Hoo Preview ’09: Running Backs

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UVa hopes that Mikell Simpson plays like he did during 2007’s 9-win season.

When you look at the running back position on Virginia’s roster, you’ll find plenty of familiar names. Mikell Simpson and Rashawn Jackson , for example, have been filling roles on the offense for the past two seasons or more. Torrey Mack and Keith Payne , meanwhile, created a steady buzz on the recruiting trail. Regardless of which name you pick, however, UVa’s running backs have a lot of promising skills and the potential to be a key element in this season’s offense.

Running backs coach Wayne Lineburg thinks his group’s versatility should be a big asset in 2009.

“It is a versatile group. All of them can run the ball well, which is the No. 1 thing they’ve got to be able to do, and they’ve got to protect the ball and protect the quarterback,” Lineburg said. “All of them have good hands too. They’re a good group of kids that can catch the ball and that’s very helpful in this offense.”

Leading the depth chart is Mikell Simpson – the question, of course, is whether he is the 2007 Mikell Simpson or the other, less productive Mikell Simpson . In 2007, Simpson emerged from the depth chart after Cedric Peerman ‘s season-ending injury to post 570 yards rushing and 8 TDs on 5.0 yards per carry (113 attempts) and 402 yards receiving and 2 TDs on 9.3 yards per catch (43 attempts). In the Gator Bowl, he recorded the longest run in UVa bowl history and the second longest run in NCAA bowl history with a 96-yard scoring run. Impressive numbers all around. Beyond the numbers, he looked comfortable in his role; he made decisive cuts and quick decisions and added explosive bursts of