Hawks eye running back replacements

With the NFL Draft only eight weeks away it is becoming apparent that the Seahawks will be in search of at least one running back from the college ranks. Not only is it unclear whether Shaun Alexander will return or not, but it also appears as if Maurice Morris, Alexander's understudy, may be leaving as well. .NET has learned that scouts from the Hawks have had their collective eyes on some excellent backs at this week's NFL Combine.

With the NFL Draft only eight weeks away it is becoming apparent that the Seahawks will be in search of at least one running back from the college ranks. Not only is it unclear whether Shaun Alexander will return or not, but it also appears as if Maurice Morris, Alexander's understudy, may be leaving as well. .NET has learned that scouts from the Hawks have had their collective eyes on some excellent backs at this week's NFL Combine.

Several reports had the Hawks talking to the agents of Virginia's Wali Lundy, ULCA's Maurice Drew and Wisconsin's Brian Calhoun. All three have return capabilities, something that Morris was not adept at, and all three can be had late on day one or early on day two of the Draft.

Morris showed well for himself when Alexander went down in the first quarter with a concussion against the Washington Redskins in the Division Playoff game this past January. He rushed for 49 tough yards and proved his ability to pass-block as the Redskins threw the house at quarterback Matt Hasselbeck.

Here is a comparison on each of the three backs mentioned above and how they would fit onto the Seahawks' roster.

Brian Calhoun, Wisconsin

Like Alexander, Calhoun has a very smooth running style. It doesn't look like he's running very hard, but he seems to blow by people when he gets to the second level. He is also excellent as a receiver out of the backfield. During his junior season Calhoun rushed for 1,636 yards and 22 touchdowns.

Calhoun is also an accomplished receiving threat and he put up some amazing numbers this past season. He caught 53 passes this past season 571 yards and two touchdowns. He was the main-threat on an otherwise pedestrian offense. He runs well between the tackles and if his team had played better during the season he probably would have been a Heisman finalist.

Where Calhoun will need work, should he be drafted by the Hawks, is in the return game. Seattle desperately needs a gamebreaker in its return game. Having someone who can at least be the threat to break things open would be a huge improvement to what they've had the past three or four years. Not since Charlie Rodgers left following the 2001 season have the Hawks had any semblance of the threat returning kicks.

Maurice Drew, UCLA

Drew is the full-package when it comes to a back. He can run between the tackles, has the speed to outrun defenders, good hands and, most importantly, he is an outstanding return man. Where he will struggle is in pass-protection. He isn't overly physical and he can be run over by bigger players.

When the Bruins needed a big play, they usually turned to the pint-sized player with the big heart for a spark and rarely, if ever, did he let them down.

Were it not for the presence of Reggie Bush, Drew would probably have been the biggest name west of the Mississippi at the running back position. As it was, he still put up impressive numbers as a senior rushing for 914 yards and 13 touchdowns while also catching 31 passes for another 453 yards and four touchdowns. Drew also returned 15 punts for a robust 28.5 average and three touchdowns.

Drew's size (5-6, 207) is his only impediment heading into his pro career and teams will probably shy away from him, but that would be a mistake. He runs low to the ground, has good vision and can take it to the house when he gets in the open field. He would be an ideal number two option for any team and his return skills set him apart from the rest of the running back field.

Wali Lundy, Virginia

Lundy is a player that received a lot of attention following the first three years of his career in Charlottsville when he put up totals of 901 yards as a freshman in 2002, 995 in 2003 and 897 yards in 2004. His senior season was marred by injuries and he was unable to put up solid numbers but toward the end of the season finishing with 617 yards and 10 touchdowns.

Lundy runs tough and has good speed, although he rarely will take it the distance. His strength comes from his hard-nosed running-style and his ability to get the tough yards when his team needs it the most. He wasn't used much as a receiver out of the backfield and he will need to work on this aspect of his game in order to be more appealing to teams during the Draft.

Whoever the Hawks decide to take in this April's draft, they will likely be an all-purpose type of back who can do a myriad of things well and be a threat in the return game.

Scott Eklund writes and reports for Seahawks.NET and Dawgman.com. Feel free to contact him at sctthawk@yahoo.com.


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