BF.C SPRING PREVIEW: Running Back

WIDE OPEN. That's how the running back position at Oregon State figures to look at the start of spring ball, with Jacquizz Rodgers NFL-bound and no longer in the black and orange fold. So will a clear 2011 starter emerge during spring ball?

The guess here, is probably not.

Mike Riley will probably want to keep competition open at some positions and running back, with two recruits coming in the fall, could be one of them. More a reason, however, is that no one on the current roster group has given an indication they're head and shoulders above the rest.

But that's what spring ball is for -- with a winter offseason under their belts, someone could be ready to emerge.

THE RUNNING BACK competition this spring starts with Ryan McCants. He's at his best when he runs hard and with confidence.

But injuries have played a role, there are times he's run tentatively, and ball security has also been an issue. He had all of four carries last season.

With McCants, it might be more about confidence and the mental game than anything else. Recent running back stars in the conference have been smaller, speedier guys but there is still a place for a big back in the Pac-12, where the right 6-1, 230-pounder can be among the conference elite. This spring begins the senior's last season at OSU. Will he put it all together in 2011?

Jordan Jenkins is dependable, and Mike Riley likes that. But like McCants, he barely saw the ball last season either (2 carries for 8 yards), with Quizz in the backfield.

Jenkins, a former walk-on who earned a scholie last year, was more impressive in last year's fall camp than was McCants, though they didn't always go up against the same level of competition. Still, Jenkins ripped off some nice runs and he's also an elevated threat catching passes coming out of the backfield.

But perhaps the guy who will have the most eyes on him is Jovan Stevenson.

He sat out last year following shoulder surgery. But his ability to break into the open field is what has some fans thinking he earns the starting job when it's all said and done.

Stevenson needed to put on weight and bulk this offseason while still holding onto his speed and quickness – the official hts/wts haven't been released yet but last year in fall camp, he was listed at 5-11, 186. Spring ball should provide a clearer picture of exactly where he is at in terms of development, and if he's ready to earn the job.

Malcolm Marable (5-7, 157) is light but he has a world of speed and could create a role for himself.

True freshman Storm Woods and Malcolm Agnew arrive in the fall. Will the RB job still be wide open when fall camp kicks off in early August? The spring, which kicks off on March 28, will answer that question.


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