Lester Erb joined the staff from Nevada on January 5 in an enviable position due to the wealth of experience in his running backs unit. Erb previously spent 13 years at Iowa, the last five of which were coaching the running backs. He answered questions for the media on Friday, two weeks before the season kicks off at home against Washington.
On Trey Sneed:
“This guy is playing with confidence right now. He has jumped into the mix.” “He has done a good job throughout camp. I think it’s because he understands he belongs at this level, he’s not a freshman anymore.” “He knows how we operate and how playing Big Ten football operates.”
On true freshman Raheem Blackshear:
“Raheem is one of those guys that comes in as a true freshman, which is rare, he’s mature. He picks things up well, he understands the concepts.” “Obviously, he is talented young man, but as we go we will see what his role is on the offensive side of the ball. He brings a different skillset to that position.”
On Gus Edwards’s speed:
“Gus can run, you wouldn’t expect a guy his size to have the speed that he does and the quickness he does. He can run.”
On Robert Martin:
“Rob has had a tremendous last couple days of camp. The one thing with Rob, he’s a veteran guy who’s been around, he’s been through it, he doesn’t make many mental mistakes at all. He runs physical, he understands camp and how to play at this level. He jumped in there and did a great job for us this past week.”
On keeping 5 running backs happy:
“No, I don’t worry about it because I really believe the culture in that room is they are happy for another guy’s success. It really doesn’t matter who’s getting the ball for the carries. A great example was the other day in the scrimmage when one guy scored and the other 5 or 6 guys were down there the first guys coming out. and that tells you They are all rooting for each other. They are all about the team, they are rooting for each other. Whoever has the hot hand has the hot hand and everybody understands that”
On Josh Hicks:
“Josh had had a good camp. He has been limited a little.” “He jumped in and had a big run the other day. He’s another guy who has been through it and understands it. He’s had a good camp.”
On what stood out in today’s practice:
“We had a few mistakes we have to get cleaned up.” “That’s first and foremost. But the one thing with this group is they compete. That’s what you’re looking for in camp.” “This group of running backs has tried to get better every day.”
In pass protection and playing out of the backfield:
“They are doing a great job, they really are. In blitz pickup they have had a good camp there. And then we have some guys in that room that can catch the ball coming out of the backfield.” “I’ve been pleased with them.”
Coach Erb is very focused on his unit. He acknowledged mistakes as his first takeaway from practice, but big picture indicated how hard the group works to get better. The other key is how team-oriented the group is.
Erb’s demeanor is very serious and matter of fact, much like Coach Ash, as he did not deviate from the content of the specific questions asked whatsoever. Nothing he said today really hinted on who will get the bulk of the playing time whether it be carrying the ball or in passing situations. He had positive things to say about each student-athlete which you would expect from their position coach. Since they have all done well in practice, Coach Erb and Coach Kill as the offensive coordinator likely have some idea what players will be used in certain packages, but the breakdown of base offense reps is likely still to be decided.
Look for more running back chatter and our take on the upcoming season as we continue our positional previews with the running backs group.