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Published: Friday, 9/19/2008

Collins trades shifty for power; Rockets like new look of RB

BY MAUREEN FULTON
BLADE SPORTS WRITER
Toledo running back DaJuane Collins powers through a hole against Eastern Michigan. He gained 168 yards on 19 carries in only three quarters as the Rockets rolled to an easy win.
Toledo running back DaJuane Collins powers through a hole against Eastern Michigan. He gained 168 yards on 19 carries in only three quarters as the Rockets rolled to an easy win.
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When DaJuane Collins had the ball in his hands last Saturday, he seemed to be out to prove he can t be defined as any specific type of running back.

Collins, the University of Toledo s starting tailback, has been described by his coaches as a player who relies on his shifty qualities to elude tacklers. Against Eastern Michigan he racked up career-high totals using a different style.

Collins led the Rockets to victory by gaining 168 yards on 19 carries, all in just three quarters of play. He powered through the Eagles defense, his 5-foot-10, 211-pound frame breaking tackles early and late on runs.

Maybe it was because it was rainy and I was slippery, but it seemed like the first tackle was the easiest to break, Collins said.

With his big game Saturday, Collins showed it could be a smooth transition for him into the role of the Rockets featured back. Tomorrow night UT will likely need something approaching a repeat performance from Collins, with assists from backups Morgan Williams and Jake Walker, to beat Fresno State.

The No. 25 Bulldogs have given up an average of just 130 rushing yards per game this season. UT is averaging 153.5 per game.

It s going to be a big test for our offense, Collins said. Our passing game s going to have to be there, and our running game.

Collins two-touchdown day last weekend had UT coach Tom Amstutz excited at the possibility that he ll reach the potential he showed last year as Jalen Parmele s backup, when he averaged a team-best 6.4 yards per carry.

DaJuane showed that he has balance and determination, Amstutz said. He was running hard. I saw him run that way in high school. I saw him run like that at times last year. He stepped up and was very determined out there. I was really proud of the way he ran.

The Westville, N.J., native is trying to follow in the footsteps of two former UT running backs who were each first-team All-Mid-American Conference during their careers.

I learned from Trinity Dawson when I was a freshman, and then playing behind Jalen, we had a really good relationship, Collins said.

In the season-opening loss to Arizona, Collins had 10 carries for 54 yards. His touches nearly doubled the next week, something Collins welcomes.

The more the merrier, that s how I feel, Collins said. The more carries you get, that just means the team s depending on you more to win.

Whether he s using power or speed, Collins teammates are enjoying his display of versatility.

We definitely knew we had that side of DaJuane, quarterback Aaron Opelt said. He s a shifty runner and a power runner. He stays within the tackles when he needs to and gets outside when he needs to. He had a great game last week.

EXTRA POINTS: Redshirt freshman Adonis Thomas, who switched from running back to slot receiver midway through fall camp, is back at tailback. He can do either one, but right now he s working with the running backs, Amstutz said. ... Amstutz said left guard Jared DeWalt has been practicing with the second team the last few days after serving a two-game suspension for an unspecified violation of team rules. He said DeWalt will play tomorrow.

Contact Maureen Fulton at:mfulton@theblade.comor 419-724-6160.



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