Coming into the 2008 season, running backs were expected to be the strength of the CSU football team’s offense. But after a slow start, the Rams are looking to get their backfield back on track.
Through the first four weeks of the season, CSU (2-1) is averaging 104 yards per game rushing, ranking them second to last in the Mountain West Conference. The Rams averaged over 166 yards per game on the ground last year.
Rams head coach Steve Fairchild is still confident that CSU’s rushing attack is a quality unit.
“I like our running backs,” the first-year head coach said. “I think both Gartrell (Johnson III) and Kyle (Bell) have run hard and we will continue to play them both. People are playing our run so we are throwing it a little more now.”
Running backs coach Anthoney Hill explained that while it is still all the strength of the team, the Ram’s running game has room for improvement.
“It should be a strength because we are pretty deep there,” the recent CSU hall of fame inductee said. “Execution hasn’t been as good as it needs to be so we just have to pick it up in that regard.”
Johnson, who is averaging 79 yards per game rushing for the second consecutive season, said that it all comes down to timing. The senior said that the team will come around with a little patience.
“It’s still the beginning of the season,” he said. “We still haven’t got our timing completely down yet. It’s a skill position and it’s really all about timing. We are going to get better every game.” Johnson has scampered for 247 yards for the green and gold so far in 2008. Hill, who is in his first year coaching with the Rams, pointed out that opponents are expecting a strong showing from CSU’s backfield. The California native said that is something the team will have to deal with in order to succeed.
“Whether it’s the toughest position or the strongest position, it doesn’t matter,” he said. “As a team we have to collectively get it going.”
Johnson is confident the Rams will do just that and have already shown strides of improvement.
“We have a winning record so we are doing something right,” he said. “We are right where we need to be if we keep getting better week in and week out.” CSU’s running game will have a tough task this weekend as it heads west to face the University of California (2-1). The Golden Bears have given up only 97 rushing yards per game through their first three games of the season.
Hill said his squad is ready for the challenge, saying that the hard work his running backs have put in will pay off.
“We’ll just keep grinding away,” he said. “All we can do is work hard, prepare and let the chips fall where they may on Saturday.”
Football beat writer Adam Bohlmeyer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.