InsideTulsaSports - TU Summer Position Breakdown: Running Back
{{ timeAgo('2022-06-23 16:09:12 -0500') }} football Edit

TU Summer Position Breakdown: Running Back

Deneric Prince averaged 5.2 yards per carry last season.
Deneric Prince averaged 5.2 yards per carry last season. (AP Images)

It is a luxury to be able to lose one of the best running backs in school history and still have plenty of accomplished talent coming back.

That is the case with Tulsa in 2022, when the Golden Hurricane, led by Deneric Prince and Anthony Watkins, will have to go on without mainstay Shamari Brooks.

Brooks finished his career second in TU history with 3,729 yards rushing, and is fourth in school history with 30 career rushing touchdowns. His 1,029 yards and 7 TD's rushing led TU last season.

On the bright side, Prince and Watkins headline a really talented group of Tulsa running backs. Both have already shown they are ready to take over the reins. Prince, who rushed for 524 yards 5 TD's and a 5.2 yards per carry average in 10 games last season, is the likely first option.

"I think Deneric has got the skill set to play at the next level," said Tulsa coach Philip Montgomery. "The biggest thing with Deneric, the first year he was there was when Shamari got hurt, kind of got thrown into the fire a little bit early before he probably was as comfortable as he needed to be. But I thought he had a tremendous year."

A 6-foot, 215-pound senior transfer from Texas A&M via Manvel, Texas, Prince rushed for 475 yards, 4 touchdowns and a 5.4 average in 2020 while being second on the team in rushing behind Corey Taylor. Brooks had missed the entire 2020 season with a knee injury suffered the week before the season opener.

Prince was poised to have a big year last year but was banged up throughout the season.

"Last year he (Prince) battled injury throughout the year," Montgomery said. "Nothing devastating, but you get high ankle sprains, you get thigh bruises, things like that that can really limit you as a running back. He battled through those but still had a great year.

"For him, I think it is staying healthy, being prepared, and I think he has a chance to be one of those dominant type of players."

Watkins had a breakout year for Tulsa last season. The 5-11, 207-pound Missouri transfer from South Hills HS in Fort Worth was second in rushing for TU last season with 634 yards. He finished with 4 rushing touchdowns, which included a whopping 7.4 yards per carry.

Watching Watkins break tackle after tackle on long runs last season was truly amazing.

"Anthony really had a great year," Montgomery said. "He's got great vision. Has good strength and good balance. Has really progressed in the pass blocking aspect of it. He’s catching the ball better out of the backfield."

Besides Prince and Watkins, short-yardage pile-mover Steven Anderson returns for his fourth college season, and second for TU.

A 6-2, 242-pound transfer from Southern Mississippi, and originally from Live Oak, Florida, Anderson rushed for 219 yards and 2 scores with a 4.2 average in 11 games. He previously rushed for 513 yards and 9 TD's for Southern Miss.

"Steven Anderson played a little for us last year - hopefully that role will increase a little bit more this year with another year underneath his belt," Montgomery said. "He's got to get himself in a position or in a place where he can be a little more durable when it comes to some things, but he's a big guy, he's hard to tackle.

"When you hit him, you feel it. And so, I think it's good to have that type of combination."

Next up is Jordan Ford, a quick 5-10, 188-pound juco transfer from Garden City CC, originally from Chattanooga, Tennessee. Ford played in 4 games for TU in his first season at Tulsa, and rushed one time for 3 yards. He also returned 3 kicks for 47 yards.

"When you look at Jordan Ford, I think he did some really good things this spring," Montgomery described. “He's a guy who can really catch the ball out of the backfield. You give him a little bit of a crease, I think even against our defense, he took one from about 70 out.

"He's got that game-breaking type speed. So, I can see him having the opportunity to really step in and get some really good reps, some really good playing time as he continues to grow and develop and work. He's just quick, he can cut, he can do all of those things."

Then there is Bill Jackson, a 5-10. 195-pound redshirt freshman from Cardinal Ritter College Prep in St. Louis.

"I think Bill Jackson is a good combination guy," Montgomery said. "He's got really good vision. He can run in between the tackles, he's got the speed to get outside, can get in and out of cuts, and has a little bit more of weight and size to him than what people see. Does a good job of just running through tackles and being able to back cut and explode through some arm tackles."

With three experienced, accomplished running backs, along with two others with potential, TU should really be strong at running back in 2022.

"I like where our backfield is. I think it will continue to grow," Montgomery said. "And it's got to be one of the things where we need to be able to rely upon as we continue to grow as an offense."