'He Could Play At Any College Right Now'

There might not be anyone who knows the game of Ryan Houston better than his coach, Mike Newsome. The Butler (N.C.) Matthews head coach talks about his star running back, who committed last week to North Carolina.

Inside Carolina: For someone that has never seen Ryan play, how would you best describe him?

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Coach Mike Newsome: He's a big, big kid that does things that big kids aren't supposed to do with the football. He's got the ability to run someone over if he has to and he's got the same ability to make someone miss.

He also has got – what has been described by another coach that recruited him – competitive speed. If you time him in the [40-yard dash], he doesn't have a great forty time, but if he needs to run a 4.5 in a game, he'll run a 4.5.

He's got tremendous ability for a big running back.

IC: What does he do that separates him from the pack?

Newsome: Like I said, what he does at 250 pounds sets him apart. He does things that an 180-pound running back normally does – he can make people miss. Probably that most surprising thing he does is his vision to see the hole and to make people miss in the hole. He's able to get extra yards in breaking tackles and making moves. Most of the time, a big running back like that is just going to be a guy that is a straight ahead, downhill-type runner, which he does as well.

IC: What does he need to work on?

Newsome: He's going to have to definitely watch his weight, because he's a big kid and he's got potential to be a bigger kid. He's definitely going to have to keep in shape and watch his weight. When he gets to college they'll have a nutritionist that will take care of that and I don't see that being an issue for him.

As far as his actual playing ability, I really, really believe that Ryan could be playing at any college in the country right now. I think he could have started at a lot of colleges last year as big and as physical as he is and with the ability that he has.

IC: Off the field, what type of person is Ryan?

Newsome: Ryan's a great kid. He's really fun to be around. He actually came and stayed with me at my house for about two weeks at the end of school just to work on exams. He's just an overall great kid. [He is] one of our best kids that we've got around school as far as being a person that carries himself real well and works hard in the weight room. He's got to take care of some class work, but he does a good job overall.

IC: Tell me about his work ethic?

Newsome: He had an issue right around Scout's [All-American] Combine, that he had a little pulled hamstring and had slacked off working out a little bit to heal that hamstring and for a short period of time he was not eligible academically to come in and workout with us. Ryan has to work out all the time to manage his weight. He works out tremendously hard and when he can work out it shows what he can do – he's got his weight down to 255 pounds [from 270].

He's a real, real strong kid in the weight room and that shows – he hand cleans 365 pounds.

He's a tremendously hard worker and he does a good job for us in doing everything we ask him to do.

IC: Do you see him playing tailback in college? And, if so, why?

Newsome: I don't see how anybody doesn't hand him the football. Just what he does with the football, I don't care if he's 290 pounds. Jerome Bettis did some good things with the football being a big guy. I just don't think a college coach is doing themselves justice by not handing him the football.

IC: Tell me about North Carolina's recruiting efforts.

Newsome: North Carolina does a great job recruiting North Carolina kids. The other schools came on real strong; there's a lot of schools that had offered and were in the mix.

I think Ryan just felt comfortable with what [UNC] was going to do offensively – bringing in Coach [Frank] Cignetti and what he did with a decent class of running backs at Fresno State and then what he did in the NFL.

IC: In your opinion, why did Ryan choose North Carolina?

Newsome: I think Ryan just wanted to be at a place where he felt like they were definitely going to give him an opportunity to play running back. And I think with Coach [John] Bunting, Coach [Frank] Cignetti, and Coach [Dave] Brock with what they plan on doing with the football, I think he felt comfortable that they weren't going to have a problem with him being a big running back. They weren't going to just let him be a secondary runner or a runner on short yardage situations. He felt he was going to be able to come in and play early and be a feature running back. He wasn't going to be moved to fullback or defensive line.

IC: How are things looking academically with Ryan?

Newsome: He's doing fine. I sat down with him at the end of the year and he had a good fourth quarter. He had some academic issues earlier this year.

He's taking two classes in summer school, and he doesn't have to, it's just to increase his core GPA. He's academically eligible for us, but he decided to take two classes just to get himself on the right track.

He's going to go through his senior year and have great grades.

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