Red Raider backs bring experience

All too often experts focus on the roles of the Texas Tech quarterbacks and wide receivers in the Red Raiders high powered offense. While these positions provide a good portion of the offensive production, it is a mistake to role of the running backs in Head Coach Mike Leach's spread offense. The 2004 season will bring with it two experienced backs to help ease the transition for the Red Raiders new quarterback.

There aren't many positions that have a clear lineup at this time of year for the Red Raiders, but running back should remain fairly stable between now and the start of the season. Taurean Henderson will be returning for his third season as Texas Tech's starting running back. Johnnie Mack will also be returning to provide a fresh set of legs to take advantage of weary defenses. Taurance Rawls will be looking for some touches after sitting out the 2003 season as a redshirt. Shannon Woods is the lone newcomer, and will have a tough time finding playing time with two established backs in front of him.

The obvious choice for starter is Taurean Henderson. Henderson followed up a solid freshman season with a sophomore effort that saw the speedy back rush for 756 yards on just 124 carries, an average of 5.9 yards per carry. He also scored 10 touchdowns on the ground. Just as important was Henderson's catching ability. Henderson caught 78 passes for 611 yards and 6 touchdowns. This past season showed that while Henderson may be more known for his receiving ability, his rushing ability is even more impressive. Even though Henderson might not rush for a thousand yards next season, he is more than capable of taking advantage of any team that decides to over commit to pass defense.

Johnnie Mack spent last season as the second part of a speedy one-two punch. Mack carried the ball 42 times for 320 yards and 4 touchdowns. That's an average of 7.3 yards a carry. While the number of carries is too low for that number to mean a lot, it is a good indicator of the type of job Mack can do on the ground. Mack also caught 26 passes for 233 yards and 1 touchdown. It is unlikely that Mack will take over the starting position, but if the chance should arise, Mack has proven that he has the talent to step into the starting role for the Red Raiders.

Taurance Rawls is one of the question marks heading into this season. The freshman showed his ability in fall workouts, but it will be hard for another back to find serious playing time at Texas Tech. the most likely scenario is that Rawls will not see much time at running back this season, but he should be ready to replace Mack following the 2004 season. Shannon Woods will probably redshirt due to the amount of talent already in Lubbock. While Woods has the credentials to be an asset to the Texas Tech offense, it would be best to give him a year to learn the offense, and then see where he fits in.

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