It comes as no surprise that the 6-foot-2, 240 pound Ryan Nall tries to emulate the running style of running backs with similar statures.
Nall’s power along with his surprising speed and quickness has turned him into one of the top running backs in the Pac-12. Much like his favorite running backs, Steven Jackson and Marshawn Lynch, who like Nall, don’t shy away from contact.
Nall had a breakout campaign in his first season as the team’s featured back. He came up just short of 1,000 yards (951), scored 15 touchdowns (13 rushing, two receiving) and capped off the year with a 155 yard, four touchdown performance in the team’s 34-24 Civil War victory.
“I surprised a lot of people,” Nall said of his breakout season. “But I knew I could do it.”
Nall takes pride in that it take multiple defenders to bring him down. But his bruising style came at a cost, he missed half the Colorado game, had one carry against Utah, and missed games against Washington and UCLA—Oregon State lost each of those games.
Keeping Nall healthy is one of the top priorities moving into the season.
“We've got to pick his spots to get him in there and bang around a little bit, and keep him fresh also” said running backs coach Telly Lockette.
“I have to take (my body into consideration)” Nall said. “That way I can last longer and perform at my highest level at all times.”
Pierce healthy and growing:
Whenever Nall wasn’t able to play or needed a breather, freshman Artavis Pierce provided adequate relief. But even Pierce missed some action with a shoulder injury, which is feeling better.
“I feel energized, I feel ready” Pierce said. “Everything is great, I’m just trying to get better.”
In his first spring camp, things are slowing down for the second-year back
With the staff being careful with Nall, that leaves more reps for Pierce who thinks he could contribute as much as Nall next season.
“If he goes out,” Pierce said. “I can fill in his spot and do the same thing he does. “
The Beaver backfield still has Nall and Pierce who combined for 1,474 yard a season ago, but the other four running backs on the roster have yet to gain a rushing yard.
With Tim Cook graduating and Paul Lucas transferring, the Beaver offense will need to replace their production.
“We go into spring and try to build depth,” Lockette said. “We've got two freshman coming in and just trying to play around those young guys getting a lot more snaps.”
“For them it’s more mentally and physically getting ready for the actual game,” Nall said. “For Jaylynn and Marcus, they’ve played special teams so they know the feel of (the game).”
Give him the pill:
Super Bowl Sunday was a special day for Lockette. Atlanta’s DeVonta Freeman played for Lockette at Miami Central High School.
“It was so special for me just to see where he came from and watching him grow over the years and it was a great blessing. To be on the biggest stage in football, it was the greatest feeling in the world.”
Freeman finished with 121 yards from scrimmage and a score.
Of course the Atlanta Falcons ended up blowing a 25-point lead, eventually losing to the New England Patriots 34-28. The Falcons’ opted to pass rather than run the ball late in the game.
So what would Lockette have done in the fourth quarter if he were calling the plays?
“Give (Freeman) the pill.”