Spring Football Preview: Running Backs

We all know that more help is coming for the running back position in the fall in the form of junior college standout Chris Carson out of Butler Community College in Kansas and Parkview High School in Lilburn, Ga., but there are several candidates on the squad that would like to gain the clubhouse advantage in the competition and be waiting for Carson when he gets here.

The player you would expect to do that would be Rennie Childs. Childs did start one game last season, but when Childs is healthy he has shown he is a really good back. His problem has been staying healthy.

The same goes for redshirt freshman Sione Palelei, who came in from East Ascension High School in Louisiana off an ACL injury seven games into his senior season. Palelei was outstanding in fall camp and convincing that he was going to play and be a factor at the position.

He had shown the signs that Mike Gundy had seen before in standout freshman backs like Keith Toston, Kendall Hunter, and Joseph Randle. Then Palelei suffered a knee injury that set him back and when he returned from that injury he suffered another. Now, he likely will go easy this spring, but don’t tell him as he acts like he wants to go full speed.

Todd Mays comes to Stillwater from NJCAA back-to-back national champion East Mississippi C.C. While he prefers to play quarterback, where he led Olive Branch to a Class 6A state championship in high school and he played in a back-up and part-time role in junior college he will see the opening for playing time is at running back. He played that more at East Mississippi and played it well.

“Todd did not have a problem doing what we needed him to and he rotated in at quarterback, running back, (and) receiver,” EMCC offensive coordinator Marcus Wood said. “He is about as hard to tackle in a phone booth as you will find. He is really good right to left.

"He does a great job of ball security and I don't think he had a single turnover this season. He can do a really good job at running back. He's built for that and he has thick thighs and a strong lower body that can move around and does a fantastic job. He is a strong runner and elusive as well. I think he will be really dynamic.”

You also don’t want to go sleep or forget the two walk-ons that have game experience and have looked good in their rare opportunities. Raymond Taylor is small enough to hide behind linemen but powerful enough to break tackles. Corey Bennett has also showed up well when called upon. Now is that duo a long shot? Yes, but I’ve seen stranger things happen in my days of covering college football.

Returning Starters
23 Rennie Childs, RB, Jr., 5-10, 205 (1 game)
44 Jeremy Seaton, FB/TE, Sr., 6-2, 250

Contenders
22 Todd Mays, Ath., Jr., 6-0, 200
33 Sione Palelei, RB, RS-Fr., 5-10, 200
30 Raymond Taylor, RB, Sr., 5-7, 195
27 Corey Bennett, RB, Sr., 5-9, 205

Waiting to be Discovered
41 Britton Abbott, FB, RS-Fr., 6-3, 230

Another interesting aspect to this is that a new set of eyes and a new mind will be coaching and involved in the evaluation at the position as Marcus Arroyo joins Mike Gundy's staff to be the running backs coach. He’s coached at Cal, as offensive coordinator at Southern Miss for Todd Monken, and last season was at Tampa Bay in the NFL, and because of illness to Jeff Tedford, his boss as offensive coordinator and the same coach that hired him at Cal, Arroyo ended up calling plays for the Bucs.

Gundy thinks Arroyo is a very bright young coach. That may be appropriate because Arroyo may not have the most players to deal with but he does have the biggest problem to solve on the Oklahoma State offense.


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