With junior Kyle Bell out for the season due to a knee injury, someone in the CSU backfield will have to step up.
Right now that someone appears to be sophomore Gartrell Johnson III.
“Some guys have to look at this as an opportunity, and other players will have to step up and I think we can do that,” Head Coach Sonny Lubick said about the Bell injury after practice on Wednesday.
Johnson, who was singled out in spring practice by Lubick for his hard work, believes he is ready to fill in for Bell.
“I’m very excited. I think it’s time for me to showcase my talent,” Johnson said about his new starting role. “I’ve been here for a few years and I haven’t played that much.”
Despite the promotion, Johnson is wary of being too happy at being named starter.
“We were sad because we have been a family this whole summer, with spring ball and everything, waking up at seven o’clock in the morning to run and workout,” Johnson said about the overall mood in practice following the news of Bell.
“I think (the team) came out and practiced hard and that was difficult for them,” added coach Lubick.
Johnson ran the football 11 times for 29 yards last season for CSU, less than the individual totals for both quarterback Caleb Hanie and wide receiver Damon Morton.
Johnson, a 6-foot tall, 225-pound back from Miami Springs, Fla., redshirted his initial freshman year after sustaining a season-ending injury in 2004.
Despite his lack of experience, Johnson feels comfortable running with the first-team offense.
“I’ve been running with the ones for the last few weeks; me and Kyle have been trading off,” said Johnson.
Running backs coach Mick Delaney confirmed that Johnson is now the Rams’ starting running back and that sophomore Michael Myers, a converted defensive back, will play behind him.
“If anyone was a surprise during spring camp, it was him (Johnson),” said running backs coach Mick Delaney.
Delaney said that Myers has “excellent talent and ability,” but that he needs to improve on his pass blocking.
The news of Bell’s injury created an immediate need for more depth at the running back position and senior Nnamdi Ohaeri may be an option.
Ohaeri, who had been fighting for playing time in the defensive secondary, ran plays with the offense on Wednesday for the first time since last season.
“(Ohaeri) showed up to practice in a white jersey and a funny look on his face,” said offensive coordinator Dan Hammerschmidt.
The senior from San Bernardino, Calif., was initially recruited as a running back out of high school and then switched to defense upon arriving at UCLA.
Ohaeri then transferred to CSU with hopes of playing running back, which he did sparingly last season, but was moved back to defense again for this season, until Wednesday.
Senior blocking back Tristan Walker will also likely get more carries now with the injury to Bell.