Cougars look to develop depth at RB

Sophomore running back Ryan Jackson will be expected to take a bigger offensive role in 2014  |  File photo/The Daily Cougar

Sophomore running back Ryan Jackson will be expected to take a bigger offensive role in 2014 | File photo/The Daily Cougar

When senior running back Charles Sims was injured last season, the offense struggled to produce at the same level, but the Cougars expect the development of two backs to provide the depth they lacked.

In 2012, Sims rushed for a team and career high 851 yards with 11 touchdowns, including four against SMU.

However, in the three games that Sims missed because of injury, the Cougars were outscored by 42 points and had a 1-2 record. Head coach Tony Levine said Sims’ injuries were because he was forced to carry to much of the load.

“I think part of that was due to a lack of depth early on,” Levine said. “It caused us to play Charles a little bit too much.”

In 2011, the Cougars didn’t have to worry about depth, or having to give the ball to a certain player, as they had a three-headed monster with Sims and former UH running backs Michael Hayes and Bryce Beall. Levine said he wants to return to a similar rotation.

Sims will still be a workhorse, but sophomore running backs Kenneth Farrow and Ryan Jackson will also get consistent carries, Levine said. Instead of taking 80 snaps each game, Sims will be on the field for around 50.

“By doing that, we can keep him fresh, keep him healthy, but still with the certainty that he’ll get his touches,” Levine said.

Although the Cougars struggled to move the ball without their premier rusher, their backups stepped in and made plays. Farrow and Jackson had their share of notable games.

In the season finale against Tulane, Jackson ran for a game and career-high 129 yards and two touchdowns. He finished the season with 252 yards rushing and three touchdowns.

Farrow is known for his efforts on the final play at ECU. He made a catch at the 12-yard line, got a block from his wide receiver, made two players miss and bulldozed the opposing free safety into the end zone for the touchdown as time expired.

“Farrow’s a very tough and powerful runner,” Levine said. “In terms of just understanding the game and how it’s played, I would say he’s one of our best players on the entire team.”

Assistant head coach Travis Bush said Jackson had to catch up to the speed of the game as a true freshman. Bush said Jackson really showed his capabilities in pass protection and short yardage.

Levine said Jackson grew as the season progressed.

“Ryan got so much better throughout the course of the season,” Levine said. “What he brings to the table is his explosiveness and how fast he is. He’s really got a chance to be a very special player for us.”

After seeing his two young backs develop right before his eyes, Levine said his view of his running backs has changed compared to last year.

“We didn’t have that type of confidence earlier in the season,” Levine said. “But now as we’re moving forward, we certainly do with Jackson and Farrow, who gained so much experience as freshmen.”

The Cougars will return 17 players that have started at least one game on offense, including their three running backs. Bush said his backs are in line to do great things because of how deep they are.

“We got Charles back, the arrival of Farrow and Jackson, and we just feel a lot more secure about our depth this year compared to last season’s,” Bush said.

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