The Gomez Files From Camp Tontozona: Running Backs

Aug. 21, 2003

By Brian Gomez
TheSunDevils.com

PAYSON, Ariz. -- At this time last year, the battle in Arizona State's backfieldcentered upon which ball carrier was going to emerge as the leader of anunheralded group.

After an adventurous season in which three tailbacks were given equalopportunities, the battle has transformed into a five-man fight for consistency.

Coaches want senior Mike Williams to run with the same authority he did lastseason against Arizona when he scored four touchdowns and amassed acareer-high 162 yards rushing.

They want sophomore Cornell Canidate to display the same tenacity he did ingames against San Diego State and Stanford when he racked up just as many yardsas Williams, to go along with three touchdowns.

They want sophomore Hakim Hill to put on the same type of performance he didagainst North Carolina when he scored a pair of touchdowns and tallied 137all-purpose yards.

And they want redshirt freshmen Randy Hill and Loren Wade to show the samework ethic they did last fall when they excelled on the scout team.

Those expectations may seem like pretty high demands, but they're not allthat daunting for a handful of rushers who demand that much of themselves everytime they step on a football field.

'The depth chart is just the number in front of your name,' said Canidate,who was listed behind Williams heading into Camp Tontozona. 'When the time comesand whenever you get your time to play, you're No. 1.'

Williams is the leader in the five-man group, mainly because of hisexperience. He's not only strong enough to run through tacklers, but he's also quickenough to bounce to the outside and pile up yardage down the sidelines.

Although Williams started strong last year by scoring ASU's lone touchdown ina lopsided loss at Nebraska, he simmered until an eye-opening regular-seasonfinale in Tucson. He was held to seven yards on nine carries in the HolidayBowl.

'People look up to you and the way you perform,' Williams said. 'You've gotto bust your butt every time you're on the field. That leads onto the rest ofthe tailbacks.'

The smallest of ASU's five primary tailbacks, Canidate showed his mettle lastyear during a confidence-boosting freshman campaign in which he rushed for493 yards and seven touchdowns before missing the season's final three gameswith an ankle injury.

Canidate often runs around tacklers, scrapping his way to extra yardage. He'sused as a decoy in the backfield and as an option in the flat for juniorquarterback Andrew Walter.

'I'm trusting in myself,' Canidate said. 'I'm picking up the pass blitz, andI'm getting the job done.'

Having made impressive strides in the off-season, Hill is slowly beginning toclimb back up the depth chart. His athleticism likely won't keep him downmuch longer.

Hill played a vital role for the Sun Devils last season, both on offense andon special teams. He rushed for 316 yards and six touchdowns, in addition toaveraging 21.9 yards on 32 kickoff returns and 10.4 yards on 11 punt returns.

'I'm working on blocking and holding onto the ball,' Hill said. 'It's goingto make Andrew's job a whole lot easier if the opposing defense has to respectthe running game.'

Reach the reporter at brian.gomez@asu.edu

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