Returning Starter: Eric Stephens
Other Running Backs: DeAndre Washington, Kenny Williams, Bradley Marquez, Ronnie Daniels
Player Lost: Aaron Crawford
By the Numbers: Through five games Eric Stephens rushed 108 times for 565 yards and eight touchdowns. He averaged 5.2 yards per carry before suffering a season-ending injury.
2011 Highlight: DeAndre Washington and Aaron Crawford combined for 146 tough yards on 33 carries to help propel the Red Raiders to a mind-blowing road upset of Oklahoma. The ground game was crucial for extending drives and keeping OU's ferocious pass rushers from becoming necklaces around Seth Doege's neck. Tech couldn't have pulled it off without the efforts of Washington and Crawford.
2011 Lowlight: Texas Tech's utter ineptitude on the ground against the Texas Longhorns was rendered all the more painful by the ease with which the Horns creased the Red Raider defense with the running game. DeAndre Washington, Kenny Williams and Aaron Crawford combined for a paltry 47 rushing yards on 22 carries. By way of contrast, Texas netted 439 rushing yards against Tech and averaged 8.1 yards per tote.
The Spring Mix: Texas Tech's stable of backs has been anything but stable over the last year or so. Going into the 2011 season there was a glut of talent in the backfield as top class talents such as Eric Stephens, Ronnie Daniels, DeAndre Washington and Kenny Williams vied with veteran workhorse Aaron Crawford for playing time.
By season's end Tech was scraping by with only Williams and Crawford and wondering if they'd have enough warm bodies with which to practice in the spring. Frankly, the situation was dire.
But the sun shines again on the Red Raider backfield and matters look fairly rosy going into spring ball. Williams is back to build upon a solid freshman season, Daniels has improbably returned from suspension, and wideout Bradley Marquez has been transferred to running back, his position in high school. Moreover, it looks as though Washington and Stephens will be good to go in 2012.
In the spring, however, Williams, Daniels and Marquez will get the lion's share of the work.
That trio will be one of the more physical backfields Tech has fielded in many, many a spring. Ever since the days of Byron Hanspard in the mid-90s, the Red Raiders have trotted out speed backs and scatbacks. Bam Morris was Tech's last feature back who was also a power back.
Kenny Williams and Ronnie Daniels, however, bring a heavy load, and Marquez is deceptively physical for a five-foot-10 185-pound back. Williams is built along the lines of Emmett Smith, and runs a bit like him too, while Daniels is a six-foot-one 200-pound chunk of iron who plays even larger than that. This group will bring a new look—temporary though it may be--to the Tech backfield.
Williams is the known quantity among this trio. He got better as the season progressed, and seemed to get stronger the more carries he received. Even his hands, a sore weakness early on, were acceptable by season's end. Still, he needs to improve in all phases of the game, including pass protection.
Daniels has immense talent. His combination of power and shiftiness is amazing, and he has soft hands to boot. Additionally, Daniels has more than adequate speed to turn short gainers into long runs. But because of his previous lapses in discipline, there remains the fear of a relapse. At least for the coming season.
Marquez was en route to becoming an excellent receiver before getting the call to come "home." He was certainly a prep phenom as a running back, averaging 9.6 yards per carry during his senior season in one of the toughest high school football districts in the U.S., district 3-5A. There's little question about whether he can be a competent back in the Big 12. The question is, will he be a "find." By the end of spring drills we should have an inkling.