Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
So, you finally get your chance to start after three years, and all you do is become the 10th player in school history to run for 1,000 yards. You rush for 100 yards or more seven times, including six straight games. You go into your senior season picked as a first team all-conference running back.
And your reward for all that? You are expected to share running back duties and perhaps not even start.
That's the situation Eddie Wide finds himself in as he enters his fourth season at Utah. You might expect at least a little bitterness, but Wide doesn't show a trace of resentment about the fact that he'll share time with Matt Asiata, who is back after a season ended by injury for the second time in three years.
"Oh, it doesn't bother me at all," said Wide. "I love it. He's a power back and I'm a speed back. No team can get ready for a speed back and a power back. With a change of pace, it's going to be hard for anyone to stop.
"We also have Shak (Sausan Shakerin) and (Tauni) Vakapuna to help us out. It's going to be a good committee right there. I'm a team player and I'm willing to do whatever I have to do to help the team out."
Asiata has gone into each of the past three seasons as the starting running back or co-starter. In 2007, he went down with a broken leg in his first game at Oregon State. He shared duties in 2008 with Darrell Mack, who, like Wide, was coming off a 1,000-yard season. Then last year, Asiata went down in the fourth game with a torn ACL, which many thought might end his collegiate career.
However, he was granted another year of eligibility by the NCAA and he gratefully accepted it.
"To get on the field again is a blessing," he said. "Not that many kids have that blessing to play D-I college football, and I got that chance."
Asiata certainly isn't expecting to be handed the starting job after what Wide did last year, when he ran for 1,069 yards after he took over the starting role.
"Eddie took over well and picked up the sword when a soldier went down," Asiata said. "I've got a lot of respect for Eddie Wide."
"It will work out fine," said second-year running backs coach Aaron Alford. "It worked out well with Darrell Mack and Matt Asiata two years ago."
This year is actually a very similar situation to 2008, when Mack and Asiata came into the season as co-starters after Mack had taken over for Asiata in 2007 and rushed for 1,204 yards. But Asiata got more of the carries and, later in the season, Mack showed his displeasure with his diminished role.
However, both players insist there won't be any problems this year.
"We've got a lot of weapons with Eddie, Shak, Tauni and me," said Asiata. "It doesn't matter who gets the ball, we're all going to work hard."
"No position has been set, so everyone has to come out and do their best and work for a position," said Wide. "If they tell us they want all four of us in the game, we're going to jump in there."
It's unlikely all four will be in the game at the same time, although it is likely that Wide and Asiata will be in the backfield together at times.
"Yeah, we're going to play them together," said co-offensive coordinator Aaron Roderick. "That's not a secret. We'd be dumb not to. They're two of our best players, so you'll see them on the field together at times."
Roderick insists the Utes won't be trying something radically different from the one-back set they've used for years.
"It's not going to be a drastic departure from what we've done in the past," he said. "We just have to find ways to use our personnel and get our best players on the field. This year that happens to include a nice stable of running backs."
Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham looks at it as a good problem to have, with two talented players that can carry the load at running back.
"It's very difficult to get through a season with one running back, as we found out last season when we lost Matt and Eddie had to step in," he said. "We're going to utilize both of them. We'll have ways to get them both their share of touches. They're both very unselfish and team guys, so I don't see an issue with that."
The Utes have had 10 1,000-yard rushers in history, and coach Alford doesn't see why both Wide and Asiata couldn't reach that magic number this year, even if it's only been done by 49 teams in NCAA history.
"I'm thinking a thousand, thousand," Alford said. "If you're a running back, that's one of your goals. Guys want to be in the thousand club. How great would that be, if we were able to get that done."
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