Colorado RB Stewart taking control of backfield

BOULDER, Colo. -- Rodney Stewart’s 2009 wasn’t ideal. His team won just three games. He suffered an ankle injury against Kansas and had to miss time after a hamstring injury early in the season.

But the Colorado running back still rushed for more than 800 yards and scored nine touchdowns, both career highs. This offseason, the Buffaloes talented backfield thinned out with the departures of running backs Demetrius Sumler and Darrell Scott, who came to Colorado ranked No. 9 in the 2008 ESPNU 150 and the No. 2 running back.

“I’m the most experienced [running back], so I kind of feel like a leader,” Stewart said.

The junior known around Boulder as “Speedy” could be a key cog in the Colorado offense.

This spring, with just four running backs practicing, Stewart isn’t getting as much action as he’d want. That will change soon.

“You always want to get the ball to your playmakers, so we try, whether you want to hand it to him or throw it to him, and he’s been doing a good job in the return game, too,” said Colorado coach Dan Hawkins. “He’s good with the ball in his hands, so we’ll try to get the ball to him.”

And with Hawkins’ commitment to get him the ball, combined with Scott and Sumler freeing up 59 carries from a season ago, Stewart's 198 carries could rise.

Stewart said he was “disappointed” his friends chose to leave the program, but understood they wanted to make an impact elsewhere.

Stewart caught just 12 passes in 2009, and that number should rise, too.

“This spring I’m focused on catching the ball out of the backfield, completing all my pass blocks, whether its cutting the guy and getting him down or lighting him up,” Stewart said. “We’ve done a lot more screens in practice, and they’re getting the ball to me a lot more on spot routes. Behind the line of scrimmage and things like that.”