Running back could see time in rotation

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    Injuries to running backs on the football team have not slowed down spring practice, but rather have given the Frogs a glimpse at a new option.

    With sophomore Joseph Turner out for an undetermined amount of time recovering from a knee injury he suffered during the 2007 Texas Bowl and junior Aaron Brown out with a sore left ankle, redshirt sophomore Chris Smith has stepped in to shoulder some of the load during practice.

    Head coach Gary Patterson said Smith gives the team the big back it needs to muscle it out with Turner, especially with Turner out recovering.

    “He needs to keep coming on because that will give us two big backs along with Aaron Brown,” Patterson said.

    Smith teamed with Brown should help make the power and speed punch up the middle for the Frogs during the tail end of spring practice. Patterson said Brown will be available before the end of the spring.

    Smith, listed as a fullback, has seen very limited playing time during his two years of eligibility. Last season he played in four games for the Frogs and had a season high of 16 yards in the team’s 37-0 win over the University of New Mexico.

    Smith is not immune to injury either. Patterson said Smith has a sore groin and, with hope, will be 100 percent soon.

    Sophomore wide receiver Ryan Christian filled in last season at tailback for the Frogs while Brown and Turner were out with injuries, and Patterson said Christian still remains an option behind the quarterback. Patterson said during spring practice the team is only working Christian at the wide receiver spot, and his availability as a back will depend on team needs.

    With the Spring Game scheduled for this Saturday, and temperatures rising into the 80’s, Patterson said the team is ready to start.

    “This is our 12th practice of hitting each other and by the time you get to a couple more they’re pretty much tired of that stuff,” he said.

    The team is getting quicker and the defense is starting to look faster in practice, Patterson said, but the offense still needs to improve.

    “Kids keep moving forward. I thought today started off slow offensively,” Patterson said. “Defensively I thought we did really well until the last 20 minutes of practice. It wasn’t bad, we just need to keep competing.”

    Another area Patterson said needed a lot of work is the readiness of the team’s backup defensive tackles.

    “The starting defensive tackles are really good, but we’ve got a lot of work to do behind them,” he said.

    Patterson said he needs the backups to improve for an improved rotation, the type of system he said he wants to run next season.

    He did sing praise for junior starters James Vess and Cody Moore, who he said are two of the team’s great strengths.

    “They’re exactly what we want and what we thought we had a year ago,” Patterson said.