Feature: Rushing for Replacement

April 17, 2008

By Tyler Britsch
OSU Daily Barometer

April 17, 2008

Corvallis, OR (UWIRE) -- Oregon State has been fortunate to have such skilled players at the tailback position recently, with the likes of all-time top 11 career Pac-10 rushers Ken Simonton (No. 2/5,044 Yards), Steven Jackson (No. 11/3,625 Yards) and Yvenson Bernard (No. 6/3,862 Yards).

While the team lost a great tailback in Bernard this off-season, OSU looks to be as deep as ever at the position. The second leading rusher from last year, James Rodgers, will be returning to action this year. Rodgers will bring along the fan favorite 'fly sweep' that showed just how quick he truly is in the open field.

Also, an impressive new crop of players will begin the race for the primary tailback position. With newcomers Ryan McCants and Jeremy Francis battling for playing time during spring practice and Rodger's younger brother, Jacquizz Rodgers, appearing during the summer once he graduates, Beaver fans shouldn't expect a large drop in the running game anytime soon.

McCants has received most of the hype entering the spring practices and hasn't disappointed yet. With his punishing, ram it into the defense style of play and hefty 6-1, 236-pound frame, he has drawn comparisons to former Beaver Steven Jackson. Expect to see McCants in the majority of third and short situations, but with his surprising speed he will also function as a first and second down back. OSU can expect to see plenty of McCants over the next few years, due to his red-shirt freshman status.

Junior Jeremy Francis has shown he, too, is ready for prime time on Saturdays. Praised for his football instincts, quick moves and receiver-like hands, Francis is giving Mike Riley plenty to consider, come fall. Francis transferred to Oregon State from El Camino Junior College and, although a self proclaimed 'finesse player,' he vows to block when needed.

An exciting look into the future shows incoming freshman Jacquizz Rodgers. While currently known as the younger brother of James, expect Jacquizz to leave his own mark on OSU football history. Jacquizz amassed 8,246 rushing yards and the all-time Texas state record for total touchdowns with 135 - all of this in only three years on varsity. Last year he averaged 193 yards rushing, 37 yards receiving and nearly three touchdowns per game to lead his team to the state championship title. With amazing speed and field awareness, look for Jacquizz to draw comparisons to prominent names such as Simonton and LaDainian Tomlinson.

McCants, Francis, and Jacquizz Rodgers will have to learn the ropes of playing with a big time Division-I program. Luckily, two year letter winner Patrick Fuller will be able to show the younguns what it takes to play in the Pac-10. Fuller has had limited roles in each of the last two years, having to back up Bernard for most of his career.

'I'm looking forward to playing my heart out and trying to start,' he said. 'Even if I can't start, I still want to be a factor on this team.'

His leadership qualities will be the greatest help in molding the future of the Oregon State running game. 'I'm going to give these young guys guidance, respect and encouragement,' he said. 'We are all here working, looking to make this a better team.'

(C) 2008 OSU Daily Barometer via UWIRE

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