The running back position at Oregon State was redefined by the graduated Ken Simonton. Simonton broke every significant rushing record (other than yards in a single game). Every player that follows at his position will be measured against his standard.
That being said, Steven Jackson is as worthy a successor as can be found. What Simonton lacked, Jackson has. He has great size and breakaway speed. Simonton was one of the most fun backs to watch because of the way he could make defenders miss. He also was difficult to tackle because of his leg strength. But in Jackson you will see a back that can plow through people. No need to make them miss with his abilities.
That being said, Jackson is human. He faced a challenge in facing the Beaver 1st team defense. The line was a bear. Dwan Edwards and Eric Manning made it impossible for anything to happen up front offensively. Both those defensive tackles are so good at clogging things up, that it was impossible to gain much yardage up the middle. Jackson was stuffed on more than one third and short or fourth and short dive up the middle during spring practice. But I don't think too many lines will be able to do as good of a job on Jackson as Manning, Edwards, and company.
Jackson's abilities are great, but he may have the tendency to fumble. He carries the ball too far away from his body at times and may have some problems this year. Every time he carried the ball last year, I was a little paranoid that he was going to lose it. It wasn't really a problem. But in the spring game, he fumbled twice and couldn't hang on to the pitch from Adam Rothenfluh. It wasn't a perfect toss, but it could have been caught. His hands are surely his biggest weakness and those must be improved upon.
After Jackson, there are quite a few others at the position, including sophomore Dwight Wright, junior Floyd Wade, sophomore Riley Jenkins, redshirt freshman Josh Farrell, and true freshman Ryan Cole. Wright had a strong spring and will be the backup. He'll get plenty of carries over the course of the season. The one thing Erickson has shown is that he won't become too reliant on one back. No matter how good his starter is, he will use the backups enough to keep the starter healthy.
Dwight Wright had some big runs during the spring, including a 51-yarder in the spring game. Floyd Wade also showed some ability. Wright is a nice contrast to Jackson. Wright is quick and elusive. He runs well to the outside and knows how to find holes. Josh Farrell was injured this spring and did not participate in practice. His knee is pretty much recovered, he just could not get hit, so he was not able to participate.
Ryan Cole will be joining the team in the fall. He was the Gatorade Washington State 4A Player of the Year last year. He probably will redshirt this fall, as there is lots of depth in front of him. Jackson and Wright will get most of the carries, with Floyd, Jenkins, and Farrell fighting for time.
The unit as a whole isn't as deep as it could be. Wright has played well this spring, but it remains to be seen how he'll perform in game situations. Like the quarterback position, the experience is probably the biggest weakness at running back. No one has started a game. Jackson is really the only one who saw much game experience. The similarities between the QB and RB situations are uncanny. Little experience, stud at the top of the chart, and what appear to be solid backups.
Running Back Preview
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