The University of Central Arkansas running backs, in the shadow this season with no appreciable previous totals, are now hogging an ever-widening spotlight.
The Bears have had two different and contrasting 100-yard-plus rushers in two weeks. Freshman Carlos Blackman did it two weeks ago against Samford. Senior Antwon Wells was the main guy Saturday in the 24-10 victory over Northwestern State.
At various times, Darrien Daniels, Kelton Warren and Jarvis Cooper have been utilized.
"It’s a teamwork competition," said UCA coach Steve Campbell. "They were tickled to death to see the success Antwon had because they have seen how he has work rehabbing (a knee injury). They are pulling for each other. It was Antwon’s turn last week."
Campbell has been excited with the steady rotation of backs used by new running backs coach Larry Warner.
"We go with the hot hand," Campbell said. "If a guy makes a play, give it to him again. We tell all our backs that "your number will be called; it will be called. Be ready."
Wells, who rushed for 129 yards on 25 carries against Northwestern, has a special place in Campbell’s heart dating from the days he coached him at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College.
"He was pretty well recruited. With three games to go his sophomore year in junior college, he tore an ACL," Campbell said. "Normally, when you do that, you’re through for the season. When the doctors examined him, they told him he had tremendously strong thigh muscles and they were strong enough on that leg that he could finish the year if he wanted.
"Nine out of 10 guys would have opted for surgery. But he chose to play the rest of the season, and the playoffs, with a torn ACL. After the season, I took this job, his recruiting had fallen off but I brought him here because I knew what a soecial player he was.
"He came here and first had to rehab. Then, we were loaded in the backfield, first with Willie Matthews, then Blake Veasley emerged last season.
"But I was always pulling for Antwon because I knew his work ethic and toughness.I saw how he had worked during rehab and how he had run bleachers to get that leg stronger."
And another special aspect about Wells that has made Campbell proud.
"He will finish his degree this semester," he said.
Warner, who joined the UCA staff last spring from Southern Illinois, is a energetic, constantly "roll em in" type of coach.
And the running back position, a perceived weakness in the spring, has turned into an early strength with depth.
"At any point any one of them could step forward and have an explosive day," he said. "And so far, somebody has always stepped up."
(Sports columnist David McCollum can be reached at 501-505-1235 or firstname.lastname@example.org)