New Vandals revitalizing the running game

JC transfers Brown and Olugbode, senior Baker and freshman Montgomery are expected to contribute.


— The Idaho Vandals had one of the most anemic offenses in all of college football last year, and a big part of that was due to their inefficiency rushing the ball.

Idaho wrapped up 2012 with a paltry 1,056 yards on the ground and had only three rushing touchdowns, tied with Tulane for the fewest in Division I football. Boise State scored 25 times on the ground, and even Idaho State had five rushing TDs.

Obviously, this was a problem that needed to be fixed immediately, so new coach Paul Petrino brought in some help.

Junior college transfers Kristoffer Olugbode and Jerrel Brown made an immediate difference during spring ball. Both displayed speed, power and agility while ripping off big gains during scrimmages.

“Our running backs have been the studs of the camp,” Petrino said. “I think running back is going to be one of our strengths this year.”

Olugbode, who is listed at 5-foot-9, 200 pounds, said he bulked up since spring to help with running in between the tackles. He’s still not quite as big as Brown, who is 6-foot, 220 pounds, but both appear to be well-equipped for most running situations and have shown good hands when working in the passing game.

Olugbode carried the ball 270 times for 1,699 yards for the City College of San Francisco last year, scoring 19 touchdowns while averaging 141.6 yards per game and 6.3 per carry. Brown’s numbers at the College of San Mateo weren’t as flashy — 91 carries for 428 yards and four touchdowns — but his hard-nosed, physical style had him on Petrino’s radar for a while.

Also in the mix will be senior James Baker, who was hampered by injuries last year but always ran with power and determination. Judging from what the Vandals did in the spring, it seems Baker may see more carries in third-and-short or goal-line situations.

“I think it’s great to have a rotation of three guys,” Olugbode said. “Each of us brings something different to the table.

“With the rotation we have, we’re going to constantly have three guys rotating in fresh legs and that’s going to put pressure on the defense.”

True freshman Richard Montgomery will see playing time, although his exact role remains to be seen.

Petrino has been quick to praise Montgomery’s speed and elusiveness and said the 5-foot-8, 180-pounder could end up returning kicks.

“Richard Montgomery is going to be a really good player for us. He gives us a lot of speed, and we’re going to be able to do some exciting things with him,” running backs coach Jason Shumaker said. “He works hard and he’s a terrific kid — he’ll find a place, no doubt about that.”

The other freshman running back from this year’s recruiting class, Isaiah Saunders, likely will miss the entire season as he recovers from an injury and could greyshirt.

At fullback, sophomore Jake Manley appears to have the starting job locked down, but freshman Tueni Lupeamanu could still steal the job.

“Jake Manley is definitely the guy we see right now taking over that position,” Shumaker said. “We’ll see what happens, but we’ll definitely be using the fullback a lot this year.”

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