Click here to view a photo gallery from the Aug. 16, 2013 training camp practice
MEQUON, Wis. – It is the biggest offensive question mark Concordia University Wisconsin has to answer during training camp over the next two weeks. Will the young and inexperienced running backs keep the offense balanced?
Balanced, as in gain enough yards to keep defenses in check and let quarterback Austin Damaschke (Bristol, Wis.) throw the ball to a plethora of talented receivers. Running back LaCurt Evans (Bloomingdale, Ill.) showed flashes last season after earning the starting spot in week three, but he is the only returning player who accumulated any significant rushing yards (231) other than Damaschke.
There are currently 11 running backs (nine underclassmen) listed on the roster, but the main theme with all of them is inexperience and youth. An option now for head coach Greg Etter is go with the 'running back by committee' approach until the coaching staff decides who the top two or three running backs are.
"During training camp it will be running back by committee," Etter said. "The reason we are going to do that is because we have to get a fair look at all of these guys. In order to truly evaluate these running backs, we have to allow them to play behind the same offensive line and against the same defense during practice."
The Falcons offensive statistics were lopsided a year ago with 2,547 yards gained through the air, compared to just 764 on the ground. Who wouldn't throw the ball with the Wisconsin Football Coaches Association Private College Player of the Year under center in Damaschke?
However, staying balanced might be a little harder with a significant decision having been made in the offseason. CUW moved senior Joe Paul (West Bend, Wis.) from his traditional running back position to linebacker – a spot of need for the Falcons.
"We needed to replace some linebackers who were very good players after they graduated," Etter said. "We are going to try and keep Joe Paul on the field as much as we can and we felt moving him to defense would get him more snaps, and ultimately help the football team."
That decision has opened the door for Evans and players such as Tyler White (Milwaukee, Wis.), Brandon Martin (Milwaukee, Wis.) and others to seize the opportunity. During 2012, there were 40 plays of 20-plus yards, but just five were running plays – two of which were by Evans.
Evans and company are gifted athletically, however, the majority are entering year two in offensive coordinator Henny Hiemenz's system and will need to show they can play without thinking.
"I am excited because I know what these guys can do," Etter said. "We have a bunch of guys who worked their butt off in the weight room and had a great spring practice. The more confident they get with the scheme, the more their athleticism is going to show and you will see more big plays from them. Anytime you create that competition between good athletes, the cream of the crop will rise to the top."