Positive storylines were few and far between in the 2012 college football season at Colorado, but running back Christian Powell was one of them.
Powell led the Buffs in rushing as a true freshman with 158 carries for 691 yards and seven touchdowns. Not bad numbers for a player who was recruited as a fullback.
His longest run of the year went for 64 yards and a touchdown and he had 19 runs of 10 yards or more.
Powell had a shot at surpassing the freshman rushing record at CU late in the year, but a concussion prevented him from playing in the season finale against Utah. That game and missing another game earlier in the season against Arizona State still frustrates him as the Buffs open preparations for the 2013 season with the start of fall camp.
"I'm still kind of upset that I missed it, but all I can do now is just build off it and stay healthy this season," Powell said.
Powell played in 10 games and made eight starts and there is no doubt who the starter is in the minds of a new coaching staff at the beginning of preseason practices.
"He goes into fall camp as the starting tailback and a guy who is a weapon and can do a lot of different things," CU running backs and tight ends coach Klayton Adams said. "He's just like everybody else in the group. He has some things he needs to work on and improve a lot for us to be really good, but he is a guy who can be a real weapon for us."
Powell reflects on the player he was a year ago at this time after a standout prep career in Upland, Calif., and he marvels at the difference. He's 6-foot and a solid 235 pounds, stronger and in better shape than ever. But the biggest changes are mental. He has loads of confidence now and believes he is capable of much bigger seasons to come.
"When you first come through it, you're a freshman," Powell said. "You're wide-eyed. You're like, 'Wow, this something completely new and completely different.' Now that I've been through it, you kind of know what to expect and you know how it's going to be, how your body is going to feel, how you're going to feel. It's always good to know what you're getting into instead of going into it learning as you go along."
Powell believes he can be an every-down running back in the CU offense this season, but he isn't sure coaches will use one player in that manner, with plenty of depth and divergent running styles among the available running backs.
He is competing to keep his starting job this month with Josh Ford, Tony Jones, Donta Abron, Malcolm Creer, Terrence Crowder, Phillip Lindsay and Michael Adkins. With that much talent at their disposal, why wouldn't coaches try to share the workload and try to prevent any of the running backs from getting too beaten up?
Powell caught only seven passes in 2012 and hopes to improve on that number as well, but that could be a role that goes to one of his teammates.
He is excited to see what he can do in the new offense that will feature the Pistol formation frequently. The Pistol gives the offense and running backs an advantage because it keeps defenders guessing as to which side the ball might be going.
"He is really intelligent," Adams said. "He's more explosive than he probably seems because he's a big guy and he doesn't seem like he's covering that much ground and sometimes people take bad angles on him.
"He's a tough runner. He's really smart and humble. He has a lot of different good attributes. It's not just one thing you point to with a lot of other guys in the conference and say, 'This guy is special or that guy is special because of that.' He is a bring-your-lunch-pail guy who shows up and works hard all the time. He's just really steady."
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