Fall Camp Preview - Running backs

Fall Camp Preview - Running backs

Sports analysts would all agree on one thing - "Yvenson Bernard is the most underrated player in the Pac-10." That has a lot to do with the physical and mental toughness this kid brings to the field. Last year Bernard had to run with minor injuries throughout the season, but still managed to tearoff over 1,300 yards equaling a little over 100 yards a game.

Depth chart beginning of April:

Yvenson Bernard
Clinton Polk
Micah Strickland
Tony Carrasco or Andy Stewart

 

Depth chart start of August:

Yvenson Bernard
Clinton Polk
Patrick Fuller
Tony Carrasco or Andy Stewart
Michael Sorem

 

Injuries:
  • Clinton Polk - played through a quadriceps in late April

 

Overview:

Sports analysts would all agree on one thing - "Yvenson Bernard is the most underrated player in the Pac-10." That has a lot to do with the physical and mental toughness this kid brings to the field. Last year Bernard had to run with minor injuries throughout the season, but still managed to tearoff over 1,300 yards equaling a little over 100 yards a game.

Bernard is tough as nails as he never complains; he simply straps on his pads and comes to play even if he has a dislocated shoulder or a fractured arm. It’s almost scary to think what Bernard could do if he stayed healthy for an entire season. Having that in mind, the coaches didn’t let Bernard participate in the scrimmages and, for the most, part held him back from contact drills.

With four of the five starters on the offensive line returning, Bernard should find himself comfortable in familiar territories. Even though his contact drills were limited, he made his presence felt with the limited opportunity he had.

During one of the drills he blocked linebacker Bryant Cornell, coming on a blitz, so hard that he sent Cornell’s helmet flying off of his head. A few plays later he juked lineabcker Casey Noack out of of his shoes making him look absolutely silly - Casey took some ribbing from his teammates for that one.

Clinton Polk had a relatively quiet spring. He wasn’t involved in any spectacular plays during the practices, but was very consistent despite being slowed down by a quadriceps bruise in late April. He stayed out of a handful of days on practices. If anybody had any doubts about him, they were all put to rest with his fantastic 70-yard touchdown run on a shovel pass from Sean Canfield in the spring game.

The biggest surprise of spring was probably the reappearance and resurgence of Patrick Fuller. Fuller was not on the football roster during the winter term. When spring session started, coach Mike Riley announced that Fuller has “an opportunity” to be with the team come fall.

With Bernard and Polk staying away from scrimmages, Fuller made full use of that opportunity. He raised eyebrows with his consistent efforts during practices, but made his statement during the second scrimmage game with some absolutely fabulous runs. Fuller also capped that day with a touchdown run of his own.

He has never looked back since then and definitely has made a strong case for more playing time. Fuller, with a nice pair of hands, also brings the option of an extra receiver on the field.

Tony Carrasco is someone who brings 101-percent on every play he’s involved in. He makes up for his lack of size with some amazing ability to change directions. He’s fast, and if he can hit the open field, you pretty much can say good bye to him.

He keeps his legs moving allowing him to drag defenders with him giving the team an extra few yards and an energy burst. He will end up getting playing time purely based on the heart and determination that he brings on a daily basis.

Andy Stewart was the other running back who had a fairly good spring. Stewart is mainly used as a power runner in the two-back set or “H” back roles. He could be extremely handy in short yardage and goal line situations. This could also mean the return of full back position if Stewart is to have a few carries.

Stewart is an excellent blocker as linebacker Eric Moala Liava'a will attest to. It was on a linebacker blitz, and Stewart stepped in to make the big hit sending Moala Liava'a on his back. This was the best hit of the whole spring and teammate Sammie Strougter certainly loved it as he let out several hoots. Showing true class, Stewart helped Eric get back on his feet.

Stewart’s best play came on a third down where he received a pass way short of the first down and then went on to juke linebacker Joey LaRocque out of his shoes in the open field, getting past the first down marker.

Michael Sorem ais the other two running back on the roster. Sorem got a few reps the last week and half with Polk and Bernard sitting out. He did reasonable well, but it’s very clear that he needs a lot of seasoning.

Going into April, Micah Strickland was considered to be a main contributor on offense after his repetitions with the team during the bowl game practices last year. But, for undisclosed personal reasons he ended up missing the majority of the practices and started to struggle academically.  In the summer he was ruled academically ineligible and will not be with the team in 2007.

 

Weaknesses: Strengths:
  • A back with true breakaway speed
  • Overall blocking ability
  • Doak Walker candidate Yvenson Bernard
  • Experienced backup in Clinton Polk
  • Good hands by all backs

 

Statistics:

Returning rusher: Yvenson Bernard (1,307 yards)

Returning touchdown leader: Yvenson Bernard (12)

 

Returning ball carrier: Yvenson Bernard (296 attempts)

Returning average leader: Yvenson Bernard (4.4 ypc)

 


** Returning running backs in orange.

 

Top spring performer:

Patrick Fuller - With Bernard and Polk sitting out most of the time, Fuller took full advantage of the opportunity, and impressed coaches and fans with some spectacular runs.

He was the leading rusher in two of the three scrimmages, with a touchdown run in each of them. He also established himself with a few catches, demonstrating good hands and the ability to get himself open.

If he can slightly improve his blocking, he could turn out to be a force.

 

RB spring summary in three sentences or less:

Coming into spring, running back depth was a big issue. That has dramatically changed with Fuller's emergence and Carrasco's blue collar play. On offense, the running backs have the second best depth behind the receivers.

Bernard and Stewart demonstrated their blocking abilities, and if the rest can follow, the team will be in good shape.

Blocking is going to be a key factor with a new quarterback at the helm.

 

Notable quotes:

Riley on Yvenson Bernard - “The main thing for him is maintaining the flow of our offense. He wants to be in great shape…physically ready to go. We try and limit his contact in the spring just so he can physically be ready to go."

Riley on the running backs - "Clinton is looking better and Micah is competing hard. We always have Tony Carrasco in there pounding away. So with all those guys, that has all looked okay."

Riley on the back up running backs - "It is an ongoing process of finding a guy who can can, number one, have ready if Eve can't play. And number 1A, go into the game and spell him a little bit. We didn't get to that point last year, although Clinton did go in and have a good game against USC. We are still evaluating and will take it into fall camp."

 

Who's coming in the fall:

Two freshman, Ryan McCants (case file) and Ahmed Mokhtar (case file) are set to arrive in Corvalls for fall ball. With Bernard and Polk both seniors, McCants and Mokhtar will most likely get on the job training as they will play on special teams and compete for playing time as sophomores.

 

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