Even with the news that Kevin Faulk has signed on for another year with the Patriots and the fact that Sammy Morris is raring to go for another season, there is still some speculation at running back.
Perhaps that’s because of the constant wondering about Laurence Maroney and if he’ll ever live up to his first-round selection. Did we mention that the NFL Draft, which is more than a month away, is chock full ‘o running backs?
It is. And one of the guys who keeps popping up in my head is Fresno State’s slashing back Ryan Mathews. Haven’t heard of him like you know about Alabama’s Mark Ingram, Stanford’s Toby Gerhart or Clemson’s C.J. Spiller?
That’s cool. He only led the country in rushing with 150.67 yards per game. And he’ll likely be available at 22nd overall.
Why does it matter about the 5-foot-11, 220-pounder? Because his coach is Pat Hill, a good buddy of and former Cleveland special assignment scout for Patriots coach Bill Belichick. That usually means something.
Belichick loves guys who played for his disciples… like all the LSU guys (or ex-Dolphins like Wes Welker) on the roster who played for Nick Saban. Mainly, I think, it’s because they teach and focus on the same things he does. Like fundamentals. And for a running back, blocking.
Listen to what Mathews said at the NFL Combine recently:
“We all have our strong points. Mine is probably pass blocking. Being at Fresno State, the running backs are incorporated in the blocking a lot. Coming from a program like that is really going to help me at the next level — if I get a chance — to sort linebackers out and safeties too.”
Music to Belichick’s ears, perhaps? Definitely. Also, Mathews has always been productive (when he hasn’t been battling freak injuries). He not only led the nation in rushing as a college junior, he also did the same with 3,396 yards as a high school senior in Bakersfield, Calif., with some snaps coming out of the Wildcat.
“I had a lot of help,” Mathews said. “In high school it’s a lot different. If you’re faster than everybody else you can do good things. I just happened to be faster than a lot of people.”
What’s his running strength?
“I’d have to say my vision and being able to get North and South,” Mathews said. “I’m not a finesse runner but I can get the ball downfield and I can break for big yards.“