Momentous changes at RB for Cougs this spring

THIS SPRING AT running back will look and feel decidedly different for Washington State. When the 15-practice spring session kicks off a little more than three weeks from now, the Cougars' running back corps will be replacing a four-year starter and the former running backs coach. It stands to reason, competition at the spot looks to be wide open.

Paul Wulff has repeatedly said since the '09 season ended that the worst for WSU is now clearly in the rear view mirror. So how big of a stride might the Cougars' ground game take in '10?

The Cougs' leading rusher last year, Dwight Tardy, amassed but 417 net yards. Even more indicative of the crimson ground woes is that WSU's second leading rusher, James Montgomery, played in only three games.

New special teams/running backs coach Dave Ungerer has replaced Steve Broussard, and looks to have four veterans buckling up the chinstrap this spring -- Logwone Mitz, Marcus Richmond, Chantz Staden and Carl Winston.


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  • A fifth, Montgomery, will be one of the few (4) injured Cougs held out of the spring session. Monty has, however, progressed to where he is now expected to be ready in time for the start of the season.

    That Montgomery looks to have a chance to resume his playing career at all, after emergency surgery for acute compartment syndrome was required to save his leg, is nothing short of remarkable. Whether he remains the same type of running back as before the injury remains to be seen, but it will be quite the story when he returns to full duty in the fall.

    But spring ball is right around the corner, kicking off out on the Palouse on March 25. And when it comes to the veteran running backs on the field this spring, keep an eye out for the youngest, a sophomore-to-be.

    WINSTON IS THE most intriguing of the group, because he's a different type of back than the other three.

    Montgomery was the Cougs' second leading rusher last year because he made yards on his own. Winston is arguably the best in the group of four at that particular running back skill -- and he has the most breakaway potential.

    Winston was slated to redshirt but was pressed into part-time duty this past season as the Cougs suffered their way through an injury-riddled season in '09. His best game came against Cal, where he rushed for 51 yards on only eight carries. He's also expected to reprise his role on kickoff returns.

    Mitz has shown flashes during his Cougar career. He's strong, he can been a very tough runner in small spaces, and his 2008 Apple Cup TD dash is seared into Cougar fans' memories. Other times, however, Mitz has disappeared a bit. His pass protection in max protect also hasn't been consistent.

    One very large factor in Mitz' favor, he has all the physical tools to be a punishing, effective Pac-10 running back. But perhaps his biggest challenge to this point is that he's been oft-injured, and simply has not been physically able to take enough reps during the practice week. Mitz rushed for 160 yards on 53 touches in '09, an average of 3.0 ypc.

    Chantz Staden sat out 2009, rehabbing a torn ACL. Staden is a high effort guy, one who works his tail off. Like Mitz, he's best as a one-cut and vertical type of runner. In 2008, he rushed 52 times for 141 yards.

    Marcus Richmond is both physically impressive and athletic, but he has not yet found his Cougar niche. Like Staden and Mitz, Richmond is a one cut and go type of running back, but he's also a utility-type of guy who can fill a lot of roles, and he has good hands.

    Among the walk-ons who could also get spring reps, they include Leon Brooks, a 5-6, 160-pounder and Remy Martin (6-2, 225).

  • Only four Cougs total are expected to miss the spring session with injury -- Montgomery, LB Louis Bland, DB Anthony Houston and DT Josh Luapo. It's a far cry from last spring when 24 injured Cougars were unable to go.

  • Arthur Burns, who redshirted last season, was moved from running back to linebacker this past November.

  • Fall camp at WSU is scheduled to see the addition of two highly touted prep running backs -- Rickey Galvin and Devontae Butler-Booker. Galvin led the East Bay with 2,264 rushing yards his senior year. He is explosive and quick, and Wulff has said he has a chance to make a difference in his first year at WSU. Butler-Booker, according to offensive coordinator Todd Sturdy, is both physical and elusive. He carried the ball 263 times for 2,884 yards with 45 touchdowns as a senior.

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