Post Spring Analysis: Running Backs

Similar to the wide receiver situation, the running backs have a game-proven starter with several quality players scrapping for playing time.

Beaver Believers know Steven Jackson is the real deal while the nation is just four months away from seeing the athletic back in action.

Bitter from the Ken Simonton Heisman campaign and at the request of Jackson, the university will not launch a Heisman campaign. Jackson prefers his on-field skills to do the talking.

Despite the lack of promotional materials, Jackson is a legit Heisman candidate. Jackson will not win the Heisman unless he runs for around 2,000 yards and the Beavers win at least 9 games.

Mike Riley has stated that he will give the ball to Jackson 30 times a game, and that ain’t a bad strategy considering the 6-foot-3, 229-pound back racked up 1,690 yards (a 130.0 game average) in 2002.

The record setting back will also see the ball a lot more from the fingertips of Derek Anderson. The Beavers constantly worked on hitting Jackson out of the backfield. Having Jackson touch the ball as many times as possible is one of the keys to a successful offensive season.

Steven Jackson will rely on his play on the field for Heisman consideration.

Jackson saw limited action during scrimmages, but worked hard with coach Lee Hull on his footwork to improve his open field moves. One of the most prolific backs in OSU football history could leave for the NFL following his junior season.

Junior Dwight Wright and freshman Ryan Cole battled the entire month of April for the backup position.

Wright, a 5-foot-9, 196-pound back did not participate in contact drills earlier in the month due to a sore shoulder. By the end of the month, Wright was receiving a high number of repetitions.

The Diamond Bar alumni is in a Simonton-like mold, bouncing and bobbing between players. He keeps his feet moving and runs well in-between the tackles.

His contrasting running style to Jackson provides a nice change of pace.

Wright’s game experience in 2002 when he rushed 84 times for 383 yards should help him keep the number two spot.

Ryan Cole and Dwight Wright battled all spring for the backup role.

Ryan Cole provided Wright healthy competition the entire fifteen days. Cole, a highly touted recruit out of Port Orchard, Washington received his first opportunity to compete for playing time after red shirting in 2002.

The 6-foot-0, 218-pound back impressed onlookers with his blend of speed and size. Cole has quick feet and will most likely see some playing time in 2003. Wright will start out as the Beaver’s backup, but Cole could take his position later in the year.

If Jackson leaves for the NFL following the conclusion of the 2003 season, Cole will take over as the Beaver’s starting running back. He has the physical tools to become an All-Pac-10 back and has Beaver Nation excited about another record setting player at OSU.

Behind the hard fought battle between Cole and Wright, sophomore Josh Farrell and junior Riley Jenkins worked for the fourth spot on the running back depth chart.

Farrell returned to practice after sitting out the majority of 2002 with a knee injury. He worked hard to get back in shape for the beginning of 2002 where he saw limited playing time. His strong work ethic continued into 2003.

If Farrell received any playing time he would provide a nice alternative to Jackson, Wright and Cole.

Farrell is a small back, but possess powerful legs and good lateral movement. Despite being a fourth string running back, Farrell is a capable back who would start at most WAC or MWC schools.

Unfortunately for 5-11, 202-pound back, the talent ahead of him will limit his playing time. But he is an excellent athlete and the coaches will most likely try him at another position.

Behind Farrell resides 6-1, 193-pound Riley Jenkins and Andrew Taylor. Jenkins is in the mold of Farrell and in a similar situation. Taylor current resides at sixth, but will probably be moved to another position.’s Running Back Rankings

1. Steven Jackson, Junior (6-3, 229) – what can I say that you already don’t know?

2. Dwight Wright, Junior (5-9, 196) – good in-between the tackles runner who has the ability to get the extra yards with crafty running.

3. Ryan Cole, Freshman (6-0, 218) – powerful, explosive player who will challenge Wright for the backup position.

4. Josh Farrell, Sophomore (5-11, 202) – shifty, quick, and capable backup who could see some playing time during non-conference play.

5. Riley Jenkins, Junior (6-1, 193) - faces an uphill battle for playing time.

6. Andrew Taylor, Freshman (5-9, 192) – faces an uphill battle for playing time.

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