Toledo running back Terry Swanson scores a 63-yard touchdown run last season against Bowling Green. BLADE/JEREMY WADSWORTH
University of Toledo senior running back Terry Swanson can see a little bit of himself in the rest of the Rockets’ stable of young running backs.
Just as Swanson took cues from Kareem Hunt and Damion Jones-Moore, he is now at the point of his career when he is ready to show the ropes to a young trio of backs eager to make their mark.
“It’s funny because I had to look up to Damion and Kareem and Marc Remy, and now it’s my turn to pass on those things that I learned to these guys,” Swanson said.
“Those guys really taught me a lot, and I appreciate what they did for me. It has elevated my game from when I was a young pup. I just have to thank those guys for setting the example of what it is like being a Toledo running back.”
In today’s college football environment, when it is impossible to get through a season with one running back and backfield duos are the new normal, the Toledo coaching staff believes it has a group of four backs to rely on this season.
Swanson is the veteran of the group that also features sophomore Art Thompkins and redshirt freshmen Nevone McCrimmon and Shakif Seymour.
“If anyone knows anything about football right now, you are going to have to use them all,” UT running backs coach Marquel Blackwell said. “My deal with all those guys is to make sure they are prepared and ready to go. I don’t worry about their work ethic and their skill set. They are all pretty good backs, and all of them complement each other in a different way.
“The big thing is that, at that position, you have to be ready to go, so we have to coach all of them as if they are starters.”
Swanson is back after three straight seasons of 500-plus rushing yards. In his breakout sophomore season, Swanson rushed for 923 yards and seven touchdowns. Now Swanson is ready for a feature role.
“You have to wait your turn and, now that it is my turn, I have to show what I can do,” Swanson said.
Thompkins burst onto the scene last year in his redshirt freshman season, flashing his big-play ability with 8.1 yards per carry in limited action.
“That’s just who I am,” Thompkins said of the big plays. “That’s just my identity. Of course, everybody is different. Everybody brings something else to the game. I take pride in my versatility and my style, so, I’m that guy with big-play ability. That’s me.”
In his second full year, Thompkins believes he is ready for an expanded role.
“I’m being called upon more, and it’s a bigger opportunity for me to step up and increase my role with the offense,” Thompkins said. “But, it’s one day at a time and taking the same approach to the game. It’s just football at the end of the day, but hopefully I have a big year.”
While Thompkins offers the explosive potential, Seymour projects as more of a power back. At 5 feet, 11 inches and 215 pounds, Seymour has a bruising style with enough speed to get past defenders.
“I’m a power back, but in the open field I can get loose as well,” Seymour said. “I feel like I can do both and be an every-down back. I’m just trying to get out here and show that No. 21 can play and that I can get on the field.”
McCrimmon is a do-it-all back who said he benefited from having his redshirt season last year.
“Last year, I was really just focusing on my body and just being ready when the opportunity came,” McCrimmon said. “I just really took advantage of every day that I could. I would say being a redshirt is a time for you to really get to learn what is going on and really get into the play book and take care of your body. I’m just looking to make a positive impact on the team in any way possible.”
From spring practices to summer workouts to fall camp, each of the four running backs has impressed with their work ethic and their ability to get along with each other.
“It’s a great group,” Thompkins said. “Everybody is humble and everybody is willing to learn from each other and take criticism. Nobody is just expecting a handout. Everybody is willing to work harder than the next man and perfect our craft with each other and push each other. We motivate each other to get better each day.”
Swanson knows this group will have a different feel than with Hunt and Jones-Moore in the mix last year. But he is ready to see what the young guys can do on the field.
“This group has definitely come a long way since spring and since camp,” Swanson said. “We have definitely grown and everybody has a different type of style.
“I believe whoever is in the game is going to bring something special to the group. We definitely have some young guys that can play. I can’t wait to see when their opportunity comes, to see what they do. I have full trust in them and they worked hard throughout the spring and summer and it’s going to be a good year.”