Snyder on Sproles: "Quicker than a hiccup"

Ever since the Chargers drafted Darren Sproles in the fourth round of the draft, Coach Schottenheimer has done nothing but gush about Sproles' evasive and sudden style of play. All this after spending only a few weeks with the kid. Sproles' coach at Kansas State, Bill Snyder, spent four years with him. So as one would expect, Snyder can gush about Sproles like none other.

"He played as a freshman," recalls Snyder, "not because we were without talent, but because he earned it. He is such a fine player."

Coach Snyder knows that the primary concern regarding Sproles stems from his diminutive stature. He is, however, quick to refute the theory that Sproles' size will prevent him from being productive on the next level.

In fact, he remembers how Sproles bounced back from a shoulder injury suffered during his freshman year.

"The thing about the injury is that the way he fell, anybody would have had exactly the same injury," assured Snyder. "Well, then came the media's questions about if he could carry the ball enough times to be a very durable back. His first game back we gave him the ball 25, 26 times, I think. He doesn't just have the yardage records here; he has the record for most carries here also."

In fact, it is Sproles' toughness that has always impressed Snyder more so than anything else.

"There's the perception that he's a perimeter guy because of his size," Snyder said, "but that's not what his game is. He does most of his work between the tackles. What some people in San Diego have been saying that's really true is that because of his size, he hides behind his blockers, and he's so quick he's hard to tackle.

"He's a downhill runner who hits his creases hard. Like they say, he's quicker than a hiccup. He's a very sudden player. He's hard to get solid hits on, and because of that he's a very exciting runner."

As Snyder is well aware, the majority of the damage Sproles is likely to inflict on opponents this season will not come on the ground.

With LaDainian Tomlinson firmly entrenched as the Chargers' starting running back, Sproles will have to make his biggest impact returning kicks, although he is expected to see some time on offense as well.

"He will be fine returning kicks and fine on third down," according to Snyder, "but even at that level the concern about his durability will soon wane. Darren Sproles can become a full-time back. I know you guys have a great back down there already with Tomlinson, and I don't know whether or not Darren can beat him out for the starting job. If he had that opportunity, he would prove he can be a full-time back."

So while Sproles is about as unlikely to unseat LaDainian Tomlinson as the starting running back as Ashlee Simpson is to reappear on Saturday Night Live, he is still set to make a big impact in San Diego.

As Coach Snyder has prophesized, the fans in San Diego are in for a treat.

"He's a fun, fun guy to watch play," Snyder said. "The best value about Darren Sproles is Darren Sproles."

As far as the Chargers are concerned, selecting Darren Sproles in the fourth round was a value pick, and one they would make again in a heartbeat.

Michael Lombardo can be reached at

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