Vanderbilt Roster Preview: Running Backs

The running backs unit appears that it will be one of Vanderbilt's strengths during the 2016 season. Here is a look at the Commodore running backs and fullbacks.

Ralph Webb isn't the biggest back but he has a huge heart and, according to Derek Mason, he works harder than any other player on the team.  Webb hit the ground running after a redshirting his first year, gaining nearly a thousand yards (907) in his first season as a Commodore. Last season Webb continued his success netting 1,152 yards and five TDs in his sophomore campaign. He's a player that will likely break most of Vanderbilt's rushing records if he stays healthy.  He's also a player that does not go down easily, fighting hard for every inch of yardage.

Khari Blasingame was moved from linebacker to the running back position in the spring.  Built like a fullback, Blasingame forced a fumble with a vicious hit on the opening kickoff of the Missouri game.  SEC officials robbed Blasingame of that forced fumble but the play revealed his toughness and tenacity.  Vanderbilt will not be the first time Khari has played running back. As a senior at Buckhorn high school in Alabama, he rushed for 966 yards and 10 touchdowns. He mostly played defensive back in high school which is an indicator of good speed. Blasingame scored one of the offense's only two touchdowns during the Vandy Spring Game.  Don't be surprised to see him moved to fullback.

Josh Crawford is of similar build and playing attitude as Webb. He's hard to tackle and has the ability to dodge would-be tacklers for additional yardage.   Crawford saw action in seven games last year netting 55 rushing yards on 18 carries.  He gained more than 4,000 yards during his prep career at Edgewood Academy in Alabama. Crawford had eight carries for 16 yards in the Vandy Spring Game.

Jaire George is a player with very good running back pedigree. His father, Eddie, played in the NFL for the Titans and won the Heisman Trophy in 1995 playing for Ohio State. George has yet to see the field for Vanderbilt in a live game but he has the makings of a solid running back. George, who has a good combination of power and speed, was the top rusher in the Vandy Spring Game with five carries for 27 yards.  As a senior in high school, he played mostly on defense but gained 350 yards and scored three touchdowns on offense.

Dallas Rivers is another big back who runs hard for every yard.  Now a junior, Rivers burst on the scene as a freshman gaining 218 yards on 61 carries.  His hard running (17 carries/73 yards) primarily late in the game against Old Dominion in 2014 was a pivotal key in Vanderbilt winning that game. In 2015 Rivers was one of Vandy's top rushers with 183 yards on 60 carries with one touchdown. Rivers had just one carry during the spring game, gaining two yards.

True freshman Jamauri Wakefield has the build and quickness to see action in his first season at Vanderbilt.  Wakefield has displayed explosiveness in his running ability throughout his prep career. He's a kid that many other power conference teams were after including Maryland, Missouri, Iowa State, Northwestern and Pitt.  Rushing for over 5,000 yards and 67 touchdowns during a career will get that for a player.

Bailey McElwain is a burly, hard-nosed football player from Trussville, Ala.  A surprise, late 2016 signee, he'll report to Vanderbilt on August 1 and has been told by the Vandy staff that he could start as a freshman at Vandy, as long as he learned the plays.  He played mostly linebacker in high school but was used on offense as a blocking back.  Vanderbilt has been looking for an effective big back and McElwain might be that guy.  Video of McElwain shows a big, fast football player who attacks openings in the defense.

Kyle Anderton played primarily tight end last year at Vandy, catching a 4-yard TD pass against Kentucky.  Anderton is listed as a fullback on Vandy's 2016 roster.  He certainly has the size for a fullback. He played a lot of quarterback in high school and certainly is mobile enough to be a fullback.  He might even be a threat to toss the ball downfield occasionally as he threw quite a few touchdown passes in high school.  

Vanderbilt's running back corps looks solid for 2016.  The Commodores have a combination of speedy smaller backs and big, physical backs who can run folks over.  Don't be surprised to see Darius Sims moved from wide receiver to running back again.  

Projected starter at running back: Ralph Webb


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