One of the deepest positions for the Red Wolves this fall is going to be the running back. ASU returns some very talented backs and are bringing in an influx of outstanding prospects including one that may be as good as any in the nation. That is a great situation for a new coach that is preparing to have a power run game within his spread offense, but for someone that is trying to project a starter and a depth chart – not so great! Oh well I’ll give it a shot.
Well we have to start with the Elephant in the room….or uh the 210 pound Tiger in the room!
Will Michael Dyer (5’9 210 JR) be eligible this fall? The former Parade All-American and Auburn transfer sure saw a lot of reps this spring and that has led some to believe that not only will Malzahn and ASU request a waiver, but they may believe they have a good shot at getting it approved. Only time will really tell.
If Dyer were to become eligible, the “who is the starter at running back” question is answered. There is no denying the talent that Dyer has. A Freshman All-American and the Offensive MVP of the BCS National Championship Game, rushed for 2,335 yards in his two years at Auburn.
Dyer has a combination of speed and power that is perfect for the Malzahn offense. He has the ability to pound the ball for the tough yards but can also break the long play at any moment. Malzahn and his staff believe that they have one of the best backs in the country and should he be eligible this fall, Dyer should be their go to guy at RB.
Frankie Jackson (5’10 200 RSO) is healthy! And if he can stay healthy, he has all the ability in the world to push Dyer for the starting job. Jackson has had a rocky road since he left Baton Rouge Capitol HS. He was prepared to come in and compete for the job as a freshman in 2010 but had to use a redshirt year due to his high school accepting a credit that the NCAA didn’t.
During his redshirt freshman year Frankie endured a number of tweaks to his ankle and was never really healthy throughout the season. Jackson rushed for 355 yards in 2011 and showed impressive skills as a receiver with 13 catches for 178 yards. If Dyer is a Power/Speed combo in the mold of a Ray Rice then Jackson’s running style is more of a Marshall Faulk type. Jackson likes to cut and make the defender miss and then try to get upfield. Jackson gives the Red Wolves a potentially very solid starter or an outstanding number 2 back behind Dyer.
Another guy that needs to get to that 100% healthy mark is Sirgregory Thornton (5’11 195 JR). Thornton missed most of last season because of an array of injuries, a sports hernia, being the one that put him out for the remainder of the season and slowed him through spring practice.
The Germantown, Tennessee native is faster than Dyer and Jackson and as a freshman rushed for 258 yards on 38 attempts while only getting 19 attempts for 120 yards in 2011. Thornton has true breakaway speed and is more of a north/south runner than Jackson. If there is open field in front of Thornton, look out! Thornton will need to be healthy when fall camp opens to gain ground on Dyer and Jackson for snaps.
The spring phenom for two years in a row has been former Dumas Bobcat Sherodrick Smith (5’10 185 RSO). Smith runs with a similar style to Frankie Jackson. So much so that he was misidentified as Jackson during their freshmen Spring practices.
Smith was good enough to earn at least a one year scholarship under former ASU Head Coach Hugh Freeze. Smith had a fantastic Spring Game last month when he led all rushers with 95 yards. Smith has very good vision and hits holes hard and quick, perhaps better than any other back. Smith provides the running back corp with excellent depth, and I personally expect to see him pushing all the other RBs this fall as he has proven to be a relentless worker.
The incoming freshmen will make this running back position very deep. Kendrick Daniels (5’7 155 FR) and Michael Gordon (5’9 190 FR) are both guys that could make splashes this fall.
Daniels will be the fastest of the backs the day he steps on campus. The Sulphur Springs, Texas product has been timed at a 4.3 forty and reminds this fan of former LSU running back/kick return specialist Trindon Holliday. Daniels may come in and see time at a slot receiver or as a kick returner as a true freshman allowing Malzahn to utilize his speed. Daniels has great feet, and excellent change of direction so it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him in the slot and come back around on that reverse pitch or handoff. Gordon is a young back in the same mode as Frankie Jackson.
Gordon rushed for 2002 yard rushing and had 412 yards receiving as a senior at Velma Jackson HS in Camden, Mississippi. Gordon has really good speed and athleticism. When he learns to run with a little bit lower pad level he has the chance to be an excellent back.
There are 6 different backs in this list and 3 of those could be starting at a number of Division I programs (one could probably start for anyone). 2 highly touted incoming freshmen and a walk on that has been the star of 2 Spring Games.
The 2012 running back position at Arkansas State has a chance to be a very good one. if Michael Dyer doesn’t receive his waiver to play this group will still be a good Sun Belt running attack. However if Dyer is on the field this fall, expect the Red Wolves full-fledged running game to be one of the better ones in the country.