OSU Fall Camp Preview: Running Backs

PERHAPS THE MOST, and the least, is known about the Oregon State running backs of all the position groups headed into fall camp. There are no new rookies, so fans are familiar with the group. But trying to predict their 2014 productiveness would require having an answer to why OSU ran for so few yards through the first 11 games, and then suddenly exploded in the final two contests of 2013.

And I’m not sure anyone truly has an answer for why OSU collectively rushed for just 1,227 yards and had to close with a flourish to get to that number.

BF.C Columnist Chad Luther made a great point last year – it wasn’t all about the line. There were times, Luther pointed out, that some lanes were there, but Beaver running backs either didn’t see them or were bound to try and hit the hole diagrammed in the play.

The bottom line is that OSU may have to become more instinctual running the ball if they’re going to find a high enough level of success on the ground. So does that mean lots of Terron Ward?

Ward is the guy who Beaver coaches probably trust the most to play within the scheme and not to turn the ball over. Storm Woods is right there as well. But clearly OSU didn’t think they could beat teams by emphasizing the running game last year. Will that change in 2014?

Ward averaged 4.6 ypc last season but that’s misleading. He only carried the ball 113 times. Storm Woods had 127 carries, rushing for 477 hashes (3.8 ypc). There were games OSU just didn’t try to run the ball. And Oregon State is certainly going to emphasize Sean Mannion this season. But, Oregon State hopes, just not as much.

There are two wildcards here: Chris Brown and Damien Haskins.

Brown came in for garbage time in a few games last year and was productive. Whether he can do the same in fall camp remains to be seen. And the trust factor could also come into play here – do the OSU coaches trust Brown as much as they do Ward and Woods. Fall camp will be huge for Brown if he is to make a move here.

Meanwhile, Haskins (pictured) is stout. But there’s more to his game than just short yardage, as watchers of the spring game will attest. He is light on his feet at 224-pounds and his 5-8 frame allows him to get lost between the tackles.

Haskins needs to work on his hands out of the backfield and to become better at blocking in max protect – running backs don’t play at OSU unless they do all the things required of them and running the ball isn’t always the end-all, be-all.

But Haskins is my pick for the surprise of the running back corps in fall camp. How he moved in the spring game, against live action, was something that hasn’t been seen in a while in the OSU backfield. Keep a close eye on him.

The fullbacks figure to be part of the Beaver offense again, but also in the shadows a bit. The position, even in OSU’s pro-set, just isn’t as popular anymore as fast-paced, pass-oriented, zone read offenses have become the vogue.

That said, Tyler Anderson will look to build on his five starts while Ricky Ortiz tries to climb the chart in camp.

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