Between running backs Adam Muema, Donnel Pumphrey, and fullback Chad Young, the Aztecs rushed for more than 2,100 yards with 26 touchdowns in 2013. With Muema and Young out of the picture, Pumphrey and company have a chance to improve the ground attack in several major categories.
Here's a few rushing statistics from last season and where they ranked among the Mountain West Conference:
2,166 total yards (includes -129 net yards from Kaehler and Dingwell) - 8th
166.6 yards per game - 9th
4.2 yards per attempt - 8th
30 touchdowns - T-4th
So here is the starter:
#19 Donnel Pumphrey - 5'9" 170 pounds - Sophomore
Pumphrey was very productive in 2013 backing up Muema. As a freshman, Pumphrey totaled 752 yards on 9.6 carries per game and found the end zone eight times. He was also a viable option in the passing game, catching 22 passes for 234 yards and two touchdowns. He led the team with an average of six yards per carry, which ranked 6th in the Mountain West.
Pumphrey's small frame makes for a running style different from what Aztec fans have seen in the last few years from Muema. His size makes him one of the most exciting players on the team to watch and he will be a huge part of its success going forward. Long's starting running backs over the last three seasons have averaged just about 20 carries per game, so expect Pumphrey to have the ball in his hands regularly. The Aztecs' receiving group is considerably less experienced than in 2013, which could put a bit more stress on the running game.
After Friday's practice, Coach Long said he isn't close to naming his second back and still has to see them carry the ball some more in camp. In no rush to decide, Long said the decision could come just before the first game of the season against Northern Arizona. As of right now, there are four running backs contending for the spot. Coach Long said at practice that he would prefer a back with a contrasting style to that of Pumphrey, someone that can "run up the middle, break tackles, and bowl guys over." In the season opening presser, Long said that he had a pretty good idea of who would win the job and it was just a matter of time before the rest of his staff agreed with him.
#22 Chase Price - 5'8" 200 pounds - Junior
Price has experience in the Aztecs' system. Last season he recorded just 78 yards on 17 carries as the third-string back. His running style fits what Long is looking for, and has been that 'bowling ball' type back so far through camp. Stuck behind Muema and Pumphrey on the depth chart last season, Price is eager to show what he can do with regular playing time. Physical make-up alone won't win him the job, but his familiarity with the offense has him as the early favorite in a recent Mount West Connection poll.
#26 Marcus Stamps - 6'1" 210 pounds - RS Freshman
Stamps was an animal in high school, and carries some pretty high expectations as he gets set in the first fall camp of his college career. Stamps has the bruising ability to provide a substantial punch off of the bench, but also has the athletic ability to get loose in the open field. He's looked good so far in camp, hitting the holes with speed and power. If system familiarity is the only thing holding him back, expect him to make a big splash in the early goings this season.
Here's a pretty impressive reel... from his junior season of high school.
#4 Lucky Radley - 5'9" 185 pounds - Senior
Radley is an interesting wrinkle in SDSU's running back collective, joining the Aztecs as a walk-on transfer from the University of Utah. Radley didn't see much of the field in his career as a Ute, but was considered a fan favorite for his great attitude. Fighting for looks in a crowded backfield, Radley only rushed for 284 yards on 59 carries in 2013. However, 111 of those yards , and his only two touchdowns on the year, came in the second half of a lop-sided 70-7 win over Weber State. Clearly this guy has some ability, but it remains to be seen if he can be a consistent producer.
Watch Radley end a drive with nice 10-yard touchdown run. Fast forward to :58 for the play.
The current tailback depth chart lists Price, Stamps, and Radley, as the back ups to Pumphrey, so who's this fourth back in the mix? It could be true freshman Daryl Dunlap out of Troup High School in Georgia, or junior Paul Sierra, who is currently listed as a practice squad player. Both have seen some limited first and second team reps, but in all likelihood won't land within the top four.