With the departure of senior running backs Jordan Robinson and Demetrius Warren, Sacramento State brought in three high school running backs on National Signing Day to compete next season.
Last year, Robinson and Warren combined for 1,499 rushing yards, 15 rushing touchdowns and tallied up more than 40 percent of Sac State’s total offense. With only two underclassmen running backs on their roster, the Hornets’ recruiting staff knew the void needed to be filled.
“It was a point of emphasis going into the offseason,” Sac State running backs coach James Montgomery said. “We had to address the need at the position.”
The three running backs who committed to Sac State on Feb. 1 were Elijah Dotson, Erick Buchanan and Montaz Thompson. The trio combined for 5,721 rushing yards and 72 touchdowns during their senior campaigns.
“Obviously they have some pretty big shoes to fill,” Sac State recruiting coordinator and tight ends coach Fred Kelley said. “But all of them bring something different to the table and it will be exciting to watch them compete.”
Dotson, a local standout from Antelope High School, gained 2,223 total yards, scored 25 rushing touchdowns and earned a spot on the first team All-Metro by the Sacramento Bee last season. Dotson is listed at 6-foot-1 and was described as the “more physical runner” of the trio by both Kelley and Montgomery.
“We went after Dotson because we didn’t want to lose out on the top running back in Sacramento,” Montgomery said. “He’s stronger than he looks — pound for pound I think he’s the strongest one (of the three).”
Buchanan, a 5-foot-9 back out of Madison High School, led all of San Diego County last season with 2,162 all-purpose yards and helped his team win a California state division 2-AA title that was played at Hornet Stadium.
“Buchanan catches the ball really well out of the backfield,” Montgomery said. “He excels running between the tackles and has good straight-ahead speed.”
Thompson, who was ranked as the third best running back in Northern California by battleprepwest.com, ran for 1,630 yards on the ground and 27 touchdowns despite playing only nine games at Pittsburg High School last year. Standing at 5-foot-9, Thompson is the more elusive of the three newcomers with breakaway speed and dangerous return skills.
“He’s a quickster,” Kelley said after watching tape of Thompson. “He’ll make the defender in the hole miss every time.”
Thompson was quick in his decision to commit to Sac State after a couple campus visits.
“The campus really caught my attention,” Thompson said, reflecting on the factors that led to his decision. “That and the current players’ positive outlook despite (the last) two down years.”
Along with the three high school running backs, Sac State has also brought in Joseph Ajeigbe, a graduate-student transfer from Duke University. With only one year of eligibility left, Ajeigbe brings a veteran presence at the position next year to help guide the young backs.
Ajeigbe joins sophomores Quincy Jountti and Ernie Timoteo as the only backs with collegiate experience heading into next season. Despite this experience, Montgomery said it will be an open competition for the starting spot at running back.
“I can’t hand the keys to anyone just yet,” Montgomery said. “Those guys will share the reps during spring ball, but in the summer when we begin fall camp, we are going to give the young guys reps as soon as they get here.”
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