BOULDER, Colo. – The play of the running backs unit has been a pleasant surprise for the Buffaloes this spring. The four healthy players at the position – Demetrius Sumler, Kevin Moyd, Cory Nabors and Arthur Jaffee – averaged 5.2 yards per carry in the first two spring scrimmages.
We caught up with running backs coach Darian Hagan following Monday's practices to get an in-depth look at his unit.
Overall, how have you felt about the performance of your unit this spring?
Coach Darian Hagan: "I feel good about it. Obviously Demetrius has played a lot more than the rest of the guys. He should be at a different level, and he is. But I am really, really proud of Cory Nabors and Kevin Moyd. Those guys have stepped up and gotten better, taken advantage of their reps. They have become better students in the classroom also. Brian Lockridge, I was a little bit disappointed in him. He was not performing as well as he should be and then I found out on Saturday that the guy has been playing since the Iowa State game with a sports hernia. I don't know the difference between a sports hernia and a regular hernia but he has been playing since then, never once complained, he just came out and continued to work. I have gotten on him and the only reason why was not knowing that the guy was hurt, wanting the best from him. He is a guy that doesn't want you to think he isn't being tough. He doesn't want to be looked at as a guy that is a complainer. So he tried to suck it up and give his all, but he can never give you his all being hurt. That's the only thing. The rest of the guys are doing well."
Has Demetrius Sumler changed his running style at all this spring? What is he doing differently that has helped him be more successful?
"Yeah, he has definitely changed his running style. What he is doing is he is understanding what is going on in front of him. He is reading his blocks; he is setting his blocks up. And that is a tribute to some of the drills that we do. I went out and went to a bunch of different schools and got different drills and it is helping our guys."
I know it is just spring ball but has Demetrius Sumler established himself as the top back for the time being?
"Oh yeah, definitely. He has been standing out in all the scrimmages and all the practices."
You mentioned that you have been proud of Cory Nabors and Kevin Moyd this spring. Was it just a case of them having to be around here a while before getting comfortable and confident?
"What it took was Hugh Charles and Byron Ellis graduating and those guys saying to themselves, 'Well, I have to play now. They have to give me a chance'. Whereas it should have been, 'I'm the best and I'm going to go show these guys I'm the best, even though I'm a young guy'. Instead of waiting for these other guys to leave. I have been telling them that since day one but now they figured it out."
Why wasn't (2008 signee) Rodney Stewart more heavily recruited?
"His junior year he blew his knee out so he didn't really get a lot of looks and then his senior year he kind of emerged late and a lot of schools already had their picks on who they were going to sign. The sky was aligned right and we went in there and said the right things and he had a friend that was coming here in Doug Rippy and he wanted to come here."
Sometimes high school prospects doctor a highlight tape to make themselves look better than they really are. Rodney Stewart's highlight tape looks incredible… what do you see when you watch a full game tape of his?
"Not one time did I get bored watching his tape, not once did I want to speed it up. He just does some real natural things. He has great hips, great feet, he is strong, he is powerful, he is fast. He just does some things that are going to help us."
I'm sure you love the fact that Ray Polk is confident enough in his own abilities that he welcomes the challenge of coming in with Darrell Scott?
"Definitely. Whenever you can make yourself better with competition, that is what you should do. That guy didn't shy away from it. When I was recruiting him I told him we may get Darrell. And the first time I told him, he was like, 'Huh?'. And the second time I told him he was like, 'Oh well'. And the third time I told him he was like, 'Bring it on'. He understands that playing with one of the best guys is going to make him the best he can be. Like I told all three of those guys, if Clemson can do it with two great backs, why can't we?"
Running back is a position where you do see a lot of true freshmen come in and make an impact. What is going to be the hardest thing for Darrell Scott in terms of making the transition from high school football to Division-1, Big 12 football?
"The thing for him is just understanding what he has to do in the pass game. In the run game it is natural for him, he'll line up and just go. But in the pass game it is up to the coach to teach him who he has to block, what his read is. Just coach him up there. You don't want to mess with him in the run game. You just tell him, 'Here is your footwork, here is your assignment, here is your read.. Go!'"
Last summer when Josh Smith, Kendrick Celestine and Markques Simas joined the mix at wide receiver, it created great competition. I'm guessing you are expecting that it will be a similar situation with your unit this August?
"Oh yeah. I'm expecting Darrell to come in here, Ray to come in here and Rodney to come in here and light a fire under all these guys. The strong will rise in the competition and the weak will fall."