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Will running backs rotate?

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The days of one back lugging 35 carries for 200 yards are gone with along with standard definition TVs and Big East football. In the new age of college football utilizing depth to endure 13 games of the grind falls closer to necessity than a want for coaches. That's especially true for new coach Tommy Tuberville and offensive coordinator Eddie Gran. 

RDApractice.jpg
Nobody on staff understands the concept better than Gran, a running backs coach by trade over his 26 years. When assessing a Bearcats team possessing backs with styles as different as the numbers on their back. 

The diminutive, explosive Ralph David Abernathy IV comes offset by the powerful frame of Tion Green. Junior College transfer Hosey Williams brings a burst along with great hands out of the backfield. Fellow JuCo Hosey Williams comes as the compact bowling ball at 5-foot-9 and 199 pounds. Darkhorse Anthony King (222 pounds) brings size as the biggest of the five RBs taking reps. 

As plans are devised to utilize RDA without forcing him to withstand a beating 13 times a year, what type of rotation wheels out against Purdue will be decided over the next three weeks at Higher Ground. 

In the past Gran's best seasons came while utilizing a rotation of running backs. Last season at Florida State he had three RBs with between 91 and 111 carries. Much of that came because of Chris Thompson tearing his ACL midseason.  

FSU RB 2012CarriesYardsTD
Chris Thompson916875
Devonta Freeman1116608
James Wilder11063511
Lonnie Pryor473768

The rotations worked with FSU posting a Top 25 rushing offense and Top 20 overall offense. Back in 2004, working with Tuberville during Auburn's perfect season, the rotation proved even more effective with the combination of Cadillac Williams and Ronnie Brown, who both went in the Top 5 of the NFL Draft. 

Auburn RB 2004CarriesYardsTD
Cadillac Williams239116512
Ronnie Brown1539138

Expect at least two running backs to have at least 100 carries this season, with one of them being RDAIV, but Gran remains flexible to whatever works best for the offense as the season progresses. 

"If a guy does have his rhythm and we are going, we go," Gran said. "I make sure if he's got the hot hand, go, but at the same time if something is not happening, I will get somebody else in there. ... I don't mind playing two, though, I don't mind playing three. If they are all going to be productive I have no problem with that. It's a long season."

How many and who of the five competing end up earning those carries began three days ago. Pressure for the junior college transfers will be on how fast they pick up the system. For everyone else, Gran will be watching closely and piecing together the puzzle of how their skill set can fit into effective personnel groups. 

"What you got to find out when we are tackling, whose breaking tackles? Whose getting the YAC yards and see from there where they fit in and what they do," Gran said. 

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