Running backs’ coach optimistic despite lack of experience

Recruiting new running backs was certainly a priority for the Colorado coaching staff this past off-season.

Two years ago, recruiting running backs for the Class of 2010 would not have seemed a likely priority.

Two years ago, Colorado appeared to be set for the next four/five seasons in the offensive  backfield. True, Hugh Charles had graduated, but the Buffs were stocked with young talent. Brian Lockridge, Demetrius Sumler, and Arthur Jaffee were all young and returning, and Colorado had recruited three new backs:

Darrell Scott was the highest ranked running back prospect in the nation, and was heralded as a signing day coup for Colorado; Ray Polk was not too far behind Scott in the eyes of the recruiting scouts (the 11th-ranked running back overall according to Rivals.com; and there was the signing day bonus of Rodney Stewart, who could be counted on to return kicks if he couldn’t find his way into the backfield.

What a difference two years make.

First, Ray Polk left the team – well, at least the offene, moving to safety in the spring of 2009. Then Darrell Scott left the team in November, followed by Demetrius Sumler in December. Of those left from the 2008 roster – Brian Lockridge has seen some action, but mostly returning kicks (Lockridge had all of 12 carries from scrimmage in 2009), which was still more time with the ball than Arthur Jaffee, who has learned to excel on coverage teams (13 tackles, second on the team in special team statistics last fall). The bulk of the carries were left to 2008 signing day after-thought Rodney Stewart, who has led the team in rushing the past two seasons.

With only Rodney Stewart – who has not made it through his first two seasons without injury – back to carry the ball in 2010, Colorado needed a quick infusion of talent this February. On signing day, 2010, Colorado picked up four new backs, and running backs coach Darian Hagan is excited about the possibilities.

First, Hagan points out, there are, in fact, more than just Stewart and Lockridge returning. Former walk-on Cory Nabors will be the lone senior in the backfield, a player Hagan describes as a player who is “smart”, and who can contribute. Also back is red-shirt freshman Quentin Hildreth, who was one of the “Denver East Three” last signing day (joining kicker Zach Grossnickle and tight end DeVaughn Thornton). These players, along with Lockridge, will spell Stewart this spring, saving “Speedy” for the fall. “We have to develop the other guys,” Hagan told the Longmont Times-Call. “Lockridge is going to benefit from those other guys (Scott and Sumler) not being there.”

[Footnote to the Darrell Scott saga. The Times-Call article quoted Hagan as saying, “I haven’t talked with (Scott), but I’ve heard he’s trying to get in touch with coach Hawk”. Read into that what you will, but it may take a minor miracle – or a coaching change – to get Scott back in a Colorado uniform.]

Hagan is also enthusiastic about his four running back recruits:

Tony Jones, from Ramsey, New Jersey, is 5’8″, 175 pounds, and is considered by Rivals.com to be the 14th-best all-purpose back in the country. Hagan indicates that he sees many of mannerisms of Rodney Stewart in Tony Jones. Rivals.com considers Tony Jones the recruit “The Most Ready to Make an Impact” amongst the Class of 2010, noting that Jones was a four-year starter for a national prep power, and has sufficient lower body strength to overcome any size issues he may have in adjusting to the college game.

The other Jones from the 2010 class, Trea Jones, impressed Hagan. “The guy can flat out run,” said Hagan of the 5’11”, 183-pound back from Wake Forest, North Carolina. Trea Jones reportedly can run a 4.53 in the 40, posting 1,651 rushing yards and 17 touchdowns in 14 games last fall. “It feels a little like Colorado stole a running back from North Carollina”, said Jones’ high school coach, Reginald Lucas. “I felt like Trea could have helped any of the Division-1 schools here in North Carolina.” Thing was, North Carolina, Wake Forest, and North Carolina State wanted Jones to play defensive back, but Jones sees himself as a running back.

Corday Clark is a bigger back – 6’2″, 220 pounds – and Clark reminds Hagan of Colorado fan-favorite Chris Brown. Clark was on the radar for both Alabama and Auburn, but circumstances worked in the Buffs’ favor. According to Hagan, national champion Alabama wanted Clark, but then decided to go with smaller backs. Auburn, meanwhile, came late to the party. The Tigers lost out on two other backs they thought they were going to sign, and didn’t put make a serious move on Clark until after the Phenix City, Alabama, star had made up his mind to come to Boulder.

The final back of the quartet of new signees is Justin Torres, who is 6’1″, 215-pounds. Torres was promoted by his high school coach, former CU quarterback Mike Moschetti, committing to Colorado the weekend before signing day. “The two bigger guys (Clark and Torres), they’re just dogs. They like to get after you,” said Hagan. “They’re the types of guys we wanted. We wanted bigger backs.”

Overall, Hagan sees the Colorado offense blooming in 2010. With the development of a legitimate passing game – incumbent quarterback Tyler Hansen complemented by a full roster of capable receivers – Hagan sees the offense as ready to take off. “I think this year will be the first time since we’ve been here that defenses will have to play us honestly,” said Hagan. “They can’t pack the box (against the run)”.

Optimism abounds in February for all schools. Spring practice is less than a month away. Every team is unbeaten.

Colorado has a stable full of talented young backs joining the team in August. The future looks bright for the Colorado running game.

Just as it did two years ago …

2 Replies to “Hagan on RB’s – “It’ll be fun””

  1. KCNC – Channel 4 reports that Darrell Scott wants to come back. He met with Hawkins, but isn’t enrolled in Spring classes. This would make the running back scene a little more interesting if the coaches and team welcome him back…

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