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Spring Review: Running Backs

Position-by-position breakdowns after NIU spring practice

This is the second installment of “Spring Review.” Today, we’ll take a look at the running backs and who came out ahead, which back needs to improve and what you can expect for the start of fall camp.

What was expected to be the most hotly contested position in the spring turned into just a battle to stay healthy. Justin Anderson and Alan Smith went down in the same practice, almost 15 minutes apart, with injuries that kept them out of the final three weeks of spring ball. Chad Spann lasted a few more practices before a foot injury kept him on the sidelines. All are expected to be healthy in time for summer workouts.

That left sophomore Me’co Brown and junior Ricky Crider to carry the load for the final two weeks of practice. It got to the point that they received so many reps, the two were held out of running drills just to keep up their energy levels for the next set of downs. By the spring preview, it was clear both had benefited from the heavy doses of reps in those two weeks.

Most improved: Me’co Brown

Brown is probably the most improved player on the offensive side of the ball after spring practice. NIU coach Jerry Kill had said that in retrospect, he’d wished he would have redshirted Brown for his freshman season, but I don’t think Brown would have improved like he did without that experience he gained his freshman year.

He knows now what college football is like, what the speed of the game is like and, most important, what he needed to improve on because he had been through it. His blocking still needs work but his footwork, pass catching and ability to keep a low pad level have gotten much better.

Still needs work: Incomplete

With so many running backs out, it’s difficult to say who still needs work.

We’re also holding off of on a post-spring depth chart, though Brown almost has to be listed at No. 1 just because of the strides he made this spring. That said, don’t rule out a healthy Spann or Anderson in what I expect will be a closely-contested race for carries at running back.

Incoming recruits:Antoine Kirkland (5-11, 190 pounds, Boca Raton, Fla.)

Video interview:Me’co Brown (4-9)

Next Spring Review: Fullbacks

Answering your questions

NIUHuskiesFan asked: "John, question for you. Do you know if the new turf design will look exactly like the old turf or do they have a new design (logos, endzone colors, etc.)?"

John Sahly: I asked around and there will be no new changes to the design of the new turf.

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