<em><em>Editor’s note: This is part four of a nine part series that will highlight each position group of the USU football team leading up to the season opener on Aug. 30 against Southern Utah.</em></em>
<strong>LOGAN—</strong>Two thousand three hundred and eighty seven.
Without any background, that would be just another number. However, if you add the 2011 rushing totals of USU’s NFL draft picks Robert Turbin and Michael Smith, that number starts to gain some perspective. Replacing more than 2,300 yards and 29 rushing touchdowns (35 total) from last year’s record setting offense will be no easy task for the Aggies in 2012.
Fortunately for Utah State, some guy named <a href=”http://www.utahstateaggies.com/sports/m-footbl/mtt/williams_kerwynn00.html” target=”_blank”>Kerwynn Williams</a> is still around.
“I think I hold myself to very high expectations. I feel like if you don’t hold yourself to high expectations, than no one else will, so I have high expectations for myself for this season,” Williams said. “Pretty much all I want to do is do whatever it takes to get wins out there on the field. Whether that be blocking, catching, running the ball, whatever it takes, I just want to win.”
Williams started five games during his sophomore campaign, and has been an electric returner for the Aggies since arriving on campus. He has provided big play ability throughout his career, and scored the first USU touchdown of the season last year in a highlight reel run against Auburn <a href=”http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ImT5UI8JMjY” target=”_blank”>(around the 40 second mark of this clip)</a>.
Now a senior, Williams is ready to step out of the shadow of Turbin and Smith, and headline the Utah State rushing attack.
“I think first of all when you have to replace two NFL draft picks, I think that’s a huge thing and we’ve got our work cut out for us. Kerwynn is a major positive in that regard, replacing those guys,” said USU assistant head coach <a href=”http://www.utahstateaggies.com/sports/m-footbl/mtt/sanford_mike00.html” target=”_blank”>Mike Sanford</a> who works with the running backs. “To me, it’s kind of like he’s been in the shadow of those guys his whole career and now it’s his opportunity to take advantage of.”
After rushing only 81 times in each of the past two seasons, there has been some question as to whether or not Williams can be an every down back. USU head coach <a href=”http://www.utahstateaggies.com/sports/m-footbl/mtt/andersen_gary00.html” target=”_blank”>Gary Andersen</a> believes that he can.
“This is really his first opportunity to be the guy, and I hope he reacts very well to that – I think he will. He expects to be that guy,” Andersen said. “Kerwynn brings great leadership to that group off the field, and he brings great toughness to that group on and off the field, so those are two of the great traits that he has. I think he’s a well-rounded back, he catches it well, he’s got good speed and good vision.”
Though the Aggies don’t have quite the level of talented depth at the running back position that they had a season ago, they still have a surprising amount of depth and experience returning in 2012.
Backing up Williams will be sophomore <a href=”http://www.utahstateaggies.com/sports/m-footbl/mtt/hill_joe00.html” target=”_blank”>Joe Hill</a>. One of, if not the fastest guy on the team, Hill saw limited action in 2011 after redshirting his freshman season. He played in seven games, and had his best outing against Weber State, rushing five times for 20 yards and a score. Hill has been a consistent force in spring and fall scrimmages this season, and will be relied upon heavily in 2012.
“Joe Hill is a very talented young man, he’s grown up tremendously in the last year. He’s got great speed, he’s got good vision, he’s got good hands,” Andersen said. “We’ll see how that carries over to games. As a youthful player I hope so.”
Williams also had high praise for his backfield mate.
“Joe, he’s a very fast back and he’s very physical. He pretty much makes one cut and then he’s gone, that’s the kind of speed that he has,” Williams said. “He’s a do everything guy too, I think that you can see him line up in the slot out there, he catches the ball pretty well.”
Behind Williams and Hill is a logjam for the No. 3 running back spot, and the Aggies will most likely see a committee approach early to see if there is any separation. Junior <a href=”http://www.utahstateaggies.com/sports/m-footbl/mtt/marshall_robert00.html” target=”_blank”>Robert Marshall</a> is the most experienced in line for that spot in his third year with the program. He is a very physical back, and brings a different look than the first two backs at 6 feet tall and 223 pounds.
Marshall has 46 career attempts for 207 yards and two touchdowns in his Aggie career. Marshall may have been able to lock up the No. 3 earlier in the fall as he was performing well in practice and scrimmage, but he injured his shoulder and is just now coming back.
“Robert Marshall is a big back. His lead blocking is great. He comes out there and puts his head on anybody, he’s not afraid to put his head on anybody, whether it be a defensive end or a linebacker,” Williams said. “He’s a hard-nosed runner, he’s more downhill than both me and Joe.”
Marshall’s injury, however, opened up the door for a couple of newcomers to the USU program. True freshman <a href=”http://www.utahstateaggies.com/sports/m-footbl/mtt/lee_kelvin00.html” target=”_blank”>Kelvin Lee</a> was a late signee from Florida, and is carrying on the recent tradition of incoming Florida talent making an early impact. Lee had his own injuries in fall camp with a concussion, but impressed Andersen and the Aggie staff and is in the mix.
Junior college transfer <a href=”http://www.utahstateaggies.com/sports/m-footbl/mtt/toure_abou00.html” target=”_blank”>Abou Toure</a>, a 6 foot 2 inch, 230 bruiser from Massachusetts is also in the mix and could be a factor around the goal line with his size and power. Finally, redshirt junior <a href=”http://www.utahstateaggies.com/sports/m-footbl/mtt/demartino_joey01.html” target=”_blank”>Joey DeMartino</a> is another guy who should see some time and factor into the equation, but was sidelined early in camp with a broken bone in his arm. He was impressing coaches with his ability to catch out of the backfield prior to his injury.
“There’s a number of those kids, and there’s not enough separation to say this is No. 3, this is No. 4, this is No. 5. It’s probably going to carry that way into the first couple games of the season and then we’ll see,” Andersen said. “Behind (Williams and Hill) is kind of a full stable, but a stable that’s definitely improving and will continue to try to prove themselves as they go through the season.”