Fall Camp: Running Backs

Shifty and quick or powerful and bruising – Mike Riley will have his pick in '04. Dwight Wright and Ryan Cole present opposing teams with different running styles and their differences could be a potent combination.

Senior Dwight Wright returns after playing in 13 games behind current St. Louis Ram Steven Jackson.  In a backup role Wright carried the ball 89 times for 378 yards (3.9 ypc) and two touchdowns.  He received the blessing of Jackson in December and looks to extend the number of years the Beavers have had an outstanding running back in their offensive arsenal.

Wright will not break any rushing records his senior season, but he will provide the team with a consistent, respectable running game.  He is a smart, patient player who waits for the holes to open up.  Wright prefers to dance in between the tackles where he utilizes his quick feet.

The senior caught three passes for 27 yards last season and received a good workout during spring camp catching the ball.  His shifty running style makes him a threat in the open field and he should see plenty of passes come his way.  Wright has game experience and the benefit of watching Jackson play and could have an outstanding year.

Sparing with Wright for playing time is sophomore Ryan Cole.  He saw limited time in 2003 carrying the ball 15 times for 82 yards (6.3 ypc).   Cole's running style is almost exactly opposite of Wrights.  While Cole also prefers to stay within in the tackles, he would rather knock a defender over than slide past him.  The 6-0, 233-pound player is tough in short yardage situations and runs with a lot of force.

During spring ball Cole split time almost evenly with Wright at starting running back.  Wright is the more nimble of the two and will be thrown more passes, while Cole will be reserved for an old-school-grind-it-out-on-the-ground type of situation.  Both of the back success rests heavily on the offensive line's shoulders.  Former Beaver running backs Ken Simonton and Steven Jackson often made great plays out of horrible blocking.  This year the line must block for the team to move the sticks because they do not have the all-American athletes in backfield that they have had the past seven seasons.

Redshirt freshman Yvenson Bernard also received quite a bit of playing time in spring ball and will contribute significantly.  Bernard possesses quick feet and breakaway speed and will give the coaches another good running back to put in the game.  The 5-foot-8, 207-pound player could be a key contribute on special teams returning kickoffs or punts.

Jackson caught 44 passes last year for 470 yards.  He was tied with Mike Hass for the third most catches on the team.  This year should be no different for the backs.  Between the three at least 44 catches will be made, if not 15-20 more.  Short slants across the middle and screens will be used often.  They must make the catches they are supposed to.  Dropping easy, catchable passes could devastate a young, unproven offense.

Despite not having a preseason all-conference player in the backfield, the running backs are poised to have a solid season.  There is a good blend of veterans and underclassmen and a healthy does of competition which will keep the players at the top of their game.

Fall Camp:
Offensive Line | Receivers | Quarterbacks | Tight-Ends | Special Teams

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