August 18, 2009

"Countdown To Kickoff": The Backfield

Editor's Note: This is the second installment of an eight-part series produced by the FSU Athletics Communications Office looking at different position groups as the Bulldogs prepare for their 2009 season opener on Saturday, Aug. 29, against Tiffin at Top Taggart Field.

Big Rapids, Mich. - Behind the quarterback spot, it's almost a certainty that new faces will be featured in the offensive backfield for the Ferris State University football team during the 2009 season.

While the Bulldogs return two veteran quarterbacks to take the snaps in Tom Schneider and Kyle Parrish, those who will line up behind them won't be the same as a year ago.

Veteran tailback Paris Holloman, who ran for more than 900 yards in his four seasons and started 18 games over the past two campaigns, has moved on after running for 438 yards and a pair of TD's in 2008.  Also gone is former slot receiver Tim Hogue, who placed second among the team's leading rushers last campaign behind Schneider with 482 yards on the ground.

Additionally, the Bulldogs also lost two other bigger backs who saw action in short-yardage situations in Leonard Curry and Dan Underhill.

The frontrunner to win the starting tailback job this fall will be sophomore David "D.J." Freeman (Westland/Wayne Memorial), who was moved from the slot in the spring after playing in 10 games a year ago with 30 rushing yards on 17 carries and 12 catches for 87 yards.

A former prep quarterback, Freeman might not have significant experience at the position, but the Bulldog staff believes he has the tools and abilities to be an exciting player to watch at the position.

"D.J. had a great spring and has big-play ability coming out of the backfield," said FSU Offensive Coordinator Matt McCarthy.  "He's an explosive player and really creates a lot of options for us at that position."

Freeman's top challengers for the job appear to be two new faces in redshirt freshmen Dwayne Williams (Saginaw/Heritage) and Tyler Thomas (Jackson), who transferred in from Eastern Michigan prior to the start of fall camp. 

A walk-on, Williams joined the team in the spring and quickly established himself as a threat from the running back position.  He had the biggest play in the annual Crimson and Gold Spring Game with a 57-yard touchdown run en route to earning the team's Offensive Newcomer Award for spring ball.

The athletic and dynamic Thomas was pegged into the tailback role early in fall camp and has shown the ability to be an effective performer in the FSU offense.  Redshirt freshman Arshaun Hall (Novi) will also compete for time.

As in years past, the Bulldogs also expect to utilize a number of players in a slot-type role to aid in the running game including junior David Johnson (Detroit/Redford Union) and sophomore Aaron Olman (Grandville) among others. Johnson has spent time in the backfield during his career and has the most experience in the program of the group. Olman ran for a 21-yard TD in the spring game.

However, the Bulldogs' inked a talented recruiting class in the offseason and several freshmen could see significant time in a variety of roles both on the ground and thru the air including Freeman's younger brother Alan as well as Troy McClary (Punta Gorda, Fla./Charlotte) and Skyler Stoker (Jackson/Grass Lake).

Alan Freeman (Westland/Inkster) helped Inkster to a state runner-up finish by running for more than 1,200 yards his senior campaign while the speed McClary tallied 1,208 rushing yards and 14 touchdowns in 2008 to go with 18 catches for 195 yards for Charlotte (Fla.) High School. Stoker ran for 2,255 yards and 42 touchdowns as a prep senior out of the backfield and compiled more than 200 yards in four contests for Grass Lake.

"We've got a number of younger players in that slot-type role who are explosive," McCarthy said.  "They have the ability to produce huge plays for us and the key will be to help minimize their mistakes, which will happen at times because they are so young."

Besides Stoker, the Bulldogs also inked another standout running back as part of the 2009 recruiting class in Nicholas Rowe (Shelby Township/Henry Ford II).

Next Installment:  The "Countdown To Kickoff" series will resume on Wednesday (Aug. 19) with a look at the wide receivers.

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