Ryan Nall and Art Pierce combined to give the Beavers a nice one-two punch last season, combining for nearly 1,500 yards and 20 touchdowns. However, with three offensive linemen gone from last year, how will that affect their performance this season? With that in mind, spring ball will be important in terms of the running backs and offensive line building chemistry and getting on the same page.
The Beavers are razor thin at the position, so spreading reps out to reserves such as Jaylynn Bailey and Marcus Greaves is a good idea, in order to make sure players are prepared in case of injuries. And with so much emphasis on improving the passing game this season, will pass protection be a big part of the running backs coaching this spring?
- Tim Cook (graduated): Played in all 12 games last season, rushing for 137 yards and a touchdown, while averaging 4.6 yards per carry.
- Paul Lucas (transferred to Arizona State where he will focus on track): Played in all 12 games, rushing for 113 yards.
- Ryan Nall (junior): Played in 10 games last season, rushing for 951 yards and 13 touchdowns, while averaging 6.5 yards per carry; caught 22 passes for 214 yards and two TDs.
- Artavis Pierce (sophomore): Played in 11 games, rushing for 535 yards and four touchdowns, while averaging 5.3 yards per carry; caught 21 passes for 132 yards and a TD.
3 Things to Watch
- Just about the only knock you can find against Nall is his durability, not in the sense that he misses a lot of games; he’s just dinged up a lot. That said, will the coaches limit his work this spring? Or could they focus on improving his receiving and blocking skills? Honestly, it would be nice to see Nall used sparingly so he can enter fall ready to hit the ground running.
- Pierce was a pleasant surprise last season, as he rushed for nearly 600 yards in a reserve role, displaying nice burst and agility. It will be interesting to see if he’s the featured back this spring so he can continue to grow in other areas of the game. With his explosiveness, it would be nice to see him used more in the passing game on screens and the like. Also, what kind of shape will he be in? He’s already pretty impressive!
- With the running backs so thin before the new freshmen arrive in the summer, how will the coaches utilize Bailey and Graeves this spring. It is obvious that they will need to be utilized and while Bailey isn’t a starting candidate, he did show some moves on special teams and he plays hard until the final whistle.
Nall and Pierce are known commodities, so it’s not like the coaches need to see what they can do. Really, for them, this spring should be about refining things such as pass blocking, receiving, etc. That’s why it would be nice to see Bailey get a lot of reps. The Beavers, even with Calvin Tyler and B.J. Baylor arriving this fall, are thin at the running back, so the more prepared they can get this spring is key.