Running Backs To Compete For Time

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Coach Mike London has a talented group of running backs to work with next season.

Virginia head football coach Mike London and his offensive coordinator Bill Lazor have a couple of big holes to fill behind the line of scrimmage. The most obvious question facing the Cavalier offense is who will be the leader under center now that senior Marc Verica has graduated. However, another interesting battle is heating up the backfield, one that should be fun to watch.

In 2010, several different players contributed at running back, giving Virginia its first balanced attack in years. There were a multitude of skills present, from the bruising, downhill strength of Keith Payne to the quick-cutting, slashing style of Perry Jones . Raynard Horne brought an explosive combo of size and speed to the running back position, and Torrey Mack saw reps both on offense and on special teams.

There was a bit of a log-jam in the backfield last season with so many talented players vying for time, and this year there is still a plethora of different running backs ready to confuse opposing defenses and give Lazor plenty of options. Nevertheless, there are always losses, both expected and unexpected, and the Cavaliers are slightly short-staffed in terms of experience this spring. The Payne Train has left the station, taking with him his team-best 14 touchdowns and ACC-leading 8.7 points-per-game. Payne was a happy surprise last season, and he will be sorely missed in 2011. Horne, a fellow senior, made his biggest impact on special teams, but was able to spell Payne at times and proved to be an important piece of the depth equation at running back.

London and Lazor were prepared for the departure of Payne and Horne, but another player’s decision to leave came out of left field, sort of. Torrey Mack , who would be entering his junior season, was apparently facing some academic issues and