Green Wave Running Backs

Through the Houston game the freshman had totalled only 159 yards and a touchdown on 44 carries but the coming out party was against Navy, where he ran for 82 yards on 17 carries. The party continued against Army, with Forte writing himself into the school record books by gaining 216 yards on 34 carries, the fourth highest single game rushing total in school history. In the Green Wave's late season three game win streak Forte totalled 395 yards on 79 carries

Running back is one of those positions where there's real competition between capable players for the starting job.

First, let's rehash the background.

The Tulane depth chart might not be the field of landmines that it became during the injury plague that began during the 2002 season and virtually ruined the 2003 season, but there's still a degree of unsettlement in key units that's not completely surprising, as a succession of promising recruiting classes are slowly increasing the number of individual positions where players of equal or near equal ability and game experience are involved in competition for starting positions.

The three units where there are competitions to be settled as to which player will eventually become the starter at various positions are the defensive line, wide receiver and the defensive secondary. One could perhaps add running back to that list, with the return of senior Jovon Jackson from an injury that virtually ended his 2004 season, but the post-spring depth chart notwithstanding Jackson may have fallen permanently behind sophomore Matt Forte on the depth chart.

There are different issues concerning other units - the fear of injury to starting quarterback Lester Ricard haunts the quarterback position, linebacker is paper thin behind a solid-to-excellent starting threesome, and the offensive line has been decimated by injuries.

But the prevailing feeling among people in close proximity to the football program is that this is the season they've been pointing to, and that a run towards the conference championship game and a bowl berth could be the outcome - IF - A BIG IF! - the injury plague is truly over and players take care of their business, both conditioning-wise and school wise. The key will be the coaching staff's success in keeping all the key players on campus for the whole summer.

Tonight we'll take a look at the running backs.

When last summer's camp opened, the big question concerning the Green Wave running back position was whether there would be life after the graduation of the Green Wave's best offensive player in nearly 70 years, if not ever. As the football spun this season, and the Green Wave moved from a 1-4 record out of the blocks to a 5-5 record going into the regular season finale, the running back position leaped clearly into focus.

Coming into the season the starter was junior Jovon Jackson, who had served as Moore's understudy the previous two seasons. Jackson's backup was redshirt freshman Ray Boudreaux, but in the course of preseason camp true freshman Matt Forte showed that he would be a viable candidate for early playing time.

Jackson got the majority of the carries and took some tough hits before suffering a high ankle sprain in the Navy game that kept him from achieving his third 100-yards rushing game of the season. Jackson missed the Army game and then made only a token appearance against TCU.

Still, Shack led the team in rushing going into the regular season finale against Louisville with 615 yards and 5 touchdowns on 123 carries and finished with 624 yards for the season.

As the season wore on Ray Boudreaux saw more action at fullback than at running back but totalled 139 yards and 2 touchdowns on 33 carries. Boudreaux was eclipsed as the primary backup at running back by Forte. Forte, who prepped at Slidell High School, is a load who is currently listed at 224#. In high school Forte ran a 10.68 100 Meter dash. Those figures represent a player who's just a plain load. Forte became more and more of a factor as the season wore on. Through the Houston game the freshman had totalled only 159 yards and a touchdown on 44 carries but the coming out party was against Navy, where he ran for 82 yards on 17 carries. The party continued against Army, with Forte writing himself into the school record books by gaining 216 yards on 34 carries, the fourth highest single game rushing total in school history. In the Green Wave's late season three game win streak Forte totalled 395 yards on 79 carries.

Among the issues in replacing Moore at running back was how his absence as a receiver would affect the Green Wave's offensive production. Moore had caught 189 passes in his four season career. In 2004, Jackson has 18 grabs for 129 yards, with Forte adding 17 more catches for 165 yards and 2 touchdowns.

Depth Chart prior to the Louisville game
RB 25 Matt Forté ...........6-1 210 Fr..OR..28 Jovon Jackson .....5-11 206 Jr.
FB 22 Ray Boudreaux ...5-10 195 Fr.-R...23 Ade Tuyo ...........5-11 199 Fr.

Post-spring practice Depth Chart
RB 28 Jovon Jackson 5-11 210 Sr..OR..25 Matt Forte' 6-1 224 So..OR..22 Ray Boudreaux 5-10 200 So-R... 23 Ade Tuyo 5-11 203 So.
FB 22 Ray Boudreaux...5-10 200 So.-R...23 Ade Tuyo 5-11 203 So...40 Ian Miller 6-0 253 Jr.-R

2004 stats
RUSHING GP Att Gain Loss Net Avg TD Long Avg/G
Jackson, Jovon 10 125 633 9 624 5.0 5 46 62.4
Forte, Matt 11 140 657 33 624 4.5 4 48 56.7
Boudreaux, Ray 9 33 142 3 139 4.2 2 25 15.4
Tuyo, Adeboye 11 4 8 0 8 2.0 0 3 0.7
Miller, Ian 1 1 6 0 6 6.0 0 6 6.0
Koeck, Max 1 1 3 0 3 3.0 0 3 3.0

RECEIVING GP No. Yds Avg TD Long Avg/G
Forte, Matt 11 20 180 9.0 2 47 16.4
Jackson, Jovon 10 18 129 7.2 0 28 12.9

Career stats
RUSHING GP GS Att Gain Loss Net Avg TD Long Avg/G
Jackson, Jovon 32 9 245 1,178 9 1,169 4.7 8 85 37

RECEIVING GP GS No. Yds Avg TD Long Avg/G
Jackson, Jovon 32 9 10 31 3.1 0 27 0.9

With Jackson, Forte and Boudreaux all returning next season, the trick will be keeping everyone happy. While Forte probably adds more to the offense than jackson, the two will push each other and form a formidable tandem at running back.

Rising sophomore Ade Tuyo will provide additional depth at running back and fullback. Tuyo may be versatile enough to help at other positions as well. Redshirt freshman Ryan Bewley may be odd man out at running back. True freshman Christian Ducre is expected to have a chance to compete for playing time or a role on offense, but realistically if the freshman contributes, it may well be on special teams.

Boudreaux and Turyo are the fullbacks. Both are small for the position and their strengths might not make them very effective blockers. Ian Miller, a walkon and a plodder who's listed as the third FB, has the size needed to the add blocking oomph the running game needs.

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