Shannon Woods, Kobey Lewis, Baron Batch. These were the three names that Texas Tech fans expected to play at the running back position for the Red Raiders in 2007. Woods was coming off of a tremendous year, Lewis was being hyped by the coaches, and Batch had finally gotten healthy.
By the end of the year that tune had changed completely as freshman Aaron Crawford, of Ridgeway High School in Tennessee, started four consecutive games and showed tremendous potential as the starting running back.
The season was plagued by inconsistency from the running backs as Shannon Woods had issues with the coaching staff, Kobey Lewis proved to have difficulty getting into the open field (though a terror once there) and Crawford seemed to have whatever the opposite of stick-um as he fumbled twice in his first two games, although he improved to fumble only once after he became the starter.
Crawford would rack up 127 yards rushing in his four starts and his 30 receptions for 218 yards were good for 6th on a team that throws the ball more than any in the nation.
Kobey Lewis has shown that he is a back much like Johnny Mack, not a starter but a viable change-up back. Lewis showed his skills on a play that ended up not counting due to holding as he hit the pile against OU in the 4th quarter and then shot out the other side without Oklahoma defenders being away of his presence.
Lewis is a surprisingly good blocker and is also a dangerous receiver out of the backfield whose running style, in contrast with the bruising of Aaron Crawford, makes him the perfect compliment to the freshman running back.
Shannon Woods is an enigma as his fall from grace was sudden and seemingly unprecedented. Woods had been benched as the starter in Spring but his effort during the fall looked to have helped him secure his starting spot once again.
What the future for Shannon Woods holds is unknown.
Overall, there is potential between the players on the Tech roster to have a tremendous running back who fits mad scientist Mike Leach's offense perfectly but changes and the benching of a starter made the position much to inconsistent as a cog in the Air Raid offense.
Look for Crawford to blossom with more time under Running Back Coach Seth Littrell and for the now healthy Baron Batch along with true freshman Harrison Jeffers to push Crawford for playing time. Kobey Lewis should maintain his "scat-back" role and for the running back to become a more steady and consistent option for quarterback Graham Harrell in 2008.