When it comes to CSU football and style of play, fans over the years have grown accustomed to appreciating a solid running game. Whether it’s recent running backs like Gartrell Johnson III and Kyle Bell or even mobile quarterbacks like Bradlee Van Pelt, in Fort Collins people want to see rushing yards in the triple digits when reading a box score.
This upcoming 2009 season will be the first since 2005 that the starting running back isn’t necessarily a headline name from the year before, but despite somewhat new faces, the two currently auditioning for the lead role are more than qualified.
Meet John Mosure. The 5-foot-10, 202 pound junior running back instantly earned fan approval last season as a sophomore when he returned a kickoff for a touchdown against CU-Boulder in the Rocky Mountain Showdown, which was one of two times he would score on special teams. A veteran of the system at CSU, Mosure is currently favored by running backs coach Anthony Hill to earn the starting job come fall.
“Right now, John is the one,” Hill, a former CSU quarterback, said. “I mean three guys are working out with the (first team), but right now John has the experience, he knows what’s going on, he’s able to keep it steady there. But we’re gonna need both Alex (Square) and Leonard (Mason) to help us out at that spot.”
Aside from his efforts on kickoff returns and kick coverage in 2008, Mosure has had considerable amount of game experience from scrimmage.
Last year he was often used as the pseudo-quarterback when CSU would run their “Battering Ram” formation in which the center would snap the ball directly to the running back, giving him the option to run or pass. Mosure, a Miami, Fla., native, averaged 4.1 yards per carry in 2008 with two touchdowns – both stats that were higher than Kyle Bell’s.
“Right now I’m not really paying attention to the race for starting back,” Mosure said. “I’m just trying to help my team the best way I know I can and the way that God is letting me. Coaches told me to put on weight, so I did, and now I’m just trying to take it one day at a time with this offense. We had a great back last year. You can’t replace a guy like (Gartrell Johnson III), but we’re just trying to work hard.”
The other player trying to establish himself as the feature running back is junior college transfer Leonard Mason, who was ranked as one of the top five JUCO backs in 2008 by Rivals.com. During his freshman season at Citrus College he rushed for 1,273 yards and 11 touchdowns before transferring to College of the Desert.
This spring, Mason is learning his third new offensive scheme in as many years and while it may be difficult it’s something he has to do.
“John’s real cool, I’m kind of learning from him right now. It’s a tough system, but it has to get done, you gotta get the job done,” said Mason.
While Hill currently likes what he sees from Mosure, head coach Steve Fairchild knows there’s a long ways to go before any final decisions are made.
“We’re just rolling with it right now and we’ll go with a two-back system if that’s what it takes,” the second-year head coach said. “But we’re gonna roll all of them through the spring and into August before we make a decision.”
According to Mosure, if the Rams do decide to have a two-running back system he’ll happily play his role.
“It doesn’t matter to me, whatever it takes to win,” the junior said. “If we have to run no backs, that’s fine with me as long as we win conference – that’s all that matters.”
Football beat writer Matt L. Stephens can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.