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Hopes on Mike Ford running high

Could it be the heir apparent to Andre Hall was just one year away?

After an impressive showing in Saturday’s Spring Game, Mike Ford showed flashes of becoming the go-to back that Hall was. Ford finished the game with 55 yards on eight carries and one touchdown.

Now, I understand there is only so much that can be taken away from a glorified scrimmage, but Ford’s first impression gives USF fans something to be excited about. He showed power, speed and change of direction – all the skills Hall was famous for.

After the Bulls had a patchwork situation at the running back position last season, Ford has what it takes to be the starter when the season begins. His 6-foot-2, 210-pound frame makes him durable to carry the ball 15 or 20 times per game.

A solid running game is something the Bulls offense desperately needs to keep sophomore quarterback Matt Grothe healthy. Grothe took too many unnecessary hits last season running the ball and will need to hand the ball off more this season.

That’s where Ford comes into play.

Ford is the type of running back that can be a 100-yard threat in every game, which gives the Bulls another threat to go with Grothe. Ford also seemed to get stronger with every carry during the Spring Game and coach Jim Leavitt wants a running back that can eat up time late in a game.

Leavitt’s Ford impressed him after the Spring Game, which is hard to do. Leavitt rarely shows approval – especially with incoming players – but had plenty to say about Ford.

“He’s had a real good last two weeks, and I think he’s starting to run with more confidence,” Leavitt said Saturday. “You saw what could happen if the lights turned on. He’s only going to get better. If he grabs ahold … he could be that good. There are signs there that show that.”

Ford’s best run of the Spring Game set up the only touchdown for the Green Team, a four-yard touchdown run by Ford. Ford ran 26 yards, showing his cutback ability and his 4.5 speed in breaking away from potential defenders.

It was what Ford did at the end of the run that drew cheers from the crowd. Ford didn’t run out of bounds as Louis Gachette pursued him – he lowered his shoulder and lowered the boom on Gachette.

That kind of attitude running the ball is what this offense needs to compete for a Big East championship. Ford is just another piece of the puzzle as the Bulls look to become a serious contender in their third season in a BCS conference.

Ford has to be the front-runner to start at running back in what has become a deep position. With an equally impressive showing by Aston Samuels (14 carries, 58 yards) and Shawn Cannon (eight carries, 47 yards), Ford definitely has competition for the starting position.

The battle, however, is Ford’s to lose and it doesn’t look like he’s ready to take a seat after having to wait a year and a half to get back on the field. Grothe should get used to handing the ball off to Ford and doing it quite often.