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But this could be the year OSU has two 1,000-yard rushers

by: TRIBUNE FILE PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER ONSTOTT - Terron Ward, rushing in last year's Civil War game with Oregon, is one of at least two players in line for major carries as the Oregon State Beavers go through spring practices and look ahead to the 2013 season.CORVALLIS — Nobody can accuse Terron Ward of setting a goal too low for next season.

“Me and Storm (Woods) both want to go for 1,000 yards,” says Ward, Oregon State’s backup running back.

That would represent a sizable step up — as well as set a precedent — for the OSU running game.

Last season, Woods rushed for 940 yards (and 13 touchdowns) as a redshirt freshman while Ward, then a sophomore, gained 440 yards and scored six TDs in a reserve role.

As a team, the Beavers picked up 1,919 yards rushing, minus 302 yards in sacks, team losses and a punt miscue. That was a step up from the sorry 2011 campaign, when the rushing numbers were 1,247 minus sacks and team losses.

Oregon State has had 15 1,000-yard rushers, but never two in a single season. Only twice has a second back gained as many as 600 yards — Patrick McCall (658) in 2000, when Simonton was the team leader with 1,559, and the estimable Billy Main (634) in 1968, when Bill “Earthquake” Enyart ran for 1,304 in just 10 games.

Coach Mike Riley always sets a goal of 1,800 rushing yards in the 12 regular-season games — an average of 150 per contest. Much of Oregon State’s ground success will be determined by the work of the offensive line, which returns four starters from a year ago, and tight ends such as Connor Hamlett and Caleb Smith.

The rest will come from the work of the running back corps, led by Woods and Ward and including redshirt freshman Chris Brown and perhaps even a pair of incoming freshmen out of Texas, Damien Haskins and Lawrence Mattison.

Given good health, Woods stands a good chance to become OSU’s eighth 1,000-yard back. The 6-foot, 195-pound native of Pflugerville, Texas, who also caught 38 passes for 313 yards a year ago, has come to spring practices after an offseason of conditioning “a little quicker, a little stronger,” according to running backs coach Chris Brasfield.

“Storm has some instincts, some things you can’t coach,” Brasfield says. “He has great vision. He works hard at it. He’s humble. He goes after it, he has fun out here and it’s contagious.

“Both Storm and Terron had a pretty good offseason. You can see some of the gains out on the practice field.”

Ward will do a little bit of everything for the Beavers next fall, including cover duty on special teams as well as in the return game.

“I’m just a worker,” the 5-7, 200-pound Antioch, Calif., native said. “Whatever I can do to help the team, that’s what I’m going to do. I’m good in a lot of things, but not great at anything.”

Ward is probably OSU’s best pass-protecting back.

“I know what I’m doing, so it makes it easier to block,” he says. “I know the offense very well, so I know who to block.”

The 5-10, 200-pound Brown is an intriguing prospect who rushed for 5,018 yards and 65 TDs in his three-year prep career in Fresno, Calif.

“Chris is growing,” Riley says. “There are some things daily I see that I really like about him. He’s a very smooth runner, deceptively fast. As he gets a little bigger and stronger, he’ll be a good player.

“He has a lot to learn, but this spring will have been good for him. We’ll see how he does in (August training) camp. He should take a step up.”

While Woods seems destined to get the majority of the work, he won’t be the workhorse in the tradition of past greats of the Riley era such as Ken Simonton, Steven Jackson, Yvenson Bernard and Jacquizz Rodgers.

“It looks now like we will, in some fashion, play two guys,” Riley says. “Storm and Terron both played last year. They’re both having great springs. They’ll both have the opportunity to play a lot.”

That seems fine with Woods, who holds plenty of respect for Ward.

“I know I can be ‘the’ guy, but when the backup is as good as Terron, you want him on the field, too,” Woods says. “When I’m tired, get some fresh legs in there. (Ward) runs hard. He sees the holes. We both can be premier backs. It’s probably best to go to a two-back system.”

Brown will have to fight off the challenge of at least the 5-9, 215-pound Haskins — who already has been accepted in school and will arrive in July — during August camp.

“Damien absolutely could figure in next season,” Riley says. “He’ll come in and get some turns. He’s a smart, productive kid with pretty good size. We have to take a look at that.

“We’re pretty well set with our first two guys. We want Chris to step up into the group that will play. I don’t know if I have any hopes (about Haskins). I’m just anxious to see how it fits. I suppose it would be nice if he could redshirt. If he fits in immediately, just like other running backs have done, he might play as a freshman.”

As for the 6-1, 225-pound Mattison, OSU coaches won’t find out until “way into the summer” whether he will qualify academically, Riley says. There is a chance Mattison will grayshirt.

No matter, the running back position seems solid for next season.

“They all have great attitudes,” Brasfield says. “It’s been fun. I have a pretty good group.”

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Twitter: @kerryeggers

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