With all the changes in the Offensive Line, the Green Shirts on the Quarterbacks and then the pregame ankle injury to Jason Wright, Wildcat watchers really haven't really seen much of the 2003 NU Running game except for a few glipses here and there.
There are a couple of givens:
Jason Wright and Noah Herron (are) coming back at running back - both these kids are quality backs. [Randy Walker after the 2nd Spring Practice]Jason Wright [NU Photo left] will be the "guy," as NU Coach Randy Walker likes to call his #1 running back. With 1,234 yards rushing on 219 carries [5.6 ypc], he's the man that everyone interviews, defenses will target, and will be the the key to the rush game in 2003.
His attitude this year is to put last years team losses behind him and go for a great senior year. His comment to one interviewer was, "Excuses are excuses - lets move on."
He is concerned about the "fluid situation" on the offensive line, but he's confident that the coaches will work out who plays where. What got him excited was that virtually everyone spent the winter working out and watching film - what he described to one reporter as one key to getting better.
Backing up Jason is the other given - one "hoss" of a tailback - Noah Herron [NU Photo-right] . He appears ready for a breakout year and even his rushing average, despite his limited play last year [66 carries/365 yards/5.5 ypc], puts him right up there with Jason in potential. If there is a difference, its his size - Herron is 5-11 and 230 lbs, with all the quickness you need for a tailback.
Anyone who watched the Spring Drills saw Noah rumble through the some of the holes blown by Zach Strief. [The picture we're using for the preview headline is one of those plays]
During the Spring we also saw the Wildcats practice some short passes to the running backs and some option plays, primarily using Noah as the trailing back. We didn't get to see any of it during the Spring Scrimmage. According to Mike Dunbar
...we didn't run any today. Quarterbacks are in green and they can't get hit so in scrimmages we do very little of the quarterback oriented run stuff and that's pretty much designed. We practice that during the week when its what we call "tag off" or "thud" when it becomes live. Its not fair to the defense because we don't want those guys to get hit we don't run much of that stuff during the scrimmages so we didn't do any today. [Mike Dunbar - after the Spring Drills]Too bad, if they had, we might be talking about the new NU option attack with Herron as the "pitch man."
Then we have #3 on the list - former QB Derell Jenkins [left] who has impressed everyone with how quick he seems on the field.
What little I saw, I'm not directly involved with, it looked like he might have found a home there. [RB] He is obviously a gifted athlete and he is going to help this football team somewhere. [Mike Dunbar - after the Spring Drills]We did see him take a punt and run through the defenders like "greased lightning." You have to see why the coaches are working him both at running back, and quarterback - he appears to be the kind of player who can make things happen. You have to wonder how well the option would work with Derell as the trailing "pitch man" back.
The fourth experienced back in this equasion is the seldom used Fullback - Gilles Lezi. [NU Photo - right] During some of the 11 on 11 sessions we'd see Lezi come rumbling out of the backfield through the 1 or 2 hole, sometimes for 5 or 6 yards [or so it seemed]. The 'Cats haven't used Lezi much - he's been a receiver out of the backfield in a few games, but you have to figure that in a pinch, he'd be available for some inside running too.
So the apparent shortage of running backs may look bad, but Randy Walker isn't as worried about the situation, at least not yet...
...in a pinch we have about 3 or 4 guys at other positions now who hav played a lot of running back. Jeff Backes, Louis Ayeni, have played a lot of running back [so has] Torri Stuckey. We haven't changed the offense, so they could proably go back and in a shor time...There's also Terrell Jordan, who is still listed as a running back, but who hasn't seen much action so far.
So I guess I'd say I'm a little scared about it, but I think we'll be all right and if we're not, we make one of those guys come back.
Playing tailback isn't the toughest thing you'll ever do in terms of what you have to know to play it. I don't try to minimize them, but it isn't a tough job, and then having played it, all 3 of those guys - in a week we could have them up and going and be OK. [Randy Walker after the 2nd Spring Practice]
And you have to remember that another major part of the Northwestern attack is the Quarterback run - something we didn't see at all in the Spring Scrimmage, and something we really didn't see much of last year once Bret Basanez got hurt. We'll talk more about that part of the NU game when we preview the Quarterback situation next week.
When you talk running backs you also have to consider that are the three running backs on the roster who are apparently preferred walk-ons.
I hope to have more on these three walk-ons later, but first we have to tackle the other [and somewhat unknown this year] part of the NU Spread attack - the Quarterbacks...
- Nathan Shanks is a 1000 yard rusher the last two years at Taylorville who apparently just wasn't recruited.
- Cameron Tajvar is an unknown [to us] quantity who's team played for the Nebraska state championship.
- The third walk-on back is a Fullback from Alaska. Adam Crum hails from Anchor Point, Alaska. At least Adam should know how to play in the cold.
Projected 2003 Depth Chart*:
[5-10 210 Sr]
[5-11 230 Jr]
[6-1 205 So]
[6-0 245 Sr]
||Y - Rcvr
[6-0 205 Sr]
[5-9 170 So]
[5-9 170 [So]
[6-3 215 Sr]
[6-1 185 So]
[6-7 335 So]
[6-7 301 Jr]
[6-6 320 Fr]
[6-4 270 So]
[6-5 300 So]
[6-3 280 Fr]
[6-2 305 Jr]
[6-3 280 Fr]
[6-5 300 So]
(Maybe) Trevor Rees/
[6-5 325 Jr]
[6-2 295 Jr]
[6-0 270 Jr]
[6-4 280 Jr]
[6-7 335 So]
[6-7 310 Jr]
[6-3 265 Sr]
[6-3 235 So]
[[6-3 260 So]
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