We begin with the group of running backs who cross all boundaries in terms of size and stature. Tuesday's practice was contact-free so the measure of toughness of the backs was difficult to ascertain.
One player who flashed on the American roster was Morehead State running back Desmond Cox. Cox may be diminutive in stature as he stands roughly 5-foot-6 and weighs 175 pounds, but he showed breakaway speed and solid hands, exactly what you would like in a third-down back on the next level. When given the ball in space, Cox routinely ran away from defenders and even took part in punt and kickoff return duties.
How fast is this diminutive dynamo? Although linebackers couldn't catch up to him the Scout.com team managed to.
"The last time I ran I was clocked at 4.31," Cox said of his 40-time. "I have ran faster before."
Another impressive back on the American squad was Illinois running back Jason Ford. Although Ford is nowhere near the burner that Desmond Cox is, he is a pounder. At 6-feet, 235 pounds, Ford projects better on the next level as a true fullback, but he showed an abililty to run with a low pad level. Ford doesn't have the best hands, but he could be a classic Vonte Leach, Lee Vickers or Bruce Miller type of fullback that seems to be finding it's way back into popularity in a mostly passing league.
On the National team, Syracuse running back Antwon Bailey turned a few heads. Bailey may be short as he's listed between 5-foot-6 and 5-foot-7 but it doesn't mean that he's small. The former Cuse 'standout ran for over 1,000 yards as a senior and showed good hands and burst in the first day of workouts. Not as big as former Syracuse and now Indianapolis Colts running back Delone Carter, Bailey has some more wiggle to his game.
Finally, in a game stacked with underdogs we come to the ultimate underdog, UCF running back Ronnie Weaver. Weaver walked on at Central Florida and found his way to the starting lineup in his junior season. Splitting carries with two other backs, Weaver still managed to gain nearly 900 yards and found pay-dirt 11 times as he helped lead the Knights to a Conference USA title and a Liberty Bowl victory over Georgia.
"I've always been an underdog and it taught me to work for everything I've got," Weaver said.
Weaver was a special teams standout at UCF and showed an ability on Tuesday to catch the ball out of the backfield and finish runs. If this hard-working young man needed any additional motivation he can find it by looking to the sideline, as former undrafted turned three-time All-Pro Priest Holmes is his position coach.
"It's great motivation seeing Priest Holmes," Weaver stated. "I'm so excited because I actually have a Priest Holmes jersey hanging in my closet."
As the week progresses we will see if the smaller backs like Desmond Cox and Antwon Bailey can hold up through live hitting. We will also find out if some of the bigger bodied guys like Jason Ford and Ronnie Weaver will be elusive enough to make an impact. Stay tuned.
NFLPA All-Star Game Practice Report- RB's
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