The TCU offensive line graduated several key cogs in 2010, including Rimington Award winning center Jake Kirkpatrick and 6-6, 335 pound tackle Marcus Cannon among others, but the drop off between that line and the 2011 line, as inexperienced they may be, shouldn’t be too far because the Frogs will feature one of the deepest, talented running back corps in the country.
Junior Ed Wesley got a majority of the workload in 2010 and is expected to remain the lead back in 2011, but two other backs- Matthew Tucker and Waymon James- each saw significant action last year and both, especially James, could press offensive coordinator Brian Fuente to split the carries up even more.
And that isn’t even factoring Junior Aundre Dean into the situation. Dean, a transfer from UCLA, got some late action carries in 2010 and is a big bodied, athletic back that might be hard to keep off the field too.
So let’s take a quick look at each running back figured to be in the mix for next season in order of what could be the depth chart when TCU enters spring practices in March.
1. Ed Wesley; Junior (to be); Irving, Texas
Like I said, Wesley was the lead back heading into 2010 in and he should be again going into 2011. A quick look at some of Wesley’s stats from last year: 166 rushes, 1093 yards, 6.5 yards/carry, 11 touchdowns. Wesley was very productive and was the anchor of a solid Frog running game in 2010. With Tucker and James also in the mix, there’s no guarantee Wesley will be the number one back when TCU opens up at Baylor next September, but for now, its his job to lose.
2. Matthew Tucker; Junior; Tyler, Texas
Tucker is a taller, bigger back than Wesley and is more of a downhill runner as opposed to a shifty, speed back. He gained 734 yards on 148 carries in 2010 for an average of 4.8 yards/carry. Tucker’s true value lies in redzone situations where TCU might be looking to simply pound it, so even though he may not have the shiftiness of Wesley, expect the two’s carries to be relatively close again in 2011.
3. Waymon James; Sophomore; Sherman, Texas
James, a four-star back coming out of high school, is the one TCU running back that could see his carries go up drastically in 2011. He was pretty efficient in 2010 as a true freshman racking up 547 yards on only 87 carries. James combines the shiftiness and speed of Wesley with the power and size of Tucker. And if there was anyone that could jump over Wesley as the lead back, it would be James. Head coach Gary Patterson proved that when he opted to give James the ball on consecutive plays, the last being a game-clinching first down run, after Bart Johnson recovered the Wisconsin onside kick late in the Rose Bowl.
4. Aundre Dean; RS Junior; Katy, Texas
Dean is the perfect example of the talent and depth TCU has at running back. A transfer from UCLA, Dean saw little to no action in 2010 mainly because of the logjam at the position. It could be the same situation in 2011, but its nice knowing if either of TCU’s top three backs get injured, that Dean, a four-star recruit who rushed for 2,498 yards and 26 touchdowns and led his high school team to a Texas 5A state championship his senior year, could quickly step in and produce.
5. Dwight Smith; Sophomore; Carthage, Texas
Smith didn’t see any action his freshman year, but like James and Dean, he dominated his high school competition, rushing for over 3,000 yards and 43 touchdowns his Senior year while being name first-team all state after leading his team to a Texas 3A state championship.
TCU’s top five at running is one of the best and deepest in the country and that list doesn’t even include Sophomore Ethan Grant. Grant, a four-star recruit out of Broward County, Florida, was one of the more electric running backs coming out high school. He did not see action his freshman year and early reports are indicating he will make the move to a slot receiver-type role over the spring so don’t be surprised if Grant has an impact on the TCU offense in 2011.