As a team in 2010, TCU rushed for 3,216 yards. Players returning in 2011 represent 2,660 of those...or just under 83% of the yards gained on the ground last year. The only running back lost to graduation was backup fullback Ryan Hightower, so what the Frogs lack in experience at quarterback they definitely make up for in the backfield.
Junior Ed Wesley led the team in rushing attempts (166), yards (1,078) and touchdowns (11) last year, so you have to pencil him in as the #1 option for this crowded backfield. Among his highlights last year were a 209-yard game against Air Force and providing perhaps the funniest moment in the all-around hilarious game against Baylor. He became the first Frog to rush for over 1,000 yards since Robert Merrill in '03, and the first to sport a sweet flat-top since sometime in the early '90s I would guess. Fellow junior Matthew Tucker is also to likely get a lion's share of the carries this fall. He rushed for 676 yards as a true freshman in '09 and then 709 last year. In his last game at the "old" Amon G. Carter Stadium, he reeled off a season-high 131 yards against San Diego State.
Looking to catch and perhaps pass Wesley and Tucker on the depth chart will be sophomore Waymon James and junior Aundre Dean. James, who at 5-8, 203 is built similarly to the 5-9, 200 Wesley, came on strong at the end of his redshirt freshman season last year finishing with 513 yards and 5 TDs as well as the game-clinching first down at the end of the Rose Bowl. Dean, at 6-0, 215, is built a lot like the 6-1, 210 Tucker. He finished with 223 yards and a touchdown last year, but by all accounts has had a fantastic offseason- not that the other guys have not. Perhaps the biggest variable in the backfield is redshirt freshman Dwight Smith. He just might be the most talented of all the TCU running backs- but for a number of reasons (injuries, academic issues), he's yet to see the field in a game.
At fullback again this year will be senior Luke Shivers, who has done most of his damage as a blocker the past three years. Last year, though, he scored 5 touchdowns (including the game-winner in the Rose Bowl) on just 9 carries and also caught 3 passes out of the backfield. Listed behind him is...nobody. Fullback may not be the most crucial position on the field, but I have been surprised that the issue that the Frogs do not appear to have a backup for Shivers has not been raised at all.
So how do you sort through all of the talent at running back for the Frogs? Do you think Wesley and Tucker will continue to shoulder most of the load, or will one of their three backups take on a bigger role in 2011? Let me know your thoughts on the tailback rotation, as well as who might become Shivers' understudy at fullback, in the comments section. Because I know you have an opinion.