Tommy Tuberville says he’ll be able to tell by this time next week how he feels about Texas Tech’s situation at running back. Just knowing Eric Stephens will be practicing from Day One makes the Red Raiders’ head coach more optimistic than perhaps any time in the last several months.
“It’s a lot better (outlook),” Tuberville said Wednesday. “If Eric’s a hundred percent, he’ll get a thousand yards.”
Stephens, who had four 100-yard performances and eight touchdowns in his first five games last year, underwent surgery the week of Thanksgiving for the season-ending knee injury he suffered against Texas A&M. He’ll join the Red Raiders, 81/2 months later, when preseason practice starts Monday.
So will DeAndre Washington, who is also coming off surgery after he suffered a torn ACL in the next-to-last game of 2011.
“Everything I hear from the training staff has been positive,” offensive coordinator Neal Brown said last week. “They won’t have any contact, but they’ll practice and we’ll watch the reps daily.”
Washington, who rushed for 366 yards last year, underwent knee surgery about a month after Stephens. He’s doing well in rehab but not as far along, Brown said.
With the uncertainty, sophomore running back Kenny Williams (5-foot-9, 219 pounds) and junior transfer SaDale Foster (5-7, 187) will be prominent. Freshman signee Quinton White (5-7, 197) will be pushed to become a factor in a hurry, too.
“I’m going to go in with the mindset that Kenny and SaDale and Quinton White, they’ve got to get ready to go,” Brown said. “Those other two guys (Stephens and Washington) are going to be bonuses, but I really feel like Eric will be a factor for us this year. He’s worked really hard.”
Washington, the sophomore scatback from Sugar Land Marshall, was a true freshman in 2011. Using his redshirt this year is “a definite possibility,” Brown said, but it’ll depend on how quickly White develops. Tuberville said if Washington works his way back into the top three on the depth chart, he’ll play.
Even if Stephens and Washington encounter setbacks, the Red Raiders have a potential every-down back around whom to build a running game. Williams finished his true freshman season with some impressive work against Missouri and Baylor.
Williams showed the combination of power and quick feet between the tackles that made him a top signee in 2011.
“He’s got the ability to be a great player,” Tuberville said.
Asked if Williams reminded him of any running back he’d coached in past stops, Tuberville suggested Ronnie Brown, the 6-0, 230-pound former Auburn standout who played a key role on the Tigers’ 13-0 team in 2005.
“He’s a lot like Ronnie Brown was, I guess,” Tuberville said. “Ronnie was kind of a bigger, thicker kid.”
To comment on this story:
email@example.com • 766-8734
firstname.lastname@example.org • 766-2166