Another football season has come and gone without a Texas Tech running back rushing for 1,000 yards. Not since Ricky Williams rushed for 1,582 yards in the 1998 season has Tech produced a thousand-yard rusher. But that doesn't mean the Red Raider ground game hasn't been productive.
In 2012, Tech's three-headed running back attack of Kenny Williams, Eric Stephens and SaDale Foster combined for 1,755 rushing yards and a 5.4 yards per carry average. That is a proficient ground attack embedded in one of the nation's most pass-heavy offenses.
Spearheading the Red Raider ground game was sophomore Kenny Williams. He rushed for 824 yards and averaged 5.8 yards per attempt. Williams filled the bill for a more powerful type of back than has been seen in Tech's offense in quite some time. He was a strong runner between the tackles, but also had just enough speed to get to the edge if not break runs for 60 yards plus. Williams did, however, have a long run of 47 yards.
Eric Stephens managed to return from a catastrophic knee injury suffered against Texas A&M in 2011. He rushed for 480 yards and 5.4 yards per carry. Stephens never quite returned to that earlier form, however. He did improve over the course of the season, but Stephens' lightning quickness of yore was not again in evidence. It is also true that Stephens did not become the team's featured back and so was never allowed to find the groove.
SaDale Foster, a JUCO recruit who was expected to be little more than a return man, was a pleasant surprise. He averaged five yards per tote en route to 451 yards rushing. Foster also had the team's longest run of the season, a 53-yard touchdown burst against West Virginia. Foster was by no means a power back, but he exhibited a crafty running style, and was Tech's quickest and fastest back. As the Mountaineers discovered, Foster has the speed to take it to the house when he gets to the second level.
In recent years, passes to backs have been deemphasized in Tech's offense. Long gone are the days when Taurean Henderson was catching around 100 balls per season. In 2012, Williams, Foster and Stephens combined for a modest 50 receptions. All three were solid receivers, though. Williams had a few drops, but his hands improved markedly over his freshman campaign.
Pass protection was good for Tech in 2012, and the Red Raider backs performed well in this area. Williams, easily Tech's largest back, missed blocking assignments rarely, although he certainly was not perfect.
Fumbling had at times been an issue for both Stephens and Williams, but this problem did not crop up in 2012. Tech's backs did a good job with ball security.