Fall Camp Preview: Running Backs

Miller next 1,000-yard Bulldog rusher?

Fresno State has produced a 1,000-yard rusher each of the last six seasons. In all, Head Coach Pat Hill has produced a 1,000-yard rusher in eight of his 10 seasons. The ‘Dogs have a young group of backs heading into fall camp. The streak of 1,000-yard rushers could be in jeopardy if one of the youngsters does not step up.

Lonyae Miller (5-11, 215) was a standout back at Fontana's (Calif.) Kaiser High School, who miraculously ended up at Fresno State. Anthony Harding (6-0, 215) did not have the same accolades while lining up in the backfield at Turlock's Pittman High School. Nonetheless, both found themselves backing up All-WAC RB Dwayne Wright as true freshmen.

Miller emerged in spring as the leading candidate to replace Wright. Harding missed most of spring with an injury and Miller took advantage rushing for over 60 yards on six carries in the spring game. His size, speed, and athletic ability is a rare combination seen at Fresno State.

Miller gives the ‘Dogs so many options out of the backfield. He can run between the tackles or bounce it outside. Moreover, he is an excellent receiver out of the backfield and can line up as a wideout in many formations. He has worked on his speed and recently ran his best time (4.5) in the forty. However, in order for Miller to be an every-down back he must know the playbook. Harding was second on the depth chart and played ahead of Miller in every game last season. In fact, Miller did not play in two games (Colorado State and Utah State) while Harding appeared in all 12.

Harding is arguably the fasted back on the team. Despite having a decent first year, he would have benefited from a redshirt season. Coach Hill believes in using one feature back, like Wright last season. Harding is capable of unseating Miller but is unlikely he will this year. He will enter fall camp second on the depth chart and probably be a change of pace back in 2007.

Sr. Clifton Smith is considered the wildcard of the bunch. He returned to action last season – after missing 11 games in 2005 with a knee injury – but was not 100%. He has admitted he probably should not have suited up last season, but felt he could help his team. In spring, he received a majority of the second team reps at tailback.

Despite Smith's increased role in spring, don't expect him to be battling for the starting spot in fall camp. This summer he has worked with the receivers equally as the tailbacks. His versatility makes him a dangerous option out of the backfield. However, in fall camp he should see increased time in the slot and H-back.

So. Jamal Rashad (6-0, 215) has added about 20 lbs since last season. In spring, he showed his speed and power taking a portion of the second team reps. The bulked up Rashad will enter camp third on the depth chart. However, he will have his hands full battling incoming freshman Ryan Mathews (5-11, 205).

Mathews told BarkBoard.com recently, "I'd rather not redshirt." The confident newcomer possesses the tangibles to go along with his intangibles. If he can pick up the offense in fall camp, he should see time as a true.

Rounding out the depth chart is walk on Fr. Kyle Duffy. Incoming freshman Bryson Hodges has not reported this summer and may become an academic casualty. Expected walk on Fr. Lamon Muldrow probably will not arrive until spring.

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