SFA Football 2012 Preview: Running Backs
Aug. 14, 2012
NACOGDOCHES, Texas - For a team who has only run the ball on only 34 percent of its plays over the past four seasons, the Stephen F. Austin Lumberjacks know that when they are able to get the ball in the hands of a deep corps of running backs, good things typically happen.
SFA had five players rush for at least one touchdown in 2011, and despite not having an individual with over 500 yards on the ground, still had three rushers average better than five yards per carry and averaged 12.0.5 yards per game on the ground as a team. Not bad results for a team that put the ball in the air nearly 50 times per game last year.
Still, with so many talented backs to choose from, the `Jacks can also look into the future with a smile knowing that four of the six on this year's roster have at least two years of eligibility remaining, only losing senior Jeremy Barnes after this season.
Barnes was one of the pleasant surprises of last season for the `Jacks, leading the team with 491 yards on the ground in just his second season in the backfield after being converted from a defensive back. Not only was his 99 carries by far the most on the team, but he also led the running backs with 15 catches out of the backfield. Those numbers, along with a knack for pass blocking, saw him cement the role as primary back a junior last year.
But Barnes had company at the top of the group with Lawson, Ford and Johnson having impacts as well. Lawson broke onto the scene in 2010, rushing for three touchdowns in SFA's 2010 playoff game versus Villanova when he found the end zone three times in the first half and followed that up with a solid junior season, averaging a team-leading six yards per carry while splitting duty with three other ball carriers.
Meanwhile, the highly-touted freshman duo of Fred Ford and Gus Johnson did their part too, combining to find the end zone for eight of the Lumberjacks' 12 rushing touchdowns on the year. Five of those scores came from Ford, who brings an instant home-run threat to the backfield and with an exceptional combination of power and speed, along with a year of experience to his credit could be in line for more repetitions in 2012.
Johnson saw the majority of his action in the red zone or short yardage as a freshman and showed a nose for the end zone himself with three scores and an average of better than four yards per rush, and like Ford, brings the ability to run between the tackles or hit the edge for big yardage.
SFA added to its depth in the backfield during its past recruiting season, plucking scatback Jamarcus Walker from nearby Lufkin HS (Lufkin, Texas) to join the ranks. He rushed for over 4,000 yards in his high school career at one of East Texas' premier programs and could work his way into the rotation as the year progresses.
Aug. 13 - Quarterbacks