Whenever Boston College’s Andre Williams hears people label him a power back, the 5-foot-11-inch, 220-pounder can’t help but think that his 4.3 40-yard dash time would beg to differ.
But if anything his speed only chases his size.
“Two-twenty running a 4.3 40,” said Tahj Kimble, his partner in the backfield. “Ain’t nobody trying to get in front of that.”
Williams acknowledges he loves the contact.
“I do look for the hit,” he said. “I salivate a little bit when I look at my scouting report and I see a DB under 200 pounds.”
Kimble’s a different breed, the kind that would rather embarrass defenders than punish them.
“I think he’s got scissors for feet,” Williams said. “He’s always cutting this way, cutting that way, making people miss, making people look silly and just making his runs look real pretty, real crisp.”
Then there’s Rolandan Finch, whose blend of field vision and power go a long way in explaining why he led the Eagles with 157 carries and 705 yards last season.
They’re all threats, for very different reasons.
“I feel like we’re basically a three-headed monster,” Kimble said. “We’ve all got different styles and it’s going to be hard to be prepared for all of us. It’s a plus for us and the team. We know that if one of us goes down, the next one’s going to be able to come in and pick it up the same way.”
So far, that’s been the one issue.
Between the three of them, Williams is the only one healthy enough to compete in scrimmages.
Over the summer, in a seven-on-seven drill, Kimble jumped up to catch a pass, landed funny and his knee buckled. He assumed he would be healthy once camp started, but after aggravating it, he’s been held out of scrimmages with a bruised knee.
“I don’t think they want to push it too much and make it any worse,” he said. “So I’m just taking it day by day, trying to get it better.”
Finch sprained his left foot in a scrimmage last Wednesday and has been out since.
With two running backs down, coach Frank Spaziani took extra precaution, holding Williams out of Sunday’s scrimmage.
“It’s camp right now,” Williams said. “You have to go hard for a certain point in order to make sure the team is ready for actual games. At the same time, you have to make sure that you’re going to have a team for the first game and not everybody’s going to be injured. I’m healthy and I think that just because I’m the only healthy running back right now, they didn’t want to chance it.”
But when the season opens Sept. 1 against Miami, the running game will be a focal point. Montel Harris, the school’s all-time leading rusher, was kicked off the team this spring for repeated violations of team rules, and Finch, Williams, and Kimble will work to fill the void.
“I think with the type of offense we run and the type of dynamics we have at the running back position, I think that a lot of the spark is going to be coming from us sometimes,” Williams said. “We’re going to have to shoulder a certain load for the team and just make sure that the fire starts with us.”
Last season, BC was eighth in the ACC in rushing (130.9 yards per game). Of the squad’s 3,585 yards of total offense, 56 percent came through the air, but the Eagles were committed to the ground game, running the ball 114 more times than they threw it.
“I know we’re going to have a big part in the offense,” Kimble said. “As a running back, you’ve got to be able to do a lot of things, you’ve got to be able to protect, you’ve got to be able to catch out of the backfield, and obviously run, hold onto the rock. A lot of the spark is going to come from us, because the way the offense is designed, we have to do a lot of things in it and we have to hold up our end of the bargain.”
Injuries derailed Harris a year ago, but at the same time, they opened to door for Finch, Williams, and Kimble. Harris sat the first three games, and Williams took the lion’s share of the carries.
The job was Harris’s when he returned from a knee injury in Week 4 against Massachusetts, but he played just two games before being bitten by an ankle injury. By the end of the season, the trio of younger backs was splitting the carries.
Although Harris was dismissed from the team, the younger running backs all say they learned from him.
“When Montel was here, he just taught us a lot,” Williams said. “He showed us what it’s like to be a starting running back at this level. He definitely showed us our weaknesses and showed us what we had to do to make the next step to step into his position.
“Once we were thrown into that position, it was just trial by fire. I definitely think that it was a great opportunity that we get to play now, but it was a blessing having him play here first.
Growing up eating and breathing football in Fernandina Beach, Fla., not far from Harris, who grew up in Jacksonville, Kimble knew of Harris long before his BC days. He would read Harris’s name in the papers every week.
“Coming here and seeing a guy like that, I learned a lot from him telling me stuff and just watching him,” Kimble said. “He was like a mentor for me. He was never a selfish guy, he was always willing to help.
“Being able to take the role as a starting running back, I feel like any one of us can go out and run the rock, catch the rock, have a complete game, and I feel like Montel played a large part in that, just watching him and learning from him a lot.”
The personnel in BC’s backfield will be different, but none of them believe the production will change at all.
“It’s definitely competition between all of us, but from the start, we all knew that we were each skilled backs,” Williams said. “We each brought different things to the table and in the end I think that’s just going to make us more dynamic as an offense.”Julian Benbow can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.