By Kyle Kensing
KEVIN B. KLAUS/Arizona Daily Wildcat
Sophomore running back Chris Henry carries a pass during Saturday's scrimmage at Arizona Stadium. Henry is the team's leading rusher with 152 yards this spring.
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Tuesday, April 19, 2005
A reliable running game is an integral part of any successful football team's offense. That can be a lot of weight for one player to bear.
Fortunately for Arizona, it has three running backs it can look to in 2005 in seniors Mike Bell and Gilbert Harris and redshirt sophomore Chris Henry.
"We all have different abilities. We can all do different things on the field, and it keeps the defense on its toes," Henry said.
Bell, a graduate of Phoenix-area Tolleson High School, brings the quality of a savvy veteran, according to offensive coordinator Mike Canales.
Canales said Bell has spent the months since the end of the 2004 season fine-tuning his game.
"He's spent a lot of the offseason watching film, not just of himself, but of other running backs to see how people ran," Canales said. "He's seeing that you don't just have to be fast with the ball, you have to be smart with the ball."
Bell was Arizona's top rusher in both 2003 and 2004, racking up nearly 1,000 yards each campaign.
Nevertheless, he said he has room to improve and is using spring practice as a means to that end.
"(Coaches) have been working with me, trying to teach me to use my strength," he said.
Henry, a redshirt sophomore from Stockton, Calif., gives the Arizona offense a power runner with deceptive speed according to Canales.
The 6-foot, 220-pound Henry is the largest of Arizona's three running backs, and after three spring scrimmages, he is the leading rusher with 152 yards.
Henry credits the success of the running game to a rejuvenated passing attack and the blocking work of the offensive line.
"A good passing game always helps, and the (offensive) line is doing a great job," he said.
Head coach Mike Stoops said solid passing will open up the ground for the running backs and added whoever mans the quarterback position in the fall will be more than capable.
Harris, the third facet of Arizona's three-pronged running game, said the variation that each brings makes them dangerous.
"We've all got speed, we've all got strength, but we've also got our own unique styles," he said.
"We can all use our own little niche when the time is right," Bell added.
The backfield trio agrees there is a competition between them to see who can put up the best numbers.
"If one of them makes a big play, I know I've got to come out there and do something to match them," Harris said.
Henry said that attitude elevates each to perform at a higher level.
"We all feed off of each other," he said.
Being in a position with a shared spotlight may drive some players to jealousy, but Bell said that is not the case in Arizona's backfield.
"We're the best of friends. We joke around with each other, and we'll make fun of each other, but we also motivate one another," he said.
That attitude is good news for Arizona football fans and bad for the rest of the Pacific 10 Conference.
"It's good for the team, knowing we all have different things we bring to the team," Bell said.