Franchione sees 1,000-yard rusher in Aggies' future

Updated: August 14, 2003, 6:01 PM ET

COLLEGE STATION, Texas -- It's been four years since Texas A&M had a 1,000-yard rusher. Coach Dennis Franchione thinks it's time for another.

Franchione, beginning his first season at Texas A&M, has some potentially explosive choices -- complete with nicknames -- to get the Aggies running again after last season's rushing attack, which ranked 92nd in the nation.

They call themselves Derek "The Pounder" Farmer, Courtney "Cadillac" Lewis and Jason "Slasher" Carter and they are ready to fill the Aggies' quota for ground yards.

"At any time Derek, Courtney or myself can hit you for big plays," Carter said. "We call Courtney `Cadillac' because he's so smooth the way he runs and Derek he just pounds you and pounds you and then he breaks. I'm the `Slasher' because of my moves. It's hard to hit me at the line of scrimmage."

Franchione's desire for a 1,000-yard rusher has given them a goal.

"We tease each other about the nicknames but we back each other 100 percent," Carter said. "There is a lot of chemistry between us."

Maybe that should be 1,000 percent.

"We hope either all of us get 1,000 yards or at least two of us and the other will be close to it," Carter said. "We don't care who gets it, we just want to get the job done. We're going to have our chances."

Improving the Aggies running game is a high priority for Franchione.

"We haven't had a 1,000-yard rusher at A&M since 1998 and we need to have that again," Franchione said. "For us to become a really good offense, we're going to be able to utilize these receivers but there will come a time when we're going to run the football.

"When we get to that point, then we'll be even harder to defense."

Big time runners once were commonplace in the A&M offensive attack. In the 1990s, the Aggies had five 1,000-yard rushers and two others were close to that mark.

Dante Hall's 1,024 yards in 1998 was the last such performance.

Last season, the Aggies ranked ahead of only Baylor and Texas Tech in Big 12 rushing with 118.2 yards per game. Their 16 rushing touchdowns tied for 11th in the league with Baylor.

"To be a good offense you're going to have to have a good running game," quarterback Dustin Long said.

Farmer might have reached 1,000 yards last season had he not sat out two games with injuries. He gained 796 yards on 172 carries for an average of 73.9 yards per game.

"I don't set 1,000 yards as a goal," Farmer said. "We just all tend to help each other on and off the field, with our assignments to get better each day."

Running backs coach Lee Fobbs Jr. will decide how to use his talented group.

"I've known about Derek before coming here," Fobbs said. "He was a highly recruited kid coming out of high school and he's increased his strength level. We all know he's not a speed back but he's the type of back who can hang onto the football and keep the chains moving."

The new Aggies staff had two surprises in spring practice, Carter and Lewis. Carter fit perfectly into the A-back position, that utilizes his skills at several positions, including tailback. For Lewis, the light came on at tailback.

"We were very surprised this spring," Fobbs said. "I guess (Lewis) sort of saw his potential. He didn't know what he had and all of a sudden it came out this spring. I'm excited about him getting started.

"He's going to give us that little quickness out of the backfield, to hit the corners that we haven't had here in quite a while."

Fobbs likes the versatility of his runners.

"We're a multiple offense so we do a lot of things," Fobbs said. "It creates problems for a defense. We're able to change pace with our backs. We can come with a little more power and then we come with more finesse." ^Notes:@ The Aggies are continuing their search for ways to bolster their tight ends. Fullback Keith Joseph has taken some snaps at the position. Freshman tackle Jorrie Adams also has been worked into alignments involving two tight ends. ... Franchione has praised his entire freshman crop of offensive linemen, which includes Adams, Corey Clark, Kirk Elder, Cody Wallace and Chris Yoder.

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