CORVALLIS (AP) – Toughness.
Oregon State junior running back Terron Ward displays both attributes on the football field. And it’s a big reason why coach Mike Riley said prior to fall camp that Ward is one of the best football players we have.
He has the ability to find the hole and keep his legs moving, fellow running back Storm Woods said. Not a lot of wasted movement. He’s a north-south guy. And he’s strong. (He has) breaking tackles ability, he can catch. He’s a great all-around running back.
Ward said his toughness, which he listed as his best attribute, comes from the position he plays.
As a running back, you’ve got to be tough, he said. They say this is the toughest position to play. Being a tough guy, I’ve got to use my shoulders, use my thighs. I’m a real compact runner so I like to bounce off blockers and break tackles.
Ward, who is listed at 5-foot-7 and 200 pounds, needs that toughness going against defenders who are at times much bigger than he is.
Most of our linemen are 6-2, 6-3, so when I’m coming through the hole, linebackers and safeties probably don’t see me until I’m in their face so it gives me a little advantage, Ward said. “I will take that. I don’t have to be the 6-foot running back that everybody wants but it’s an advantage and disadvantage but I’ll take my advantage as they come.
Being smaller in stature may be part of the reason Ward didn’t receive many Division I offers coming out of powerhouse De LaSalle High in Concord, Calif. That despite a senior season in which he set a single-season school record for yards rushing (2,050) and touchdowns (28).
He gladly accepted an offer from OSU and entered school for winter term in 2011 as a greyshirt.
The lack of offers just served as motivation.
“I’ve had a chip on my shoulder since I’ve been here,” he said. “I am not having those (recruiting offers) that I thought I should have had. But things work out how they’re supposed to work out and God has a plan and I just come out here every day and work my butt off every day and on Saturdays play as good as I can and we’ll see how it turns out.”
Ward injured his knee in spring practice and needed arthroscopic surgery.
He was back in fall camp, but fellow freshman Malcolm Agnew got the nod as the starter. Ward did rush for 211 yards on 63 attempts and scored one touchdown while making three starts.
Last season, Woods won the starting job and had a breakout season. Ward added 415 yards on 68 carries and six TDs.
“When I came here as a freshman we had a question mark who’s going to be the running back,” Ward said. “I wasn’t ready then. Last year I came in and I still wasn’t ready until midseason.”
That is because Ward was battling a hamstring injury last season and said it took a few games until he felt up to full speed.
He showed what he could do when he filled in for an injured Woods last season against Arizona State. Ward had 19 carries for 146 yards, including a 53-yard touchdown run to help the Beavers to a come-from-behind 36-26 win over the Sun Devils.
“You have to wait patiently for your opportunity,” Ward said. “Don’t be a distraction to the team. When Storm went down for the Arizona State game, I got my opportunity. You know you have to make the most of it and that’s what I did.”
Many players would be frustrated, feeling they are a capable starter but having to play behind someone else. “That’s not the case for Ward,” he said.
“It’s not frustrating at all. Storm is a good player, he plays a lot and plays well,” Ward said. “When I come in, I have to do what I do and produce on the field. Like I said, it doesn’t matter who starts as long as you get in for those 60 minutes and do what you need to do. It doesn’t matter if you start the game or end the game ... as long as you are producing, I feel like that is what matters the most.”
What also matters is doing whatever he can to help the team win.
And that is where his versatility comes into play. He is a starting caliber running back who has the ability to run, block and catch passes. He also doesn’t mind playing on any of the special teams.
He had 17 kickoff returns for 382 yards last season.
“In the game of football, you want to be as versatile as possible,” Ward said. “I just don’t want to be a running back, I just don’t want to be a blocker, just don’t want to run. I want to do everything I can. I want to receive kicks, receive punts, get on punt team, go cover some punts. Get on kickoff team and go cover some kicks. Just being in the game as much as I can and being a big part of the team. When you’re that much a part of the team on all those teams, you’re a big, big piece of the puzzle that goes along to this team.”
“I am just grateful I can produce that much on the field.”
But it is in the backfield where Ward could make the biggest difference, helping to anchor a running game that could be poised for a strong season.
“This year we’ve got a strong group,” Ward said. “Me, Storm, Chris (Brown), Damien (Haskins), we have a strong group and each player can contribute to the team, if not on offense then on special teams. This group is special like (running backs) coach (Chris) Brass(field) said. We have a close-knit room. We love each other to the fullest and it’s really exciting.”