Training Days: Competition for backup running back heating up

Running back Leon Allen (33) during the second half of WKU’s 44-28 victory over Georgia State Saturday, Nov. 2, 2013, at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta, Ga.

Kyle Williams

WKU wrapped up its fourth fall camp session on Tuesday and running backs were the focus of the post-practice interviews.

Junior running back Leon Allen is the clear favorite to nod the starting job this season, but the Hilltoppers also boast a wealth of depth behind him.

Redshirt sophomore running back Anthony “Ace” Wales tallied 17 carries for 112 yards and two scores last season while redshirt sophomore Darmontre Warr also saw time as a reserve. WKU has also added freshman running backs Joe Brown and DeAndre Ferby, who are making an immediate impact according to running backs coach Greg Nord.

“Leon’s come into camp healthy, in shape and ready to go,” Nord said. “The good thing is there’s depth there – enough to compete. Whenever you have competition, you’re going to make sure you get better. Been real pleased with the way Ace (Wales) and (Darmontre) Warr have reported back to camp. They’ve obviously gotten the experience from spring…Throw in those two rookies with Joe Brown and (DeAndre) Ferby. Those guys are breathing down their neck and have a great deal of ability.”

Warr, a 5-foot 9-inch, 190-pound running back from DuPont Manual High School in Louisville, said the battle to back up Allen has every player giving it his best shot.

“I feel like it motivates us a lot because we’re forced to bring our ‘A’ game every day,” Warr said. “Whenever you’re in a game, the next guy to come in might not come out, so I feel like the competition level makes us better.”

On the other hand, Ferby, a three-star recruit and the Division II-AA Tennessee Mr. Football, said he idolizes the older running backs, but he’ll be content if his named is moved up the depth chart.

“I look up to all of them,” Ferby said. “Right now, my role is to have them feel me breathing on them to make them work even harder, and if I move up, then that’s what happens.”

With turnovers being the Achilles heel for the Hilltoppers last season, Nord said ball security has been a major factor of fall camp thus far.

“We sit there in our meeting rooms holding the football,” Nord said. “That’s one of the big things that’s a must for us in this offense and in the program in general because you look at last year’s flaws – that was one of them that kept us from being as good as we wanted to be.”

WKU will hold its fifth day of fall camp, which is open to the public, tomorrow from 4:30 to 6:30 inside Smith Stadium.