Positional Preview: Running Backs

This is the first in a series of football season previews that will look closely at each of the position groups. First up are the running backs who are anxious to improve; read on to hear what coach Tim Knox and junior Trovon Riley have to say about the Bronco's running game.

Last season the Broncos averaged a mere 81.1 yards per game on the ground accounting for just 20.8% of the Bronco's total offense last season. That's going to change this year according to the Western Michigan coaching staff, and the work to change has already begun a week and a half into camp.

Trovon Riley said he wants, "just to produce. That's something we haven't been able to do since Robert Sanford was here."

Riley has stepped into the leadership roll among the running backs and is well established as the go to guy on the ground. "If he can stay healthy he's going to be a difference maker for us," said running back coach Tim Knox. "He's a different kind of back then we've had in the past," and that difference is speed, and lots of it.

Riley is excited to be back in the line-up after missing much of last season with a shoulder injury. "It feels real good, I've been wanting to get back out here with my teammates real bad," said Riley.

Over the summer Riley worked hard on rehabbing his hurt shoulder. "I'm doing push-ups every chance I get on and off the field," said Riley. "I call that the Hershel Walker workout. He never worked out, all he did was push-ups and sit-ups at home."

So how exactly are they going about making changes to improve the running game? "I think we are making a big emphases on the run as a team," said Knox. "Some of our drills are a little bit longer then they used to be in the past. Last year in a practice these guys might have had ten touches now they're getting twenty."

If you asked Riley about improving the running game he'll tell you, "It has to improve." He added, "as far as passing goes I think we were 8th in the nation, but our running game was 116th. If we improve up to 40th in the nation in running there's no telling what we could do as far as the MAC goes."

The big area of focus this fall in camp, at the request of the players, has been ball security. Coach Knox said he wants to make sure that on the run players aren't going to fumble the ball and that they're going to give the offense the opportunity to advance and keep the ball. He added "[the backs] are going to have the ball 40% of the time if not more and we can't be giving the ball back to the defense."

The running backs have some depth to work with this season with Daniel Marks, Nick Saad and Lawrence Cannon all among the veterans. "We have three, maybe four guys that can play on any given Saturday," said Knox. "It's going to take three or four with this offense. We don't have a full back in this offence, nobody to protect those guys, a lot of one back runs so their bodies take a lot of punishment throughout the season."

Knox added, "for us to expect a back to make it through the whole year unscathed… it's not going to happen."

Also adding depth are some outstanding freshmen like Mark Bonds. Bonds has already spent some time as the #3 running back and if he continues to improve and learn the college game he could see significant minutes as a true freshman.

"[The freshmen] are still making freshmen mistakes, but it comes with time. Our offense is very complex compared to what they're used to running in high school," said Knox. "Our biggest thing is working with the offensive line in pass protection because these [running backs] didn't have to do that in high school. In college if you can't protect whoever is taking the snaps for us you won't play."

Bonds, Brandon Brady and Marc Orosz are the incoming freshmen this season with Bonds being the most impressive of the bunch. Weighing in at 227lbs., the biggest of the freshmen, Bonds is also the fastest with a 4.4 second 40-yard time.

Much of the success of the running game will depend on Riley, Marks, Saad and possibly Bonds. However a lot of the success also depends on the offensive line, a subject we'll cover in an upcoming article in this series.

Broncos Illustrated Top Stories