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March 13, 2006

Spring football preview - Running backs

CougZone is previewing spring football position by position. This time, it's the running backs...:

The Contenders

Jed Collins - JR, 6'2, 250
Kevin McCall - RJR, 5'11, 215
DeMaundray Woolridge - SO, 5'8, 223
Dwight Tardy - RFR, 5'11, 200

With only four scholarship running backs on the roster and available for spring football, it's difficult to tell how this position will shake out. Jed Collins is virtually assured of his spot in the Cougar offense as a modified fullback. The challenge for Collins is to continue developing his skills. Ideally for both Collins and Cougar fans, Collins will make a strong enough statement in spring to demand more carries and game time come fall. It would be valuable for the Cougar offense to further develop Collins' role in spring and present Collins as a credible running and receiving threat in 2006 instead of a player almost exclusively used to block.

At the tailback spot, things are going to be interesting. Off field problems essentially torpedoed Kevin McCall's chances for game time before the 2005 season even began. Into the gap stepped DeMaundray Woolridge. Woolridge showed some impressive flashes of talent early in the season to the extent that he became the first Cougar freshman running back ever to put together back to back 100+ yard games. As the season went on, Woolridge's role became reduced in part due to the strength of Jerome Harrison but also freshman inexperience that led to on field miscues. That said, the smart money is on Woolridge to come out of spring listed as the starting tailback. He has every indication of a player who can get it done, and his game experience will count for a lot and likely give him the edge over McCall. Dwight Tardy is the darkhorse and something of an enigma as he has not yet had an opportunity to show what he can do.

One of the more oddball aspects of the competition at running back is that not all the contenders for 2006 are on campus. JC signees J.T. Diederichs and Derrell Hutsona will have every opportunity to take the starting spot in August. That is, assuming both are available. While Hutsona looks safely on track, there is concern over whether Diederichs will have his AA degree and transcripts in order. On top of Diederichs and Hutsona, incoming freshmen Marcus Richmond and Skylar Jessen will have opportunities to crack the depth and get on the field in 2006. Whoever emerges as the starter after spring - be it Woolridge, McCall, or Tardy - they will face a difficult challenge to hold off the newcomers in August.


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