October 10, 2011

New backs replace Stephens

Texas Tech presumably lost Eric Stephens for the season in extremely upsetting fashion this past Saturday.

Head coach Tommy Tuberville said the worst thing about Stephens knee injury isn't the Red Raiders losing the Big 12 Conference's No. 2 tailback through six weeks of play, but that Stephens had something he wanted to prove and that the goal has been derailed.

It's tough," Tuberville said during his Monday press conference. "It's tough to lose a guy, the type of person he is, number one. You hate for a kid like that that has worked that hard. His goal was to get 1,000 yards.

"Number one, he wanted to win games. But he wanted to show the team, 'hey, in this offense we can get a thousand yards in this league. I can help us win games.' He's a great blocker. Encouraging guys on the sideline. And just that's the bad thing about our sport, because you do have injuries."

Tuberville said doctors aren't sure what kind of damage Stephens' knee sustained. The knee was still too swollen for an MRI Monday morning.

But the show must go on. There's still a lot of football to be played this season and Tech has a 4-1 record it would like to advance.

Aaron Crawford will most likely start this upcoming Saturday against No. 17 Kansas State (5-0). Ronnie Daniels will remain on suspension. DeAndre Washington and Kenny Williams will play and the rest of the running back lineup will be sorted out later this week.

The Wildcat formation also is something the Red Raider coaching staff will have to rework. The formation has been very successful in third and short situations but Stephens anchored it.

Now the job will go to someone else. Someone to be determined.

"There will be somebody," Tuberville said. "We'll have to have somebody back there. It could be somebody. It could be a receiver. Last year we had Detron (Lewis). We'll look at somebody.

The wildcat is good. Great for yardage. Change of pace, goal line, all those things. But you have to have somebody that's got confidence in running it. So we'll look at it and make the decision probably by (Tuesday).

From both the conventional running back and wildcat back standpoints, there's considerable depth.

Tuberville said the Red Raiders won't miss a beat in pass protection with Crawford blocking for quarterback Seth Doege.

The head coach also said Crawford is capable of 100 rushing yards per game just like Stephens had in four of his five games this season. Crawford just needs to stay healthy -- something the fifth-year senior running back has not been able to do since his true freshman year in 2007.

"I thought Crawford did a good job (Saturday against Texas A&M)," Tuberville said. "He's the best blocker we've got. It's important that your running back be a physical guy that can protect.
He was as good as Eric was… The problem with Aaron is staying healthy, as it was for Eric.

"He can be a 100-yard rusher a game. But he's got to be able to get that mentality and understand sometimes you're going to have to play through getting knocked around a little bit. Because carrying the ball three times a game as compared to 15 to 20 is a whole lot different in this league."

Stephens, meanwhile, won't be entirely knocked out of the game by his injury.

The junior has been asked by the coaching staff to take a coaching role with the team. He's expected to be at practice with the team and he should be able to travel after his surgery.

Tuberville said Stephens is one of the best players on a the team in teaching the younger players, Washington, Williams, Daniels and McRoy how to be a Division I running back.

"Somebody's going to have to step up," Tuberville said. "Eric will be the first one to tell them that in that running back meeting. Somebody's going to have to take over. And he'll be there with us. And he'll be in meetings and learning. It will be tough for a while, but Eric will be a good football coach for us. That's what he'll be for a while, he'll be a coach."

...More... To continue reading this article you must be a member. Sign Up Now!