FALL CAMP STORYLINES: Running Back

Beaverfootball.com Associate Editor
Posted Jul 28, 2009


THE STORY OF the offseason has centered around Jacquizz Rodgers -- OSU's freshman sensation running back was handled cautiously after shoulder surgery. It will probably take a week or two into the season before the Beaver Nation stops holding their breath each time he plows full-on into a would-be tackler -- but Quizz' tale is not the only compelling running back storyline headed into fall camp.

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DEPTH CHART:  So. Jacquizz Rodgers, Fr. Jovan Stevenson, So. Ryan McCants (INJ.)

PLAYERS LOSTJeremy Francis ('08 season: 35 rushes, 173 yards, one touchdown, 15 catches for 120 yards, one touchdown)

INJURIESRyan McCants is coming off of knee surgery, optimistic scenarios have him available mid-fall camp.

OVERVIEW: Depth is a major concern heading into August, and finding a suitable backup for Jacquizz Rodgers is one of the team's top priorities.

Sophomore Ryan McCants was the backup before injuring his knee in the third week of spring practice. Unfortunately, it required surgery and he won't be available until, at the very least, mid-to-late August.

Not having McCants in the lineup might not be as big an issue as once thought.  He was inconsistent during the '08 season, in both running and blocking, and didn't change many minds during his abbreviate spring session

And that left the door open for a freshman or a walk-on to shine, and that's just what former greyshirt Jovan Stevenson did.

The 5-foot-11, 195-pound tailback displayed soft hands, good vision and quickness hitting the hole.  Ideally the coaches would like to redshirt him and have him add 15 or so pounds, but the Beavs need a No. 2 behind Quizz and necessity may force him into action.

Stevenson is slippery, but he definitely needs to add some muscle before getting too many carries -- and to throw effective blocks. 

He showed this spring he could well be a reliable option when Quizz needs a rest -- Stevenson doesn't have to carry the running game load, and one of his top priorities could also be found in protecting the quarterback and doing enough to spring receivers.

One big plus. hlooks to have the attitude to succeed - by all accounts Stevenson is a highly motivated, hard working individual.  It would not be surprising to see him playing as a true freshman in '09 after coming to OSU in January.

Other players that the coaches will take a long look at in fall camp include incoming freshman Ashton Jefferson and several walk-ons. 

Jefferson comes from the football rich state of Texas where he dominated the competition.  He has power and speed, but since Stevenson has a spring practice on his football resume, expect Stevenson to be groomed as the back up to Quizz.

Another issue that the coaches will closely monitor is Quizz' shoulder.  He hasn't been hit in well over a half of a year and coming off surgery, durability is a concern. Can he take another 259-carry season? 

Ironically, the hit that did the damage in the Arizona game looked far tamer than many of the teeth rattling shoulder pops Quizz absorbed, and dished out, over the course of the season.

Mike Riley has been very cautious with his star player, taking him to about half a dozen doctors to make sure Rodgers' shoulder is properly healed and can take a Pac-10 pounding again.

While the "no tackling Quizz" rule will likely not be in effect in fall camp, the coaches certainly don't want any of the defensive players trying to unload on the Pac-10's reigning offensive player of the year at every opportunity.

And just so you know, only three other players in the history of the Pac-10 have been named Offensive Player of the Year in back to back years.  All were running backs, USC's Reggie Bush, 2004, 2005 | WSU's Rueben Mayes, 1984, 1985 | USC's Charles White, 1978, 1979).

And I may be getting ahead of myself, and yes, in fact I am, but if Quizz keeps his current production through four years in Corvallis, he will have carried the ball 1,036 times for 5,012 yards and 44 touchdowns.

Those numbers would give him the third most rushing yards ever in the Pac-10, and the second most at OSU behind Ken Simonton.  And if he tops the 1,000 yard mark each year, he would become the first player in the Conference of Champions to accomplish such a feat.

A wrinkle or two to the playbook will be added this year.  Sophomore  Will Darkins switched from linebacker to fullback giving the offense an extra weapon in short yardage and passing situations.

Darkins has stuffed his nose into the playbooks and could be a valuable asset come fall. 

Another addition to the playbook the coaches have discussed is the Wildcat formation in which Quizz would take the snap -- similar to what Arkansas did with Darren McFadden - check out this YouTube clip for more.

AN OPTIMIST WOULD SAY:  With three starting offensive linemen returning, and Quizz a year more experienced, there will not be a sophomore slump, just another 1,000 yard season and copious amounts of highlights and wins.

A PESSIMIST WOULD SAY:  The Beavs have small backs with McCants out and more importantly, defensive players will be gunning for Quizz' shoulder. With unproven backups, the offense is just one hit away from becoming one dimensional.

STAR PLAYERJacquizz Rodgers.  Patient, a hard worker, a powerful lower body, a dedication to blocking -- he's got it all.

UNIT STRENGTH:  Quizz.  One of the nation's best.

UNIT WEAKNESS:  Depth.  If Quizz gets injured, it may be time to hold your breath. Inexperience always means things could get ugly.

INCOMING RECRUITS: Ashton Jefferson.  An under recruited touchdown machine out of Alvin, Texas who has homerun ability - will be looked to fill out the depth chart.

NOTABLE NOTE:  The offense averaged 158.8 rushing yards a game - Quizz averaged 113.9 or 72% of that total.

STATSRodgers (11 games): 259 carries for 1,253 yards, 11 touchdowns, 29 catches for 247 yards, one touchdown, seven 100-yard games | McCants (11 games): 85 carries for 337 yards, two touchdowns, six catches 30 yards.

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