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March 8, 2013

Preview: Williams back for more


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The Red Raiders have a very good running back corps returning for the 2013 season headlined by 2011 recruits Kenny Williams and DeAndre Washington in addition to redshirt freshman Quinton White and utility back SaDale Foster. It is here that former Texas Tech head coach Tommy Tuberville and company left their most lasting impact.

Tech doesn't have a running back set that simply supplements what is expected to be a prolific passing attack. The running game should be strong in its own right.

POSITION VITALS
Kenny Williams returns after exceeding expectations as a sophomore. Thrust into the feature back role, the Pflugerville product rushed for 824 yards and five touchdowns on 143 carries and proved that he could be effective as the Red Raiders' every-down back.
The Basics
Returning Starters: Kenny Williams

Others Returning: SaDale Foster, DeAndre Washington, Quinton White

Departures: Eric Stephens (Graduation)
Notable 2012 Statistics
Kenny Williams' 824 rushing yards ranks as one of the program's best among second-year running backs over the last 15-plus years. Taurean Henderson, for example, rushed for 736 yards as a true sophomore in 2003.

The Red Raiders logged just 15 rushing touchdowns, the program's lowest single-season total since rushing for just 13 scores in 2006.

Williams' 5.76 yards per carry average ranked first among Big 12 players that logged at least 11 carries per game.
Williams, the most experienced running back on the roster, returns for his junior season after rushing for 824 yards and five touchdowns last season. He could potentially break the 1,000-yard rushing mark this upcoming season if the new coaching staff tags him their primary back.

Williams is going to face tough competition though. Washington is back after a torn ACL late in the 2011 season sidelined him for the entire 2012 campaign.

Washington was one of two former preferred backs once Stephens fell in 2011, but things have certainly changed. There's a lot of competition in front of Washington as well as behind him.

It's White's time to shine after a standout career at College Station (Texas) A&M Consolidated High School and a redshirt season. It's likely the freshman could have played last year if he had not broken a foot midway through fall camp.

Williams gives the Red Raiders a true power back. Washington brings an element of speed to the situation and White showed flashes last August.

The good news doesn't end with those guys though.

Foster returns for his senior season after a breakout game against West Virginia and an overall successful season one season removed from Riverside Community College in California. He finished third in total rushing yardage last season with an impressive 451 yards in his own right.

Depth is stacking up against Foster though as White begins to burn eligibility and the reemergence of Washington. Look for the 5-foot-7, 187-pound senior to potentially play some inside receiver in addition to running back to maximize his effectiveness in his final year.

Kliff Kingsbury's staff recruited Tyler Middleton from Navarro College to sure up depth behind the front four backs, and he will likely factor in somewhere once he arrives on campus this summer.

A lot of the offense's success in 2013 will depend on sophomore quarterback Michael Brewer, but the first-year starter has a solid running back stable on which to rely.

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PRESSURE IS ON: Washington was Tech's second-most productive running back in 2011 and eventually, in the wake of Stephens' season-ending knee injury, emerged as the team's starter late in the season. Unfortunately, Washington sustained a similar injury in his first career start and as a result spent the 2012 season on the sidelines. He has the ability to be a starter but so does Williams, and the latter has 11 starts and a full season as a feature back under his belt. Regardless of who starts, the Red Raiders' stable of running backs will all play, so it's not as if Washington is in danger of not seeing the field. But if he wants to be Tech's RB1, he'll need to start making his case this spring.

BIGGEST QUESTION: How will the team's running backs be used? The Red Raiders have three proven running backs on the roster in Foster, Washington and Williams and a promising redshirt freshman in White. They can't all play at the same time and there are only so many carries to go around. Foster played slot receiver on the JUCO level, so it isn't outside the realm of possibility that he could see some time there this spring. Four running backs is hardly a logjam, but things will get a bit more competitive in fall camp with the arrival of JUCO transfer Tyler Middleton.



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