Today we review the running backs performance from this past spring. It is hard to get a good idea of what if any changes will be taking place to the running game until fall practice. That is still kept from public view. However, there was still talk of more two back sets and use of a traditional TE floating around.
Each of the running backs had their moment, but one back clearly was head and shoulders the best of the spring.
Derrick Washington: The senior to be running back came into spring in top shape after slimming down 10+ pounds and appeared to extremely focused on upping his game. He practiced and played full speed at all times and showed what he would be capable of doing in the Tiger scrimmages, including the last one before the spring game which he scored 4 touchdowns.
Washington credits the weight loss with his improved quickness and speed. He actually looks the fastest that he ever has since I have been watching him play, which has been since he was a freshman in high school. He is making decisions and hitting the hole much quicker, and he shows more cutting ability and elusiveness, while still showing the toughness and power he always has.
Look for Washington to have a big year and set himself up for a lot of looks by NFL scouts.
De'vion Moore: Moore was held to limited duty in the first part of the spring while recovering from injury. When he was able to return to full contact duty he looked great. He appeared to be faster and quicker showing an extra burst. Coach Pinkel explained it as him having fresh legs. Whatever the reason, Moore also looks like he has a strong early focus on becoming better and appears as though he is a solid back-up for Washington that can make things happen in a game if given the opportunity.
Kendial Lawrence: The Sophomore RB showed flashes of what his is capable of doing. Similar to what he did in limited action last season. However, I expected a little bit more from him this spring. I thought he might make a move towards passing Moore on the depth chart. Not that he had a poor spring. He just kind of leveled off and accepted his role on the team rather then push the upperclassmen at his position. I still think he can provide some big plays at running back for the Tigers. However, it appears that he will have three hungry, talented incoming freshman who will be ready to push him for his spot come August.
Nikko Sansone and Chris Willett: Nikko Sansone quickly became a favorite of mine to watch. Despite his diminutive size, Sansone went full bore all out on every opportunity he was given. He size and quickness made him hard for defenders to spot and get a good shot at. Especially since he used his lineman effectively and was able to hide behind them and then dart out for yards.
Willett is a hard-nosed bigger back who gives his all drills and also when his number is called. While neither is likely to become factors on the field, they are great team players to have at practice . Both should be applauded for their spring work.
The focus is on balance between the passing and running game. A lot of work went into it during the spring. And while were won't know any real changes that may lie ahead from the Tigers scheme wise, we did learn that they do have the returning talent to have a solid running game and the talent to keep the ball on the ground when needed.
The next question will be who from the incoming three backs will be able to make a move on the depth chart or possibly contribute for 2010. That will be addressed this summer.