Aggie Running Backs Put To The Test At Spring Practice
April 13, 2010
LOGAN, Utah -
By Chet Gardner, USU Athletic Media Relations
When injuries occur, good teams find a way to overcome that injury. With junior running back Robert Turbin out for the spring and possibly into the 2010 season, the Utah State football coaches and running backs are looking at all of the positives that can come out of it. The injury could be a good test to see how good and how deep this Aggie football team really is.
USU offensive coordinator Dave Baldwin is taking the optimistic approach to Turbin's injury.
"The way I look at it is if you're a single-back offense there is only one back in the back-field anyway. The running backs are looking at it as a chance, and they are excited. They know they will get their reps. The three of those guys will compete to see who comes out on top," Baldwin said.
Smith will probably be expected to be the main guy until Turbin gets back. Smith had the second-most yards gained last year among Aggie running backs at 304 yards, while adding four touchdowns, as well as adding 19 catches for 22 yards with two more scores. Smith realizes what is expected of him this year is likely to be different from last season.
"I need to continue to be a leader like I was last year and be more focused. I think they expect more so my standards are higher of what I've got to accomplish for us to have a winning season and go to a bowl game. Also we've got two other backs in Derrvin Speight and Kerwynn Williams. If I get tired, Derrvin or Kerwynn can come in and there will be no let down. They expect me to be as good or even better; I want to be better," Smith said.
Speight will also be a senior this upcoming season and will add experience, along with Smith, and be expected to step up and perform at a higher level. Speight was third among USU running backs in rushing in 2009 with 224 yards. He added two touchdowns and great depth to last year's running backs after missing the 2008 season with a foot injury. Speight is expected to return to sophomore season form, as he lead USU with 504 yards.
Williams will be a sophomore this upcoming season, and is very inexperienced at the running back position, having only two carries for 10 yards last year. However, Williams did get a chance to showcase his talent, mainly his speed, as the Aggies' primary kick return specialist in 2009, leading the team, ranking third in the Western Athletic Conference and 41st in the Football Bowl Subdivision in kick returns with 25.1 yards per return. Williams led the WAC with 45 total kick returns for a WAC-high 1,131 yards. This year, Williams will now be asked to step into a different role.
"We lost a tough competitor and a leader on our team, but our mental state is that we just have to keep pushing everyday. I think the depth at our position is good. I feel like I can come in and do my thing to help out," Williams said talking about his new position and role on the team.
The injury is an obvious disappointment for Turbin, who was coming off an outstanding sophomore season in which he led the team with 1,337 yards rushing and 13 touchdowns, ranking third in the WAC and 20th in FBS with 108.0 ypg, earning second-team all-WAC accolades. Turbin scored a WAC-leading and USU school-record 18 total TD's (13 rushing, five receiving), finishing with a school-record 110 points. Despite being unable to contribute on the field, Turbin is positive about helping the team in any way until he returns.
"It's frustrating obviously because I just put a lot of work after the season. I put in a lot of work and to hurt yourself doing something you do every day is frustrating because you have to sit out and watch your team play because I want to be out there," Turbin said.
Turbin has been at every practice helping the running backs with their roles and assignments.
"On the other hand, I just do everything I can to help the other guys especially the running backs. Whatever knowledge that I can help them with, I give it to them. I come out and I watch practice and I kind of coach a little bit; if I see something that they didn't see then I will let them know. I tell them to look for this or look for that. I'm just continuing to try to be a leader for the team even though I'm not on the field," Turbin continued, explaining his new-found role on the team.
Although it is obvious that the Aggies are a much better team with Turbin on the field, it is hard to overlook the growth and development of the running backs; mentally and physically. The coaches have looked at this as an opportunity to work on their weaknesses. From working on Smith's patience as a running back or simply working on helping Williams get a hang of the offense as a running back, the coaches seem impressed with the progression.
"You always want them working at something. They've got a long way to go, but they are a talented group," Aggie running backs coach Ilaisa Tuiaki said.
The group is ready to put their skills to the test and have met Turbin's approval.
"I think Michael Smith and Derrvin Speight are two very good senior running backs, and they are going to have to step up and play bigger roles obviously now that I'm out. But I think they can get the job done, I really do," Turbin said.
The Aggie running backs will be in action in USU's scrimmage Saturday, April 17, at Noon, which is USU's next practice open to the public. Aggie player legend and former BYU veteran coach LaVell Edwards will be USU's guest coach.
Utah State's spring camp will culminate with the annual Blue-White Spring Game, which is also open to the public, on Saturday, April 24 at 2 p.m. at Romney Stadium.
USU has six home games in 2010, including a nationally-televised game on the ESPN network for the second-straight season, as the USU-BYU game on Friday, Oct. 1 will be televised by either ESPN or ESPN2.
Utah State football season ticket renewal applications have been mailed out. Fans can also renew online 24 hours a day at www.UtahStateAggies.com and clicking on the "buy/renew tickets" under the "tickets" drop down menu.
For more ticket information, contact the USU Ticket Office at the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum, or by phone by calling 1-888-USTATE-1 or (435) 797-0305.