This is a position that I'm nervous about. Having Eric Bieniemy as the position coach helps with it a little bit, but it's still a concern. We only have three players at tailback (only two on scholarship) going into the spring, barring guys like Cordary Allen (moved to TE) and D.D. Goodson (Nickelback) switching back. Tony Jones looked solid and flashed something special a couple of times in 2011, but we don't know if he'll be a guy that can truly be a #1 option guy for us, and Creer may not play in 2012 because of his injury. That means we'll have 1 healthy scholarship RB in the spring. Not to mention the graduation of our two scholarship fullbacks. Alex Wood is a tight end, but he took some snaps at fullback and looks more suited for the position anyway (see my upcoming TE breakdown for his information)
- Josh Ford, Jr - His shining moment in 2011 was his TD run right up the middle, and he had a few other solid pickups on the ground, but he still needs to keep working on his blocking to be a full-time contributor for us going forward. He's a guy with solid speed who is best as a one-cut and go type of player. The question is if he can keep a spot in the TB rotation with new guys coming in.
- Malcolm Creer, So - We don't know if we'll see him in 2012 after he busted up his knee less than two games after burning his redshirt. He was "called up" after Speedy was injured, and was solid in the Oregon game. He wasn't given much space to run in by the offensive line, yet he still was able to display some balance and power on a few of his carries. I doubt we'll see him at all in the spring (<6 months after his injury), but he may be able to participate come summertime. Lets hope can come back at some point, because he flashed some strong running in his limited chances.
- Tony Jones, So - He is in the drivers seat going into spring practices. Whether or not he stays there, I don't know. He's not shown us yet that he can carry the load, but they haven't really asked him to yet. With Creer out, I'm sure Jones will get most of the 1st team reps in the spring, and if he improves, that'll carry over to the summer. But we were fine going with multiple ball-carriers last year, and I'm sure that will continue in 2012. So the battle for who is the second guy (or possibly who will be ahead of Jones in the pecking order) won't really come until the recruits make it onto campus.
- Nick Plimpton, RFr - A walk on that was an undersized offensive lineman in high school. Honestly, that's what you want to see from a Fullback candidate. I haven't seen anything from him, but we certainly will this spring. Fullbacks are often non-scholarship guys, but a lot of college offenses don't use them enough to warrant allocating a scholarship there. I think we would like to. Our offense was at its best when there were more blockers on the field, and I think we would use a Fullback quite often if we had a good one.
We need to sign at least two running backs this year. At least three if we expect Creer to sit the year out while recovering. And I honestly wouldn't be upset if that number was as high as 4. With the small class expected next year, overloading at TB this class might not be the worst idea. Also, with the turnover on the offensive line and at tight end, or RBs will probably take a pounding early, so depth is definitely important there. My bold statement is that Creer recovers just in time to take over the starting job to start 2012. I don't have any knowledge of his recovery schedule or how he's doing, but I feel like/hope that it's going to happen!
We should probably try to sign one scholarship fullback. I think that would be a good use of resources, provided he's a guy that can come in and play well from day 1. There aren't a ton of those kinds of kids out there, but there also aren't a ton of schools that really use a true fullback anymore. Bold statement at fullback? That Plimpton gets the job and keeps it. I have no idea, but it's hard to make a bold statement about a position with so much turnover and so many unknowns.