Pair of running backs shoulder workload left by Ham
The running back position for the Augustana football team has been quite a story over the past year.
C.J. Ham, who led the NSIC in rushing last season, graduated and moved on to play for the other Vikings in the midwest, the Minnesota Vikings.
Ham signed with the team as an undrafted free agent in the spring but was released in the Vikings’ final round of cuts. They kept him around, though, signing him to the practice squad.
Ham averaged over 90 yards per game, had 16 touchdowns, and came up with big plays in big moments for Augustana during his senior season last year.
Augustana head coach Jerry Olszewski has used a platoon to fill Ham’s place two weeks into the season, with sophomore Caden Quintanilla and junior Jackie Davis splitting carries in the Vikings’ backfield. Redshirt freshman D.J. Luke has also gotten touches.
The two have found success.
Quintanilla ran 14 times for 72 yards and a touchdown in the season-opening win over Northern State. He also caught a touchdown. Davis ran 11 times for 55 yards and a touchdown.
Quintanilla gained 60 yards on nine carries during last weekend’s 63-0 blowout of U-Mary, while Davis ran seven times for 50 yards and three touchdowns.
Olszewski said that while Ham was a big part of the offense, the responsibilities, expectations and hopes are still the same for this year. Olszewski has been pleased with the performance of the two running backs thus far, saying they’ve shown “the productivity we need to be successful.”
Quintanilla and Davis both see advantages in splitting the work.
“If you have a workhorse in there, he’s going to get worn down after 10 or 15 carries,” Quintanilla said, adding that sharing the load keeps each player fresh.
Davis, though, said opponents have a harder time creating a gameplan for two running backs with different strengths and running styles.
Olszewski and Quintanilla also said that stature gives the two an advantage over Ham. The 5-foot-7 Davis and 5-foot-8 Quintanilla are harder to spot than Ham, who is 6-foot-1.
“(Ham is) a bigger back,” Quintanilla said. “Jackie and I are smaller guys, quicker.”
Davis and Quintanilla have shown they’re ready to take on the role and responsibility of replacing someone who’s in the NFL, now. They said their camaraderie is strong despite continually competing for playing time.
“Our (running backs) respect one another and want one another to be successful,” Olszewski said. “That means our team is doing good things.”
While neither Quintanilla nor Davis are on the NFL’s radar, the two have succeeded in helping Augustana move on from graduating the most dynamic rusher it’s ever seen.
And that’s all the Vikings need.
Augustana will host Minnesota-Crookston on Saturday at 1 p.m at Kirkeby-Over Stadium.