March 7, 2011
The University of Houston football team put practice No. 2 of spring ball in the books, Monday, as the squad worked out in shorts for about two hours on the UH practice fields.
Each day UHCougars.com will take a look at a specific position group and give fans an outlook for the 2011 season. Today we highlight the running backs.
SPOTLIGHTING THE RUNNING BACKS: The Houston running backs are quiet in their production. But that's fine with them. While the quarterbacks and the receivers get most of the notoriety on the offense, running backs Bryce Beall, Michael Hayes and Charles Sims have been shoring up one of the strongest positions on the team.
"We take a lot of pride in the running game," Beall said. "We know that everyone looks at the passing numbers and there is no doubt that we have been successful throwing the ball the last three years, but having a running game keeps the offense balanced. Now there is a threat of running the ball that makes defenses play us differently."
In 2010, Beall and Hayes combined for 1,499 yards rushing and 20 touchdowns. Beall's 870-yard season last year, gives him well over 2,500 for his career with 2,787. He currently ranks fifth on the school's all-time rushing list and could break the mark with 850 yards in 2011. He already holds the Houston rushing touchdown record for a career with 36. Beall earned first-team All-Conference USA honors in 2010 and is eager take his game to another level.
Hayes was an unknown at the beginning of the 2010 season, but he quickly became a Cougar favorite when he took the second play of the season opener 40 yards for a touchdown. He was valuable running the ball with 629 yards and also as a receiver out of the backfield where he hauled in 30 catches for 327 yards.
"There's a lot of competition at our position and I wouldn't want it any other way," said Hayes. "We all want the ball in our hands, but we know that to be the guy on the field we have to be producing. And if we aren't another running back will."
Sims, who will resume working out with the team in fall camp, was the 2009 Conference USA Freshman of the Year with 698 yards and nine touchdowns.
When injury hit Beall last season, an opportunity arose for junior Chris Wilson. He averaged 5.1 yards per carry on 24 rushes and had a career game vs. Memphis with 95 yards on the ground.
Rounding out the scholarship running backs is redshirt-freshman Xavier Brown. A three-star recruit out of Pearland's Dawson High School, Brown helped lead his team to a state semifinal appearance with 842 yards rushing as a senior.
When the 2011 fall camp begins, fourth-year UH running backs coach Clarence McKinney will have a tough decision to make, "Which of my talented backs, gets the ball?"
"It is definitely better to have this problem (too many good backs) as opposed to the alternative," said McKinney. "Bryce and Mike have really been pushing themselves this offseason and has made them better. Then there's the Charles Sims factor. They both know Charles is coming back and know what kind of player he is."
NEXT PRACTICE: The Cougars return to the practice field on Tuesday with its first full-padded practice of the spring. The squad will have two more sessions before the school's spring break week.