Greetings, Lion fans. With the Blue-Gold spring game done, we’re all in a wait and see mode until fall camp begins in August. So, until that time, let’s take a look at the running backs that Head Coach David Bailiff and offensive coordinator Billy Riebock will break out this fall.
The Lion running game struggled at times last year with an unsettled quarterback situation and an offensive line that had yet to jell. Injuries also took a toll, and it was well into the season before the backs got into a rhythm.
Carandale Hale(117-601, 5 TD’s, 32 yards receiving)returns to lead the rushing attack. Hale improved considerably the past season in ball security, something that he had issues with at time in the National Championship season of 2017. In that season, Hale was outstanding, with 850 yards rushing in 170 attempts, adding 369 receiving yards. He is a durable back with breakaway speed potential.
EJ Thompson, limited to 4 games last season due to injury. Thompson managed 295 yards in just 62 attempts, and had 6 catches for 91 yards. He really shined in 2017, with 497 yards on 97 attempts, and 11 catches for 86 yards. Thompson is definitely a power runner. Built very similar to one of the all time Lion greats, Cary Noiel, Thompson is the kind of runner that enjoys running between the tackles, and punishes defenders. While exciting, this kind of running can also be punishing to the back. Thompson was hurt in the Pueblo game, returned for Midwestern, then was lost for the season. The good news is, he’s healthy again, the offensive line has had a full season to work together, and he still has the same powerful style.
The surprise of the 2018 season was undoubtedly Nate Davis. Totaling 281 combined yards in 7 games, Davis was a welcome surprise to Lion fans. With 200 yards in just 42 attempts, Davis averaged almost 5 yards per carry. He is a very fast and elusive back. With a year’s experience under his belt, look for more excitement from Davis.
Another pleasant surprise in the spring game was redshirt freshman Jason Bailey-Day from Fort Worth Southwest. A somewhat compact back in the mode of Carandale Hale and Nate Davis, Bailey-Day had several explosive runs, and showed good speed and quickness.
The 2019 forecast for Lion running backs looks very bright, indeed. The offense, if there’s any conclusions that can be drawn from the spring game, will be more balanced that we as fans are used to seeing. That’s not so say the Lion offensive attack will be the proverbial “three yards and a cloud of dust.” Hardly. With many packages and formations, in addition to having a stable of four running backs to roll out, that means there will be fresh legs to put continuous pressure on opposing defenses.
The future is bright, indeed.