One of the brighter spots for the Colorado football team this offseason has been the position of running back. With a “smash-and-dash” approach, the Buffaloes have been able to reinvent the top of their depth chart.
When Rodney “Speedy” Stewart, left for the NFL in 2011, the fear was that there would be a missing piece of the puzzle at tailback. Only once in his four years did he fail to rush for at least 800 yards. His most dominating year came as a junior in 2010, when he rumbled for 1,318 yards and 10 touchdowns. When he left for the draft, he left behind a polished career that consisted of 25 total touchdowns and over 3,500 yards rushing. That kind of consistent production is hard to come by.
Nobody imagined that within two years, the Buffaloes would have found a running back that was capable of filling such a substantial void.
Enter Christian Powell. The 6-foot-1, 235-pound converted fullback is the new workhorse in Colorado. With a big, bulky frame, he runs with a bruising authority. Not only is he almost impossible to tackle on first contact, but he also shows flashes of the finesse of a smaller running back. He is a violent runner who lowers his head and seeks out contact on every play. Powell will enter his junior season averaging more than four yards per rush, an impressive mark for the style in which he plays.
Throughout his time in Colorado, Powell has done nothing but impress. As a freshman in 2012, he ran for more than 100 yards in three games, scoring two touchdowns or more in each. He also led the Buffaloes in rushing that season, with 691 yards, becoming only the fifth player in Colorado history to accomplish that feat as a freshman.
Powell experienced a bit of a sophomore slump in 2013, as he failed to reach the century mark and recorded only three touchdowns. However, with a healthy offensive line in 2014, he enters the season at the top of the depth chart, looking for another career year. (NFL comparison: Darren McFadden).
Powell will be sharing the workload with impressive sophomore Michael Adkins II. At 5-foot-10, 200 pounds, Adkins II is the type of running back who utilizes his speed and shiftiness to abuse opposing defenses. Statistically, he is coming off a very successful year in 2013, as he rushed for 535 yards and six touchdowns. His most impressive performance came against Charleston Southern, a game in which he ran the ball 13 times for 137 yards and four touchdowns.
Unlike Powell, whose specialty is the goal line and short distance downs, Adkins II is better suited for the open field. As a freshman, he brought down 11 catches for 127 yards and a touchdown, proving his worth as a receiver out of the backfield. (NFL comparison: Darren Sproles).
With most of the work in the backfield being handled by Powell and Adkins II, the Buffaloes should feel confident in their running game. Both backs have already proven the ability to thrive in head coach Mike MacIntyre’s new system. If the offensive line can improve and stay healthy, both players should see success in 2014.
It is worth noting that senior running back Tony Jones will also return for Colorado football in 2014 for his final season in the black and gold. Although he may not have the starting role this season, he should see plenty of playing time. Jones will also provide the veteran leadership that is so important to youngsters like Powell and Adkins II.
Projected 2014 Starting Lineup:
RB1-Christian Powell (Jr. 6-foot-1, 235 pounds)
RB2-Michael Adkins II (Soph. 5-foot-10, 200 pounds)
RB3-Tony Jones (Sr. 5-foot-7, 190 pounds)