Bumped to the front page - Jon
I'm in the midst of moving (which is definitely harder with one bum leg), but fortunately I started working on these last week!
I'm writing some positional outlooks for our beloved Buffaloes. They are based on what I've read and seen of the players we've got.
We return a guy who lead the team in rushing the past two seasons, a guy who returned a kickoff for the TD last year, and a guy who looked great in the spring. So why are we worried? Just kidding, count me as one of the people who has furrowed their brow at the current state of our Tailback position. Yes, Rodney "Speedy" Stewart has been great for us the last two years, but he's also missed time with injuries. Lockridge has proven he's fast, but he hasn't proven he's a running back. And Quentin Hildreth is a walk on and the heaviest of the bunch at 185 lbs. Not hugely impressive. And the other returner has bounced in between RB and WR, playing on special teams, but hasn't logged a carry yet in his 5 years. Yeah, not really confidence inspiring. The team is banking on one of the 4 true freshman that joined the squad this year making an impact (banking on a true-frosh to make an impact? Fortunately we're only in that position at RB, when it's been all over the place in years past). Fortunately, even though this position is the most tenuous on the roster, it's a lot easier to plug in a brand new player at tailback than it is at most others.
- Corey Nabors, Sr
- Has been a special teams guy in his time at CU. He's the member of a small senior class that's least likely to have an impact. I just haven't seen anything out of him that says "solid running back," which is presumably why he got some practice time at WR last year.
- Brian Lockridge, Jr
- He tantalized us with his speed as a freshman, then missed the next season with an injury. Then, at some point, we realized he wasn't a great running back. His vision in the open field is fine, but he seems totally incapable of following his blocks. And unlike Speedy, he doesn't pick up yards when he doesn't follow his blocks. We also learned that he wasn't really all that fast once we started recruiting guys that were actually fast (much like Josh "not-a-football-player" Smith). Also, he wasn't great at changing directions. He can run really fast in a straight line, but if that was all you needed to play football, Usain Bolt would've made an NFL roster by now. He's gotten some shiftiness now, and he was solidly the second running back during fall practices, but we'll see how long that lasts. He also might lose his job as the primary kick returner.
- Rodney Stewart, Jr
- Everybody likes an underdog! Stewart came in the same year as Darrell Scott (the bum), and has shown us what a difference a work-ethic can make. I would see Stewart around campus last summer, and I'm not sure I've ever seen a guy so muscular that it looks like his clothes are going to burst at any given second, and he's apparently added another 10 lbs. He runs with the mentality of a much bigger back, seeking out contact and always lowering his shoulder to try to get the extra yard. Of course, it hasn't always worked for him, but kudos for trying. And he's also worked on relying on his blocks a little bit more, and broke a few big runs in fall practice, where in the past he might've been bouncing back and forth down the field, wasting some of his straight-line speed. He's as shifty as they come, and he's developed some patience. His injury history aside, there's no reason why he shouldn't be a 1,000 yard RB in each of the next two seasons. And keep this to yourselves, but he could be involved in some trick plays (hint hint...).
- Cordary Allen, Fr
- He's the biggest of the True freshmen backs at 230 lbs. He's also tall, like Chris Brown. Anyway, he comes from a multiple option system in high school, so he's got lots of adjusting to do. I'd say pass-blocking is one of his main concerns, but he had a pretty good pickup that I saw during the fall scrimmage. I haven't seen him carry the ball too many times, but he looks pretty fast for his size, and the Coaches say he's pretty good at following his blocks. They also say that he needs to get more comfortable in the system and that he's "out-thinking himself." He's a guy that I wouldn't mind seeing redshirt to work on his quickness. If you're that tall, you've got to be pretty quick to be effective.
- Quentin Hildreth, Fr
- He's a walk-on, redshirt freshman that was the star of the spring football game. Now that's mostly because he was the only back (well, Nabors was there too...), but it's also because he's got some skills. He's really thick, and can explode into tacklers to gain an extra yard or two. Now he's still not that big, but he's got some speed and is good at getting out into space. He's got to work on following his blocks (I say this a lot for the RBs, but it can be the difference between a 500 yard season and a 1,500 yard season. No joke), but he seems to show some patience for it. I think he may get the second most carries this year after Speedy, unless one of the true Freshmen beat him out.
- Tony Jones, Fr
- His nickname is "Quick," or at least that's what Coach Hawkins called him on the practice fields. It's a good name for him, as he really is lightning quick. He's also pretty darn small, but at least we're used to guys his size. He's got decent hands, and he runs with a nice, low center of gravity, so he's not an easy guy to take down with just an arm tackle. He's a lot like Stewart in a lot of ways, though he's not nearly as strong. He's got broader shoulders than Speedy, which means he might be able to put on some more weight. I'm thinking like Maurice Jones-Drew. Anyway, he should be a good player for us, and he's already won a (high school) national championship (according to USA Todays crazy rankings).
- Trea' Jones, Fr
- He was the player of the year in North Carolina and he's a pretty good all purpose back. He's got good size, good speed and he seems to have pretty good hands. He's the kind of guy who could carry the load for us in a few years. We'll have to watch his development. He's got a lot to learn when it comes to formations and techniques and pass-blocking and everything, but he looks like he'll be able to master all of those things. When it's all said and done, he could be the best of the four.
- Justin Torres, Fr
- I hadn't seen the coaching staff use him much in practices, until the fall scrimmage. He got a bunch of carries when the second offense was trying to run out the clock. That's a good sign for Torres, that they trust him in that role. Fumbling is one of the things that the Coaches will look at when deciding which of the freshmen gets to play, and they must think he's pretty good at protecting the ball to put him in there. He's got great size, and he's built really well. He looks like he should be out there right now (again, we've got a lot of freshmen that look physically ready right now. That's been unusual here lately). Simply going off of the scrimmage, he might be the freshman that sees the most carries this season.
If Stewart can stay healthy, then I've got confidence in our running backs. It's that simple. But of course, there's no guarantee that he's able to make it through the season unscathed. If he goes down, it's going to be a pretty nerve-wracking experience for us as fans. Nobody else really has any experience. The guy with the most snaps at RB is Lockridge, and I don't really like him as a running back. Hildreth inspires more confidence, but he's a walk-on (redshirt) freshman. I think Stewart will be healthier this year, though, and that we'll get some good production from our RBs. I'm thinking that Torres will step up and take some carries, and that Hildreth will make an impact as well. I think we'll be fine.
We'll get another year of Stewart after 2010, which is nice, and by that time, we'll have a bunch of young guys ready to step up and take his place. It would be naïve to think that all 5 of those guys (including Hildreth) will stick around for the next four years, whether someone switches positions or transfers for more playing time, but we should be good at RB for a while. We've got a nice mixture of guys who could all complement each other, or one of them could just prove to be a do-it-all kind of guy. Either way, this recruiting class was pretty impressive at shoring up the depth problems at RB for the future.