Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Linfield Football Spring Review: Running Backs

Wildcat11 is expecting a healthy and hungry Aaron Williams back in 2011
With the departure of All-NWC running back Simon Lamson and the stead hand of Taylor Avritt it apprears that the Wildcat's running back corp, or 'Catbacks, have some major parts to replace.  But when you can replace one 2010 1st team All-NWC running back with a 2009 1st team All-NWC running back it makes the transition a little easier.  That's just the situation the 'Cats running game is in headed into 2011.

2009 starting running back and All-NWC performer Aaron Williams had a bit of a slow start to 2010 but looked to be hitting his stride once again vs Willamette in racking up 99 total yards and showing that big play ability before suffering a season ending knee injury early in the 4th quarter.  With A-Will out for the season both Lamson and Avritt picked up the productivity and turned in a very solid year in the backfield.

From all accounts Williams rehab has been progressing well and even the better news is the running back duties don't all fall squarely on 30's shoulders.   1st year Wildcat Josh Hill made an immediate impact for the 'Cats last season in the kick return game and showed flashes of explosiveness and power when taking 40 carries at 5.7 yards per run during the 2010 season.

Multiple players have mentioned the work Hill has put in this off-season and has looked very sharp this spring.  Also, don't count out the contribution that Junior Stephen Nasca will be looking to make.  Nasca has excellent vision and some decent jets and should make a strong case to land in the regular RB rotation.  If Williams can be close to 100% at the start of next fall the 'Cats running game should be in great shape with the A-Will/Hill/Nasca combo.

Steady Vets
Aaron Williams, 6-0 200lbs, Junior
Josh Hill, 5-10 190lbs, Junior
Stephen Nasca, 5-10 180lbs, Junior

Up and Coming

Lane Sari, 5-11 195lbs, Sophomore
Monterill Anderson, 5-6 185lbs, Sophomore
Niko Alarcon, 5-9 185lbs, Sophomore
Bryan Takano, 6-0 190lbs, Sophomore
Mikkel Smythe, 5-10 180lbs, Sophomore
Cody Agee, 5-9 195lbs, Sophomore

Talkin' Ball With Head Coach/Running Back Coach Joe Smith
Coach Smith is headed into his 6th season as Head Coach and 19th overall at Linfield.
(Wildcat11) First off, thank you for taking the time to talk with us Coach Smith. I know that things are very busy between wrapping up Spring ball, recruiting, etc. The first thing that pops into my head when I think about running backs this upcoming year is where is Aaron Williams in terms of health? Aaron was a 1st team NWC running back in 2009, he was just a weapon, and he looked to be taking off again vs Willamette before going down with the knee injury. Can you give us the update on his status? If Aaron comes back a full strength next season what are your expectations of Aaron next season?

(Head Coach Joe Smith) Aaron is progressing well with his rehab, getting stronger and stronger. We are very hopeful he can come back at full strength. If he gets to that level, and I think he will at some point in the season, he will be one of the premier backs in the NWC.

(WC11) Anybody that has been following Linfield football for any amount of time knows that the program just doesn't hitch the running game on one horse as the program uses multiple RB's to get the job done. With the departure of Simon Lamson and Taylor Avritt, I would assume the job is wide open. Can you talk about the competition at running back this spring? What would you say are the strengths and weaknesses of the 'Catbacks and where would you like to see them improve on going into the fall?

(JS) Josh Hill has worked very hard in the wt. room and in his running to get his body back into great football shape. I thought he had a tremendous spring. Steve Nasca has improved as well. Those two took the all the reps with the 1’s and I thought that helped each of them develop their footwork and tracks in our zone running plays. All of our RBs need to work on their pass protection, and we were not able to really do that in spring ball.

(WC11) I want to change gears on the next couple of questions and talk about the offense and the team. I'm stating the obvious when I say we lost some very fine players this past season on the offensive side of the ball. However, I feel we're also returning a large number of players with proven experience and a number exciting of up and comers. How are you feeling about the offense now that you're at the end of spring practice? What do you think went well from an offensive perspective and did anybody surprise you with their play?

(JS) I am very pleased with what we accomplished in spring practices from an offensive standpoint. We have a strong core of players returning that have game experience. Obviously as our QB position goes, our offense will go to some degree. I thought our QBs did well throughout the spring. We will have the talent to be a very productive offense, we just need to develop that talent quickly this fall.

(WC11) Back-to-Back NWC championships, playoff births, defeated 9 top 25 teams the past two seasons, and two top 10 final rankings. The program has been performing very well the past two seasons. Being content is never a Linfield trait so I'm sure that this group is motivated to try to take another step forward. What can you tell the fans of the 'Catdome what they should expect next season out of the 2011 Wildcats?

(JS) The graduation of so many standout players has in some ways reenergized our guys. When you lose leaders, new guys have to step up and fill the void. It is fun watching that happen. It is now the time of others to lead. Next year will be quite a challenge, however we have a great staff here and we have a strong base of personnel. We will be a very good team by the end of the year. How quickly we get to that level of performance is what is uncertain. I am excited to see the new guys come in and see if they can get up to game speed as quickly as we are all hoping. I am excited to see how this team gels under pressure. There are many unknowns, but a few things I do know about this team.

No team has worked harder, no team has committed more in the off season.

We will continue to focus on Team, and we will do our best to do the common things in an uncommon manner. We do that to the best of our ability, every day; I’ll take the chips however they fall.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Go A-Will! You Got This!