Shannon Woods had one of the springs that can drive a coach mad. He didn't seem to play with the same fire and energy that he showed as the starting running back for the Red Raiders during the 2006 season. Woods quieted those who suggested that fans would be clamoring for former running back Taurean Henderson or that Baron Batch would be "starting by conference play." Woods in fact had a great year rushing the ball with 926 yards on the ground, 572 receiving, and 310 yards on kickoff returns. Yet, Woods was in a similar position last spring.
Woods was not being pushed during the 2006 spring practices and seemed lazy. Yet, when highly touted recruit Baron Batch arrived in May of 2006, Woods turned up his played and developed into a terrific back that amassed gaudy rushing and receiving stats. Woods showed that he was the only consistent part of the Red Raiders offense for the entire 2007 season when he was given the ball. Even in the darkest days against Colorado, Woods still provided the only spark that led to the Air Raid's only score of the day.
Shannon helped lead the comeback in the Insight Bowl, threw the crucial block against Texas A&M, and scored his first touchdown as a starter against University of Texas-El Paso. Through the season, Woods looked like a truly talented back capable of great things.
Yet, Head Coach Mike Leach demoted Woods to the scout team near the end of spring practice and actually released a depth chart with him as a back-up. Woods hasn't been pushed this off-season because of the injury to Baron Batch but hopefully, his demotion will make the point that he needs to listen up and practice like he plays, with intensity and tenacity unmatched.
Kobey Lewis was thrust onto the top of the depth chart thanks to the demotion of Shannon Woods. Lewis seems to have taken to the move as he looked good throughout spring practice and showed off some impressive jukes and cuts.
Lewis doesn't fit the mold of a Big XII caliber starting running back but he is capable of bringing back a needed change of pace that has been missing since the graduation of Johnny Mack after the 2004 season. Lewis is not as fast as Mack but moves just as well in space and has no problem throwing his body into the line of fire to make a block.
Lewis' biggest asset may be his diminutive size. He is easily lost behind the offensive line and shoots out of the gap at full speed. His low center of gravity also makes him difficult to bring down without more than one player.
While Lewis isn't a prototypical starting running back, what he is lacking in size he makes up for in heart and determination. He should be able to contribute often during the 2007 season.
Ryan Hayes -
Ryan Hayes is the diminutive scout team running back, only 1 inch taller and 5 pounds heavier than Kobey Lewis. Hayes is not as fast or quick as Lewis but is a viable 3rd option if needed. He is a competent receiver and runner but lacks the traits that make Kobey Lewis' size such a non-factor. Hayes does play with a lot of heart but he is unlikely to see the field except during mop up time or should an unforeseen circumstance arise.
The running back position may appear to be in a bit of a mess at the moment, but Shannon Woods should be expected to fully return to his terrific self once fall practice rolls around. With a healthy Baron Batch, a talented freshman in Jared Flannel, a speedy back in Kobey Lewis, and a proven star in Shannon Woods, the Red Raiders look to have a potent backfield for the 2007 season.