Chuck Landon: Herd RB back and better than ever
Who is the first player spectators should notice during Marshall’s scrimmage Saturday afternoon?
That’s because it’s so glaringly obvious that after limping through an injury-riddled 2013 season, Marshall’s standout running back is looking like the same guy who won Conference USA Freshman of the Year honors in 2012.
Just ask Chris Jasperse.
“I think he is back fully recovered,” said Marshall’s star senior center. “His cuts, the breaks he’s coming out of ... he looks like the old guy with the flashes … and down the sideline he has the speed back.
“So, that’s always exciting to see. And it’s always exciting to have a back like that in our backfield.”
Jasperse has a slightly different perspective on Grooms. That’s because the offensive lineman has a unique view of Grooms’ runs.
“Yeah, right,” said Jasperse with a laugh. “We get the back-side when he’s going to the house. That’s the view that we get. It’s always a great view when we see the back of his numbers.”
Jasperse, not to mention opposing linebackers, got to see that a lot during Grooms’ breakout freshman season. The 5-foot-10, 178-pound speedster exploded for 737 yards on 121 carries in 11 games for eight touchdowns and a 6.1 yards per carry average.
That led to his C-USA award.
But, then, a high-ankle sprain suffered early in preseason camp derailed his 2013 season. Grooms tried to persevere, managing 503 yards and six touchdowns on 91 carries in 10 games.
But his speed, cuts and acceleration obviously weren’t the same.
That’s why Grooms was so noticeable even in Marshall’s first spring practice at Edwards Stadium. He ran like the old Grooms.
Or did he?
Jasperse actually believes the 2014 version of Grooms is the best yet.
“The way he’s moving ... he might even be better than his freshman year,” said the veteran center. “This off-season, I think, has helped him a lot. He got to rest his foot and everything. He’s doing good now.”
Maybe enduring the frustration of the 2013 season has made Grooms work even harder not to allow anything to deter him in 2014.
“He should be better,” said Jasperse, who will take the field with Grooms at 1:30 p.m. Saturday for a spring scrimmage at Edwards Stadium. “And I think it shows.
“He was with Coach (Thomas) Brown (former MU running backs coach) and, now, with Coach (Chris) Barclay and they’ve done a great job with him. They’ve just been working on trying to get him better and his vision. They’re working on getting his foot better, too, with the rehab and everything. He’s been doing a good job with that.
“Now, he’s really showing it.”
Indeed, he is.
Grooms’ running has been one of the highlights of spring practice. Now, it’s simply a matter of keeping him healthy.
“We’ve got to have as many running backs as we can,” pointed out Jasperse. “One can down at any second and the next one has to be in.
“Like in the (Military) bowl game, Remi (Watson) didn’t play much all year. But he came in and had some crucial runs (six carries 42 yards) for us. We’ve got to have backs in there like that.”
But it all starts with Grooms.
That should be obvious during Saturday’s scrimmage.
Chuck Landon is a sports columnist for The Herald-Dispatch. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.