Will Owls solve RB quandary?

Jahad Thomas is on the Paul Hornung Award Watch List, an honor which goes the most versatile player in college player. But will Thomas be the Owls’ starting running back when they open play against Penn State? That will be one of many questions to be answered when training camp starts up in about a month’s time, and it will be one of the biggest questions.

Jahad Thomas is on the Paul Hornung Award Watch List, an honor which goes the most versatile player in college player.

But will Thomas be the Owls’ starting running back when they open play against Penn State?

That will be one of many questions to be answered when training camp starts up in about a month’s time, and it will be one of the biggest questions. Both coach Matt Rhule and offensive coordinator Marcus Satterfield have said they want a feature back to emerge this fall.

That back could be Thomas, though Rhule admitted the junior's lack of size might limit his touches. It could be redshirt sophomore Zaire Williams, who missed last year with a back injury after rushing for over 500 yards as a true freshman.

Or it could be one of the stellar recruits Temple signed in February, T.J. Simmons or Ryquell Armstead.

“It’s going to be really hard (to distribute practice reps), but the reps you get you better do something with it,” said Rhule. “It is what it is. We have to improve that part of our game, not just the backs, but running the football. We have the guys here and coming in to do that, but we have a short window. We just have to do it.”

Running back wasn’t a position of strength last year, but the coaches are expecting it will be this year. They just don’t know who is going to be the guy they can rely on just yet.

“You only do running back by committee when you don’t have a guy you feel is the guy.” said Rhule. “When you have Bernard Pierce, he’s your running back. When you have Montel Harris, he’s your running back.

“We want to have two backs because in this day in age you don’t have one back get 40 carries, especially this year with just one bye week. We’d like to have two backs. If there’s a third-down back or guy on special teams great, but we want to have a feature back and complimentary back. They have to prove they’re the guy, the guy that says give it to me 25 times.”

Rhule said Thomas came out of the spring as the clear No. 1. He rushed for just 384 yards last year, though that was tops on the team, and he also contributed 364 yards as a receiving threat.

If Thomas comes out of the fall as one of the main backs, he might not be a 25-touch guy. That means the complimentary back could see almost an even split.

“Jahad had some flashes and he wasn’t even in preseason camp at running back, he was a defensive back,” said Rhule. “He had a great spring, but at 185 pounds he won’t get it 25 times. One of those other backs has to step up whether it’s Zaire, whether it’s Ryquell, whether it’s TJ. Somebody has to step up and say I’m the other part of this. We want to know who’s going to win the gassers? Who’s the guy who wins every competition?”

Simmons is one of the top recruits of the Rhule era and the head coach raves about Armstead, who broke free for over 300 yards twice last year at Millville (N.J.). Could a true freshman carry the load?

“The freshmen look good coming in here for orientation, they look good on their high school film,” said Rhule. “But you have to find out, is. it too much for them? How will they be when they get hit? This summer and fall will show what they can do.

“There’s going to be lot of variables. Is Jahad going to be 178 pounds or 190 pounds? Is Zaire healthy?”

A lot of questions. The answers will determine who are the one or two backs chosen to carry the load this year.

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