Wimbley relishing his role at running back

Rishaad Wimbley, a former nose guard, is loving his role as SMU's starting running back. After going through fall camp with the defense, June Jones switched Wimbley to tailback after the first week of school. Wimbley had a breakout game against Rice last weekend, rushing for 115 yards and two touchdowns. Before then, he had never scored an offensive touchdown in his life.

Rishad Wimbley can't remember the last time he scored a touchdown.

Heck, Rishaad Wimbley can't remember the last time he ran for over 100 yards in a football game.

"If ever, it was probably when I was a little kid," said the true freshman running back.

Without the injured Zach Line, who sustained a foot injury a few weeks ago against Navy, SMU's running game appeared doomed. And it was against Houston as Wimbley and fellow freshman tailback Jared Williams combined for just 24 yards rushing.

But this past weekend against Rice, Wimbley looked like quite the success story, running for 115 yards and two touchdowns, the longest of which was a 39-yard sprint up the middle to put the Mustangs up by 10 in the fourth quarter.

Williams added 80 yards and a touchdown.

Wimbley came to SMU this year as a nose guard and practiced with the defense all through fall camp. Then after the first week of school, Wimbley recalls that coach June Jones approached him after practice and asked how he'd feel about moving to offense.

"At first I thought it was a joke," Wimbley said. "I said, ‘Why you playing with me?'"

But now Wimbley says playing running back feels natural, and he can read defenses better than he could when he first made the switch.

"I love it," he said.

So what made Jones want to convert a 6-foot, 297-pound nose guard into a running back in the first place?

"I saw him moving his feet," Jones said. "I've had a couple guys like him that I thought could be running backs for us and I guessed right. I like his size. If somebody wants to blitz off the corner, he's going to block him.

"I saw he had light feet and he's a good athlete and a very, very powerful guy and I think once he loses a little more weight, he'll be able to do some shake-and-bake like Zach can and we'll be in good shape next year."

When Jones coached at Hawaii, there was a 360-pound tackle named Reagan Maui'a. Jones told him that if he lost 100 pounds, he'd get him to the NFL. And he did—Maui'a was drafted a year later and now plays fullback for the Arizona Cardinals.

Jones told Wimbley that once he got down into the 260-pound range, he'd play. In order to do that, Wimbley started running two miles two or three nights a week. He now weighs 265 lbs. and says he can run the 40 in 4.7 seconds.

"I'm sure Rishaad never figured he'd be rushing for over 100 yards in a Division I game 10 months ago," Jones said as a smile stretched across his face.

Wimbley played both ways in high school, but predominantly blocked off the edge when playing running back.

"I never touched the ball," he said.

Asked how he'd evaluate his 115-yard, two-touchdown performance against Rice, Wimbley was humble and explained he has a lot of work to do.

"There were lots of plays I missed on and I need to work on my blocking and my running," he said.

"I'm just trying to take it all in."

For more SMU coverage, follow Laken Litman on Twitter!

Pony Stampede Top Stories