is also cautious to avoid unrealistic expectations about his youthful corps of running backs. "If they continue to build on what they have done in practice, they will be pretty dadgum good.  But again, there will be some inconsistencies.  They haven't played a whole lot.  I remember when Thomas Jones played in a consistent role – he didn't have a great year.  In 1997, we [UVA] were home at Christmas, that was Thomas Jones' first year being ‘the man'."   

Powell went on to explain the cause of inconsistency among young backs learning a new system, "Sometimes the players get bogged down with some new wor

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