Last time we spoke about the Quarterbacks on the team. This time we will explore the stable of Running Backs on the roster. There are 4 guys on the active roster as of now, those guys are Bradley Atogwe, Angelo Ferazey, Darius Young II and Devin McCluster.
We have heard from Coach Nicholson many times this offseason that he wants to put more emphasis on the run game. As you saw last season, the Explorers started off good on the ground with Atogwe and Ferazey. As the season went on though it seemed as if they ran the ball less and less. Ferazey cooled off and Atogwe wasn't much of a contributor in most games due to the high percentage of passes being called. Darius Young never really saw much of the field, even when he did he just didn't seem to be comfortable out there. Behind him was Keeston Pittman and Devin McCluster, both young unproven backs used mainly for depth.
Once again we will start at the top of the depth chart with Bradley Atogwe. Atogwe has been the starter for the Explorers since they joined the RFL. Due to unexpected injuries though, he has never been able to really show the league just
how dominant he can be as a rusher. If you ask anyone in Columbus they will tell you that he is one of the most talented runners in the league, he just hasn't been able to stay away from the injury report.
Last season was different, Nicholson recognized that and decided to deploy a more running back by committee approach in order to limit the amount of hits he took in a season. It marked the first time that Atogwe went a full season without missing a game. This year however, Nicholson feels that he is ready to roll for a bigger role again, "The idea behind his limited role was about both using all of our weapons but more so to see if he just needed some extra time to heal. Some guys don't heal properly in an offseason and need that extra time to allow their bodies to adjust. We're hoping that was the case with Bradley." From the sounds of it, we may be seeing a lot more of him this season.
The next guy is the small and fiesty Angelo "Too Crazy" Ferazey. He will have roughly the same impact on the game as he did last year by coming in to spell Atogwe and also shoulder a majority of the third down situations due to his catching ability. During the beginning part of last year he really shined in the offense and Nicholson took notice. "Angelo is special, there are things that he can do with the ball in his hands that are rare for players. There are plenty of guys in the league that are fast and shifty, but when ever he touches the ball you know that there is a possibility of him taking it to the house. When you have a guy like that, you gotta find ways to get him the ball." Based off that comment from the coach it's safe to say that Ferazey's spot on the team is well secured and we can expect to see some more of him this season.
Coming in third for our story is the man you have seen all over the place this offseason, Darius Young II. His rookie year was something forgettable and some people have written him off already. He made a commitment to change the narrative this offseason and so far it looks like he definitely is on the right track to do so. If you attend an Explorers practice I can guarantee he will be one of the first ones to stick out to you. And that is not because of his 6'5 240lb frame... he seems to have a different mindset this year, running with purpose in every scrimmage and has truly been the training camp MVP. Even averaging an astonishing 6.3 yards per carry this offseason during workouts and scrimmages. Not only has he been running with power, he has been seeing the field a lot better which will no doubt make it difficult to keep him off the field this season.
Last but not least we have Devin McCluster. he rounds out the backfield as the fill in power back behind Young. You don't really hear too much about him and we're not 100% sure whether or not he makes it through the preseason. With Bill Nicholson constantly looking for more talent you can bet there will be someone brought in to compete for that spot soon. In his limited action he has shown some glances of potential, but majority of the time its not something worth hyping up. If they keep 4 half backs this year he easily has a leg up on the competition.
That will round up the running backs for the Explorers. I'm not sure which way things are going to go yet. We know that Ferazey is going to be utilized again this year, we also know that Young II is going to get some more snaps this season. The one thing that no one knows the answer to is whether or not Bradley Atogwe will be able to stay healthy. In years past the team never had any viable options behind him, luckily that has changed with the emergence of Darius Young II. What are your thoughts? How will the running game go this year for the Explorers? leave your thoughts and comments below.