(CSTV U-WIRE) ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – Replacing running back DonTrell Moore won’t be easy, and it may take three tailbacks to fill the void left by the former Lobo.
Sophomores Paul Baker, Rodney Ferguson and Martelius Epps are competing for the top spot in the backfield on the UNM football team.
Head Coach Rocky Long said his choice for the Lobos’ No. 1 tailback changes on a daily basis.
“All three of them have a lot of ability, and each one has a specialty that maybe is a little better than the other one,” Long said. “They’ve all had their average days and their really good days out here, so I’m guessing that all three will carry the ball regularly during the season.”
The Lobos have relied heavily on the running game since Moore arrived at UNM in 2002.
Long said in previous years the offense was built to get Moore the ball 25 to 35 times a game.
During Moore’s tenure, he rushed for 4,973 yards, which ranks him 13th on the all-time college rushing list.
Baker said the tailbacks plan to unite to produce numbers similar to Moore’s.
“Coach Long tells everybody that all three of us make one DonTrell, so I guess people won’t miss him too much,” Baker said. “This year, it won’t be just one guy running the ball – it’s going to be all three of us out there mixing it up. The offense will also be more balanced with the way the ball will be divided between passing and rushing.”
Long said all three backs provide something different to the running game.
Ferguson is a powerful runner who can break tackles coming out of the backfield, Long said. The elusive and shifty Baker uses fancy footwork to break free in the open field, and Epps is one of the fastest guys on the team, according to Long.
Epps said everyone is competing hard and pushing each other to become better players.
“We all want to play, and we all want to compete, so we go out there and encourage and pressure each other to get better every day,” he said. “It’s hard to say how many plays each one of us will get during the season, so all we can do is be ready when coach calls on us.”
Long said this year’s offense will have a lot of two-back sets, which allows for two tailbacks to be in the game at the same time to rattle the defense.
The fullbacks will be used for blocking and catching the ball out of the backfield, and the tailbacks will be the primary ball carriers, Long said.
Long said the opposing defenses determine whether the ball will be thrown or rushed. When the opponent plays coverage, the ball will be rushed. When eight or nine players are in the box, the Lobos will try to protect the quarterback and throw the ball, Long said.
Ferguson said aside from reading the other team’s defense, the Lobos will simply stick to what works.
“If we can dominate on the run, we’ll keep using that until they start closing that down,” Ferguson said. “Then we’ll start airing it out. There are a lot of plays that can work well for us. We just have to execute them the right way.”