Seven running backs ran through drills yesterday at the University of Toledo's public practice, with two other banged-up RBs watching.
As a result of two well-publicized offseason departures, only two in the group have game experience.
Senior Jalen Parmele and sophomore DaJuane Collins will get the majority of carries this year. The other backs are either freshmen or walk-ons.
As a returning first-team All-Mid-American Conference player who by all accounts has a jeweled work ethic, Parmele will be the starter. Collins, from Westville, N.J., did well in limited carries in 2006 and entered the spring wanting to win the
No. 2 job.
In a span of two weeks, Collins had the job, but not under the circumstances he had imagined.
First senior Scooter McDougle was suspended after the FBI indicted him on point-shaving charges. Then junior Richard Davis, the second-string back the previous season, was arrested for attempted burglary with a firearm. He was also suspended.
When asked yesterday if Davis has a future with the team, all UT coach Tom Amstutz would say is that Davis will not play this year.
Parmele and Collins admitted the sudden departures affected the unit, but they knew they couldn't let it bother them for long.
"Scooter was like a big brother to everybody, and Rich, he was always making us laugh," Collins said. "Since I've been here, they've been here. There was a big chunk of us gone, right there. We had to move on to the new guys after that.
"I knew the team was going to look to the running backs to see how we reacted to everything, and knew that we were going to have to step up and work extra hard."
Since the first few days of camp, Parmele and Collins have appeared game-ready, making Amstutz unconcerned about what he lost in the off-season.
"We've got our best guys playing," Amstutz said. "We've got our best guys in there and I like the group of them."
Parmele (6-foot, 221 pounds) is a power back, grinding through tacklers to run downhill. Collins (5-10, 216) has a bit of that in his style, but will also switch it up and try to make tacklers miss.
Yesterday in front of a couple hundred fans at the Glass Bowl, they both showed off their return skills in what was mostly a special-teams practice.
Parmele, who rushed for 1,131 yards last season, said he is excited to see what Collins can do. Collins had just 47 carries a year ago but rushed for 261 yards, an average of 5.6 yards per carry.
"He'll get a lot more carries this year and I think he'll be effective," Parmele said.
As for Parmele, Amstutz predicts another all-conference season from the Midland, Mich., native.
"He has great ability and has been getting better and better every year," Amstutz said. "I'm expecting him to have his best year this year."
ANOTHER SIGNEE: The Rockets added another scholarship running back this week, Richard White from Hammonton, N.J. According to scout.com, White, 5-10, 200 pounds, originally had planned to go to I-AA Villanova. He arrived in camp this week.
"We're excited to see what he can do," Amstutz said.
TURF TIME: The Rockets will hold their final nine practices before the Sept. 1 season opener, including yesterday's, in the Glass Bowl. This year all of UT's games will be played on artificial surfaces. The stadiums at Ball State and Bowling Green State University both have new turf.
Senior receiver David Washington said the wideouts love practicing on turf.
"We're looking forward to getting back on the turf so we can feel faster," Washington said. "The surface is key for the wide receivers for speed. It's good for us."
TWO DAYS OFF: After 17 straight days of training camp, the Rockets have today and tomorrow off. Tomorrow is the first day of school at UT. Practices will resume Tuesday afternoon.
"I don't even know what I'm going to do yet [with the free time]," senior offensive lineman John Greco said. "I'm going to be bored. We got out of meetings at 4:30 on Friday and I said, 'I haven't seen this time of day in weeks.'•"
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