Once again, Texas A&M comes into a new season loaded for bear in the running game-at least at the running back position. Even with the loss of outstanding fullback Chris Alexander, the cupboard is stocked with plenty of talent to make the Aggie running game one of the best in the Big XII yet again.
Back for his senior season is the incredible anomaly of Jorvorskie Lane, a man who just doesn't seem to have any business being as quick and nimble on his feet as he is at just blowing defenders up. In Coach Sherman's new offense, Lane moves to the fullback position this year, at which he demonstrated some impressive lead-blocking, and continued to demonstrate a soft pair of hands out of the backfield during limited action this spring.
Lane is simply a touchdown factory, needing just one more rushing TD to give him the A&M career record for rushing and all-purpose TD's. His 45 career scores also rank him second in the nation among active rushers. Lane followed up his 19 TD performance in 2006 with 16 rushing TD's and one TD reception in 2007 for a total of 17 on the season. He also caught 12 passes for 115 yards last year for an average of 9.6 yard per catch.
The only potential concern with Lane is his weight. The six-footer is listed at 285lbs, but appeared to be tipping the scales a little higher than that as last season progressed. Coach Sherman has commented publicly about Lane's weight, indicating he expects the big man to bring the bulk under control, which is crucial because the Aggies definitely need to have a weapon like Lane on the field.
If the J-Train is thunder, then of course Junior Mike Goodson is the lightning. Six feet tall and 196 lbs, the Aggie speedster is a deadly dual-threat, with outstanding vision and the ability to turn on a dime, leaving defenders groping for air or chasing him untouched to the endzone. After carrying 153 times for 711 yards last season, his career rushing yardage tallies at 1,558 for an average of 5.6 yards per carry. Goodson also demonstrated himself to be a much stronger runner in 2007, adding another weapon to his aresenal.
In his first two seasons, Goodson also added 53 catches for 474 yards, with four TD receptions last fall, and is the team's leading receiver among returners. In the final regular season game against Texas, he caught 6 passes for 82 yards, with an incredible run-and-catch on a wheel route for a TD to go along with his electrifying TD run to open the game's scoring.
Goodson's opportunity to shine should only be enhanced in Coach Sherman's offense, which should offer the star tailback a lot more carries.
The Aggies have some experienced depth at RB with junior Keondra Smith, who rushed 25 times for 87 yards last season, and Sophomore Cornell Tarrant, a strong, physical runner with the ability to turn on the speed when hitting the hole. Tarrant rushed for 94 yards on 12 carries last year, seeing action in 7 games.
Perhaps the most exciting prospect to provide additional depth to the Aggie stable of horses this fall is 5-foot-10, 204 pound Bradley Stephens, a serious talent who looked great in the spring. Stephens has fantastic speed and remarkable cutting ability, in addition to being extremely tough to bring down. Expect to see Stephens on the field quite a bit whenever Goodson takes a breather. In certain situations, you could see Goodson, Stephens and Lane all in the backfield in a power eye formation that should keep defensive coordinators up all night.
6-foot-1, 232lb senior Nick LaMantia will also be available to provide some backup duty at the fullback position. La Mantia has been the team's "12th Man" kick-off representative 24 times in the last two seasons, and has been designated for that role in the Aggies' season opening game of 2008.
The running backs make up the most experienced and talented unit on the offense, and will be a critical component to the team's success in their new offense. If Lane can trim down to the weight that Sherman wants him at, and Goodson really gets 25-30 touches a game, the Aggie running backs could hear their names mentioned in lots of NFL draft talk in the coming months.
Aggie Websider Grade: A
COUNTDOWN 2008 - Running Backs
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