It seems that most of the news coming out of camp has been about the various position battles that are taking place on the offensive line. The emphasis that has been put on this situation is very encouraging and the hope is that we will come out with a serviceable and cohesive offensive line this year. I thought today I would take a look at a position that has no real battle for the starting spot but has an interesting effect on the future of the program, running back.
Right now we have an All-American and legitimate national star at running back in Shady McCoy and his backup last year was a solid performer in LaRod Stephens-Howling. Behind them is the star of this season's spring and a player with a ton of buzz around him in Shareef Harris. Another player that is going to factor into running back position is Kevin Collier, who was very highly rated coming out of high school. Even further down the line is freshman Chris Burns. Running back is seemingly the deepest it has been in many years.
The real story this year is how the carries are shared between the backups Stephens-Howling and Harris. Harris seems like the natural heir to the starting job when Shady leaves, whenever that may be. Stephens-Howling on the other hand has given three fairly productive years here and is a solid option to spell McCoy. McCoy is going to get a huge percentage of the teams overall carries and can feature on every down so whoever backs him up needs to be able to play in all situations.
I feel that we need to get Harris as many touches as possible as a contigency plan to have a full time every down back ready when Shady decides to leave. He shouldn't be a situational backup to McCoy in order to allow him to get used to playing in the Big East. Also he is the type of playmaker that when given the opportunity will cement himself carries in our offense.
This leaves Stephens-Howlings as the odd man out but he will still be able to contribute in special teams as a kick returner. It appears as though the talent level at the running back position has left him behind but his leadership will be invaluable to the younger players. The season is long and injuries always happen so having experienced players backing up the starters will only make the team better.
Back to reality the coaching will certainly find a way to Hot Rod carries seeing as Coach Wannstedt is a fan. I thought the way we distributed carries between Shady and Hot Rod early in the season was very poor and showed a weakness in the offensive staff. We can't get caught in the same scenario this year where carries aren't distributed correctly between our three main running backs. Shady is going to get all the carries he can handle but what needs to be looked at is how much Harris gets in order to get him ready for next year or the year after. Having a few playmakers at the running back position can be a gift and in some instances with bad distribution a curse.