CSU loaded with talent, experience at running back – Loveland Reporter-Herald

Colorado State running back David Bailey had never been to, much less seen, the mountains of Colorado prior to joining the Rams before the 2021 season.

The senior went to high school in Maryland and spent three years at Boston College before transferring to CSU. He went on to lead the Rams in rushing in 2022 with 752 yards and nine touchdowns.

Junior transfer Avery Morrow spent three seasons at Nevada before moving to CSU when his head coach for all of those years, Jay Norvell, was named the 24th coach in Rams’ history.

Originally from Seattle, Morrow played in 19 games at Nevada where he rushed for 210 yards in his career there.

The biggest game of his career with the Wolf Pack came against the Rams last season when he rushed for 88 yards and a touchdown.

While Bailey and Morrow pack a solid 1-2 punch at running back for CSU, they won’t be the only backs carrying the load. Redshirt senior A’Jon Vivens and redshirt junior Jaylen Thomas have both seen action with the 1 and 2 offenses this fall.

There is also a group of freshmen looking to step up and contribute.

But the experience and leadership starts with Bailey, who in his fifth season, has played in 39 college games and rushed for over 2,300 yards between Boston College and CSU.

There were two factors in Bailey’s move to Fort Collins. The first was senior associate and running backs coach Brian White, who left Boston College to join Steve Addazio’s staff in January of 2020.

Bailey had played for White at Boston College. The second factor was the sports management program at CSU which Bailey wanted to be a graduate student in.

“It was mainly because of the coaching change,” Bailey said. “Coach White was a great influence on me. He showed me the beautiful view out here in Colorado. I know I had family that had been out here before and they told me it was amazing so I ended up choosing to come out here.”

For Morrow, the reason behind his transfer was simple. He loved playing for Norvell. He wasn’t the only one. Several players at all different positions came along with their former head coach.

After all, Norvell had led the Wolf Pack to four bowl games in five seasons. There didn’t seem to be a reason why he couldn’t turn around a CSU program that had just gone 3-9.

“Norvell, he’s a people person,” Morrow said. “He’s a player’s coach. He cares about the players. He cares about how we feel. He wants us to feel heard. He cares about us after football, not just what we do for him right now.”

Bailey said he was immediately excited when Norvell came into the program. He had seen the success Norvell had at Nevada and was eager to play for him.

And even though Norvell’s spread offense is dubbed “Air Raid,” Bailey knows the running backs play a big role in how it works.

“I knew he was a genuine guy,” Bailey said. “I knew he really cared about his players. The first thing, when he came in, he told us he loved us and he hadn’t even met us yet. That told a lot about coach Norvell. He’s a player’s coach and I really feel like he can make a change to this program.”

Bailey knew that the offense would be throwing the ball a lot, but he feels he fits into it well because he had great hands as a running back.

He said the pass-heavy offense takes pressure off the running backs and everyone can get involved this year.

Nevada averaged 77.4 yards on the ground last season and Morrow was third on the team in rushing yards. The running back role in Norvell’s offense is not just about running the ball.

“The running back plays a big role,” Morrow said. “In this offense, the running back doesn’t just run the ball. We catch a lot of passes. We go out wide. I feel like I can be used for all my abilities, not just running the ball, running between the tackles. I like to catch swing passes. I can run a slant or a go or a post route or something like that. Whatever they want me to do, I am a swiss army knife in the offense.”

Bailey got his first look at the offense in spring practice and admitted it was an adjustment for him.

But after he saw what it was all about, his role in it, and what it does for the running game, he quickly fell in love with it.

“It was kind of weird to adjust to it because it was my first time being in an Air Raid offense,” Bailey said. “Soon as I got into spring and started actually running the plays and seeing what everything is about, I saw that if you pass the ball, it opens up the run game, and I fell in love with it.”

After moving from receiver to running back prior to last season, Colorado State redshirt senior A'Jon Vivens, left, rushed for 324 yards for the Rams last season and has been named to the Wuerffel Trophy Watch List for this season. (Nathan Wright/Loveland Reporter-Herald)
After moving from receiver to running back prior to last season, Colorado State redshirt senior A’Jon Vivens, left, rushed for 324 yards for the Rams last season and has been named to the Wuerffel Trophy Watch List for this season. (Nathan Wright/Loveland Reporter-Herald)

As far as the other weapons in the backfield for the Rams, Vivens moved from receiver to running back prior to the 2021 season and was third on the team with 324 rushing yards. For the second year in a row, he has been named to the Wuerffel Trophy Watch list. Thomas rushed for 180 yards and two touchdowns last season.

The other four running backs on the roster include redshirt senior David Aggrey, redshirt freshmen Alex Berrouet and Mason Veve and true freshman Keegan Holles.

Bailey said they are all talented enough to start somewhere. Morrow added that there is plenty of friendly competition that goes on among the group.

“I love these dudes, man,” Morrow said. “I would go to war for them. I’m here for the team, not just a starting job. When one guy makes one big run, the next person wants to make a big run. If somebody makes a big block, another one wants to make a big block. We definitely feed off each other, keep that big energy going.”

Associate head coach Matt Mumme was quick to point out after the team’s second scrimmage of fall camp Wednesday how pleased he is with the group and how far they are coming along.

“The running back corps is solid,” Mumme said. “A’Jon has had a lot of game time and game experience. He has done a great job. Avery had played a lot, so we are excited about him, and then David has had a really nice transition from the spring to right now.”

Collectively, Morrow feels the group has a chance to be the best in the Mountain West Conference and beyond. They are looking forward to getting their first chance to shine, which will come in college football’s largest stadium Sept. 3 at Michigan.

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