ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- When Denver Broncos running backs coach Eric Studesville looks at the players in the position group's meeting room, he is reminded how different they are from the groups he has coached in any of his 17 previous NFL seasons. "Youngest ever," Studesville said. " ... Youngest group I've ever had and I'm not sure it's that close to anything else I've been a part of in the league."
The Broncos have seven running backs on their training camp roster. Ronnie Hillman, who was one of the youngest players in the 2012 draft, is just 22 years old. But entering his third NFL season means he is also the grizzled veteran of the group. Even the starter, Montee Ball, is entering just his second season after being the Broncos' second-round draft pick in 2013. Otherwise there is C.J. Anderson, entering his second season, Jerodis Williams, who spent time with the Minnesota Vikings as a rookie in '13 and three undrafted rookies in Juwan Thompson, Kapri Bibbs and Brennan Clay.
It all means Studesville, who calls the group "sharp, really sharp mentally," has had to adjust how he teaches the Broncos' voluminous playbook -- a no-huddle offense that runs at whatever speed quarterback Peyton Manning wants to run it.
"What I've tried to do, even be more conscious of, is not take anything for granted," Studesville said. "You've got go back to the beginning ... we've got to talk about everything from Square One. So when you put in a protection, you've got to talk about all the adjustments, you can't just assume he's going to get it."
It comes to light since Ball will miss some time after undergoing an appendectomy Monday. Ball will be held out of the Broncos' first two preseason games and is a significant question mark for the third preseason game as well. So, in essence the other kids will have to be all right. "We all have to pick it up with Montee out for a bit," Anderson said.
Overall, the structure of the roster also means there isn't really a go-between from Studesville to the players at running back. In 2011 and 2012 Willis McGahee, who had played for Studesville in Buffalo, could help the younger players along. And last season it was Knowshon Moreno who was the veteran player in the room.
For the current group Ball has a mature presence about him and is often seen during practice trying to help some of the others with assignments. "It is a younger group," Ball said recently. "But we all know we have to approach our jobs like professionals. We're all here for a reason and we have to go about our business in a way that helps all of us and I think we're doing that."
"It makes it fun to go back to the beginning because now you've got to kind of defend all your techniques and philosophies," Studesville said. " ... I love going back and teaching the basics."