RUNNING BACKS On rare occasions, coaches are faced with the challenge of having only one football to distribute amongst a number of talented skill position players. It's the kind of challenge no coach is going to complain about, but it's a challenge nonetheless. The potential for second-guessing is always there, looming overhead like a dark cloud. After all, if player ‘A' got the ball, and the play went for a loss, then why didn't we give the ball to player ‘B,' ‘C', or ‘D?'
Fortunately for A&M Coach Dennis Franchione, when it comes to his impressive slate of running backs, production hasn't been a problem, regardless of the choice. Last year's backfield ball handlers accounted for the No. 8 rushing offense in the nation, and with their offensive line returning intact, this Aggie backfield will have the advantage on any given Saturday.
"My goal is to rush for 1000 yards and 24 touchdowns," says junior wrecking-ball Jorvorskie Lane, who led the Big 12 in scoring last season, and ranked sixth in the nation, with 114 points. A first team All-Big 12 selection, Lane tied a 79-year-old school record with 19 rushing touchdowns in 2006. On his way to establishing himself as the premier "go-to" guy in the Aggies' offensive backfield, Lane carried the ball on 29 third- or fourth-down situations, producing a touchdown or a first-down on an incredible 26 of those carries.
Lane, who came into fall workouts having dropped quite a bit of weight--reportedly down to 268 lbs--comes into the 2007 season with two years experience under his belt now, and plans on making the 2007 Aggie rushing offense as devastating as it's ever been. "We are going to run the ball," says Lane, "We are going to dominate, like we do."
Providing the perfect counter-punch to Lane's stampede-style of rushing, speedy sophomore Michael Goodson returns for the Aggies this fall after an amazing freshman campaign. A few early fumbles made getting out of the gate a little rough for Goodson last year, but by season's end he was the Big 12's leading rusher among freshmen, and was selected by the Austin American Statesman as the Big 12 Freshman of the Year.
Goodson's speed and quick-cutting style were the perfect tools for keeping a defense off balance after being repeatedly gutted up the middle by Jorvorskie Lane. Gaining 847 yards, Goodson was the leading rusher on the team that led the Big 12 Conference in rushing. Furthermore, Goodson averaged a Big 12-leading 6.7 yards per carry in 2006, providing some electrifying moments along the way.
With time running out in A&M's contest with the Baylor Bears, Goodson slammed the door on the Bears when he reversed his field on a draw play and outraced the entire Baylor defense to the endzone, some 64 yards away. He also aided the Aggies to draw first blood in their game against the Longhorns in Austin, taking an option pitch 41 yards for the game's initial score, while averaging 5.7 yards per carry against the nation's leading rush defense.
Clearing the way for the Aggie tailbacks, while notching some important carries himself, will be the job of Senior Chris Alexander, who returns this fall as the one of the most dominating fullbacks ever to play the position at Texas A&M. Alexander is a powerful, often devastating blocker, who actually relishes his role clearing paths for the ball carrier. "My goal," says Alexander, "is to have ten blocks that make a difference in every game this season."
His difference-making blocks were certainly in evidence during 2006, such as the key blocks he provided on both of A&M's scoring plays in their victory over Texas in Austin.
Alexander did get his hands on the ball from time to time last season, and made it count whenever he did, gaining either a first down or a touchdown on 13 of his 25 touches. He also tied for the team lead in touchdown receptions with three, to go along with one rushing touchdown.
Providing depth at the RB position this fall will be sophomore Keondra Smith, a genuine team player described as a "workhorse" by teammates. Smith has won the Spring RB MVP the last two years. Cornell Tarrant is a redshirt freshman who had a terrific spring, himself, garnering a lot of attention during the 2007 Maroon and White game. Tarrant continues to have a great fall, according to practice reports. Incoming freshman phenom Bradley Stephens will likely redshirt this fall.
While the number of quality backs on this 2007 Aggie squad might leave some in a quandary over which super-talented player should get the ball, it's a "problem" that doesn't disturb Coach Fran.
"We're pretty comfortable with the broad set of our offense today," Franchione said. "If I'm Oklahoma State, I have to say that Adarius Bowman has to get the ball. But I don't have to say that. In our case, they have to defend the entire offense. We have strength in numbers that work to our advantage."
And no matter which Aggie running back takes the carry on a given play, one thing is certain for this 2007 squad. When it comes to the rushing game, it's "Advantage: Texas A&M."
Countdown 2007: Running backs
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