Da’Leon Ward Regaining Role In Texas Tech Running Back Rotation

FORT WORTH, TX - OCTOBER 29: Da'Leon Ward /

One of the breakout players this spring  for Texas Tech football has been running back Da’Leon Ward who is trying to regain the trust of the coaching staff after being forced to sit out last season.

Many tend to overlook the importance of the running back position to the Texas Tech “Air Raid” offense.  However, Kliff Kingsbury’s offense is not at its best without significant contributions from the tail-backs on the roster.

One running back has stood out thus far in spring practices and his making a name for himself; again.  Sophomore Da’Leon Ward has re-emerged as a potential cog in the running back rotation after a year away from the field.

Ward missed all of last season as the coaching staff made him redshirt to focus on academics and personal maturation.  Now, the Dallas, Texas native is turning heads and earning the praise of his coaches as he tries to earn playing time in the Red Raider offense.

In the team’s first practice of the spring last Saturday in Midland, Ward scored three touchdowns and picked up 79 yards rushing on 16 carries.  Ward’s work caught the eye of his head coach who has spoken highly of the 5-foot-10, 180-pound back this spring.

"Speaking about what he saw after watching the video of the scrimmage, Kingsbury specifically mentioned Ward’s production.  “I liked Da’Leon’s effort.  Da’Leon is a guy who’s gotten better.  He missed time, missed football time so getting the feeling back for running, finishing runs, I thought he did a nice job finishing forward on a lot of runs.  He, most of the time, took the ball where it was meant to go, so I’m excited about him.”"

The return of Ward could bolster a Texas Tech ground game that has struggled in recent years and is trying to replace 2017 leading rusher Justin stockton.  Two seasons ago as a true freshman, Ward led the team in rushing with 428 yards becoming the first true freshman to lead Texas Tech in rushing since 1999.

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Now, Ward is looking to work his way back into the mix and there are opportunities to be had.  Senior running back Trae King, the team’s leading returning rusher is being held out of spring practices for precautionary reasons after arthroscopic surgery on his knee meaning there is more work to be had for Ward and fellow running backs Desmond Nisby and DeMarcus Felton.

The repetitions are especially key for Wards this spring as he tries to work himself back into playing shape, now that it appears he has done the necessary work off the field.

"“He started a little rough.” Kingsbury said immediately following Saturday’s scrimmage.  “He’s not as big as we would have liked really, having a year away from football.  So we’re trying to put the weight back on him, get bigger, stronger, faster.  But he loves to play.  He won’t miss a play.  You gotta pull him out of there and that’s exciting for us.”"

With the addition of new offensive coordinator Kevin Johns, the running back position figures to be more prominent in the Texas Tech offense this fall.  While at Indiana in the same position, Johns fielded an offense that featured two 1,000-yard rushers in 2015.  Texas Tech, on the other hand has had just two such seasons from a running back since 1998 (DeAndre Washington in 2014-15).

Considering that whomever Texas Tech starts at quarterback this season is going to be inexperienced, the ground game could be a key for the offense, especially early in the season.  So having Ward back in the mix could be an extra benefit for the Red Raiders.

Still, the competition for carries will be tough.  In addition to the four running backs on campus, Texas Tech signed two more high school running backs in the 2018 class, Ta’Zhawn Henry and SaRodorick Thompson.

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But for now, Da’Leon Ward just needs to focus on himself.  By taking care of his business in the classroom, he is now in a place to contribute on the field again giving the Red Raiders more firepower at a position that has been severely lacking it for the past two seasons.