Spring Preview 2009: Running Backs

A&M continues to showcase fine backs coming out of the backfield, and will do so once again even after the departure of Michael Goodson and Jorvorskie Lane. Jeff Jennings takes a look at the 2009 running back situation.

When a team has a talented and diverse backfield with the likes of Michael Goodson, Cyrus Gray, Jorvorskie Lane and Bradley Stephens and averages 88.5 yards per game in a season, it doesn't take a genius to figure out where to point the finger. As predicated by common sense and as we saw last season, without adequate blocking a backfield will not accomplish much, especially in a conference as deeply talented as the Big XII. By next fall the offensive line should be improved a great deal on the interior and at the very least a bit on the edges as well. As far as holding down their end of the bargain though, even with Goodson's departure, our running back stable is as talented a group as you could hope for (upon August arrival of Christine Michael to add to the current group of course).

Unquestionably the biggest recruit A&M landed on Signing Day 2009 was Christine Michael. In fact it's fair to argue that he is the most talented back we've signed in over a decade. His combination of power and speed will be a big addition to the backfield and our offense and team in general. This marks two years in a row we have signed a top notch back which is huge for us considering the departure of Michael Goodson and to a lesser extent the absence of hard nosed, effort back Keondra Smith (who left the team just before spring got under way). In August Christine Michael will be accompanied by Kalvin Guyton, who is a speedy and powerful, north/south style back and possibly Ryan Swope (a great athlete and back who could be used here but may be utilized elsewhere). Until their arrival, however, the bulk (if not all) of the carries this spring will be on the two gifted halfbacks already on campus, Cyrus Gray and Bradley Stephens.

Cyrus Gray the top priority HB we landed last year just wrapped up a relatively successful freshman year in the backfield and was the best return guy we've had in a decade. Gray is a back with speed, shiftiness, adequate power and just flat out big play ability. He and Christine Michael will compliment each other well and, as our offensive line and offense in general develops, should really give Big XII defenses headaches for years to come.

Behind Gray will be another talented back in Bradley Stephens. Running backs are measured by essentially three things: balance, vision and of course the ability to do what they do. Like Gray, Stephens has it all in spades unfortunately he also has had some fumble issues so we'll see how well he's addressed that in the offseason and how far he can push Gray in what should be a pretty healthy and productive competition for the two speedsters.

As a side note, the well put-together Jay Tolliver impressed some observers during Sundays scrimmage with his hard-nosed running style. He is basically the FB and the third tailback behind Gray and Stephens. Tolliver actually passed on a few offers to walk on at A&M.

Overall

This is an area that's not real complicated. The group going to be pretty strong by 2009's opening kickoff but to improve at the moment, Bradley Stephens needs to take advantage of this time to shine and further display his individual worth before Christine Michael and the other freshmen arrive.




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