PULLMAN – Right now, the Cougars essentially have one running back.
That’s, well, not many.
“Joe Campbell stepped in and (has) really been a benefit for the team, because he’s been taking a tremendous amount of reps and really allowing us to still practice,” said Washington State head football coach Paul Wulff.
The redshirt freshman was the only healthy running back at spring practice Tuesday. The rest are injured – or in the case of Christopher Ivory, focusing on academics.
Dwight Tardy, still expected to be the starter this fall, is going through rehab after a knee injury last season.
Ivory is the No. 2 back. Logwone Mitz is not 100 percent after hurting a big toe two weeks ago. Marcus Richmond is nursing a sore hamstring. Jace Perry is out.
That leaves Campbell. Mitz has been taking reps, but not too many.
“You’ve got your two top guys that you have a question mark,” running backs coach Steve Broussard said. “But, hopefully, these two young guys can step up. They’ve made some great strides this spring.
“The uncertainty part is just due to the fact that Dwight is coming off a knee injury and the academic part with Chris. So that’s the uncertainty part, but having faith in the two guys that we have, Richmond and Mitz, I’m not uncertain about that.”
Wulff said he has no question there is some uncertainty going into the upcoming football season, especially for a team that plans to run a lot.
Tardy’s recovery could take longer than anticipated. There’s the possibility Ivory could become academically ineligible to play. The auxiliary running backs could keep getting banged up.
Of course, they still have a lot of work to do.
“I’m going to work on my pass blocking a lot, in order to be a running back that Coach Broussard would like to put in a game,” Mitz said. “But I need to work on my pass blocking, and Marcus and I both know that we will most likely be in the rotation when the season comes around due to all the injuries.”
Incoming this fall is running back Chantz Staden, a transfer from De Anza College in Cupertino, Calif. The 5-foot-11, 200-pound prospect averaged 212.3 yards and 11 points per game last season, and shows some promise, Broussard said.
“On film he looked good,” Broussard said. “It’s always wait until he gets here and see what type of shape he comes in, and see how well he picks up the offense. You know, that’s always the question mark, because he’s behind as far as the process of learning a new offense.”
That learning curve is another issue for the Cougars. The fewer running backs who take reps, the fewer who learn Wulff’s new spread offense.
Then there’s the option play, something with which Washington State has little experience. It’s an element the running backs and quarterbacks must work on together, Mitz said.
Especially the younger guys like Mitz, a redshirt freshman, and Richmond, a redshirt sophomore.
“They can’t afford to miss opportunities to practice. They’re not experienced enough nor proven enough,” Wulff said. “So the fact they’re nicked up and they’re not practicing clearly is not helping them or the team.
“I understand injuries happen, but they need to practice if they’re going to get better, if we’re going to get better.”
Wide receiver Daniel Blackledge shined at practice, snagging rockets up the center and long lobs from quarterback Gary Rogers. … Because of a hailstorm earlier in the day that dumped 2 inches of ice balls on Rogers Field, the Cougars practiced at their indoor facility.