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
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
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
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