Double Backs

Ontiwaun

Carter

was

never a

menac

ing figure when he stepped onto the football field. In a world of 320-pound lineman, this 177-pound back didn't look like he could intimidate the opposing bench or make fans gawk from the crowd. He looked like the average football player on the average football team except for his feet, that is.

When Carter got his feet moving he somehow made opponents miss. He turned the slightest crack in a defensive line into a giant hole that he could dance through. In four years at Arizona, Carter rushed for 3,501 yards on 805 attempts. When Carter finished his last game at the Freedom Bowl, he gained only 44 yards on 19 carries, but more importantly, he took those feet with him.

For two UA running backs this season, that means there are big shoes to fill.

"'Twan was a great back," said junior tailback Gary Taylor. "He was the leading rusher in school history. It's always tough to replace a running back like that."

Taylor, 20, and sophomore Kevin Schmidtke, 17, are the two backs head coach Dick Tomey is relying on to move the Wildcats on the ground. Taylor, who played as the second back behind Carter, ran for 307 yards on 72 carries last season. Schmidtke, on the other hand, carried the ball only 48 times for 191 yards last year but gained recognition after his winning touchdown run against Georgia Tech in the first game of the season.

Both players have entered the season with high hopes, and throughout the spring camp and into the preseason there has been a spirited battle for the starting tailback position. At this point it seems that Taylor has solidified his position as starter, but both men are promised plenty of carries.

"In college football you need two dependable backs," Tomey said. "We have to be able to run the football if we want to pass the football."

Passing the ball is something new to many Arizona fans, but it is something this offense has been doing more of in past years. Last year was the first time the Wildcats had more passing yards than running yards since the days of Alfred Jenkins (1983-86). That is not to say that Tomey is giving up on running the ball, however. The offense may no longer rely entirely on the running game, but as Tomey will point out, the running game is still the major focus.

"We need to be able to run the football," Tomey said. "Against the teams that didn't have formidable defenses we ran the ball very, very well. Against the best teams we didn't run it well at all."

Two seasons ago the Wildcats were anchored by a backfield of Carter, Chuck Levy and fullback Billy Johnson. The three-back rotation was used extensively, gaining almost 500 more yards in 1993 than was gained in 1994, when Carter ran the ball almost four times as much as his backup.

That leaves this year's backs rather raw compared to those in seasons past. Arizona is not returning its leading rusher as it did last season. Taylor, however, is confident he can do the job.

"I have the qualities that a running back needs to establish himself," Taylor said. "I block well, I run the ball well and I also catch the ball well. I think that will make me stand out more than anything."

Tomey agreed.

"Taylor has had an outstanding camp and I think he will have a tremendous year," he said.

Taylor's

straight-

ahead

running style will be contrasted by Schmidtke's ability to cut and move. The young running back from Marana Mountain View High School has been praised by coaches for his field vision and his ability to find a hole.

"I'm working on trying to get up the field instead of bouncing around as much," Schmidtke said. "Over the summer I ran and tried to get a little faster and get a little bigger so I'll be able to take some more hits and not be as much of a target."

For Arizona's running game to be successful, most of those hits will have to be taken by the revamped offensive line, which returns none of last year's starters. The line may not have starting Pacific 10 Conference experience, but it does have the physical size to compete successfully and several experienced junior college transfers. Tomey said he was satisfied with the line's performance in spring football against Arizona's defense.

"We need to get better every game," Tomey said. "That will be the key to the whole season."

Another big factor will be how the Wildcats utilize their backs in the entire offensive scheme. With the evolving passing game, the backs are becoming more important. More swing patterns and routes out of the backfield are likely to be seen this season.

"We're lining up in the slots right now and going out in pass patterns so we can show our versatility," Taylor said. "It will help to display our talents."

Another bright spot on the roster is Northwestern transfer Robbie Glanton. He has impressed coaches in preseason scrimmages and has moved his way up to third on the depth chart. Along with fullbacks Charles Myles and Daren Hooper, the Wildcats' running core looks strong, even though fullback Jason Patterson is likely to be redshirted after fracturing his left hand in practice.

"If you just watch our scrimmages, Glanton has been as impressive as anyone running the ball," Tomey said. "He's just not as solid as the other two guys in other blocking areas and that kind of thing. All those guys are fairly young and we'll just have to see what game competition brings out in them."

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