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Texas State running backs remain confident in the wake of Pare’s injury

Photo Courtesy of Texas State Athletics
Texas State redshirt junior running back Calvin Hill (11) carries the ball against Baylor, Saturday, Sept. 2, 2023, at McLane Stadium in Waco, Texas.

The Texas State football team entered the 2023-24 season with a big question mark at its running back position due to the unforeseen absence of its leading rusher from last season. 

Junior running back Lincoln Pare emerged late in the 2022-23 season as Texas State’s leading rusher, accumulating 772 yards on 172 carries. 

A bright spot on a team that had a down year, Pare anticipated a big season with the explosive offense of new head coach G.J. Kinne before suffering a season-ending ACL tear in July. 

Texas State running backs coach Eric Stephens, who was hired after previous coach Kam Martin accepted a job at the University of Central Florida in March, is very optimistic about the current state of the team’s running back room, including the injured Pare. 

“Lincoln is a great leader,” Stephens said. “Since he’s been out, he’s even stepped more into that role as a leader and tried to prepare those guys.”

Stephens coached two All-Conference running backs a year ago at Stephen F. Austin University, Jerrell Wimbley and Miles Reed, and is optimistic that the Bobcat backs can experience a similar season.

“That’s my hope,” Stephens said. “We have a lot of talent.”

Leadership for a team with many new faces is vital for success. Redshirt junior running back Calvin Hill is one of the few players on the roster who elected to return from last season’s team. 

After his 2022-23 season was cut short due to injury, Hill has found himself in a leadership role in the running back room, according to sophomore running back Ismail Mahdi. 

“Calvin Hill has played a big role,” Mahdi said. “He’s a great leader.”

It’s not just players who notice the role that Hill has taken in the absence of Pare. 

“Calvin is a different guy than he’s been in the past,” Stephens said. “He’s really stepped into that [leadership] role.”

Hill said he isn’t shying away from the new responsibility but instead embracing the opportunity.

“In the running back room, I feel like helping the guys that just got here. I feel like I can help them with the knowledge that I have,” Hill said. 

Mahdi has already capitalized this year on offense, scoring twice, a 10-yard touchdown pass, and a 65-yard touchdown run in the week one game against Baylor. Yet no running back has managed to separate themselves from the group. 

“Depends on who’s in the game,” Stephens said. “All those guys have good hands. That’s what I love about being here; we’ve got depth.”

Mahdi wasn’t the only running back in week one to show off his catching ability. Junior running back Donerio Davenport also scored a 27-yard receiving touchdown against Baylor. 

According to Hill, the Texas State running back group is deep and up to the challenge, and they don’t overcomplicate the job. 

“As a running back, you’re going to get the ball handed to you, and you’re going to get the ball thrown to you out of the backfield,” Hill said. “You see the hole, you hit the hole.”

The Bobcat running backs are off to a good start in making up for the loss of Pare. Aside from their ability to quickly adapt to Kinne’s offensive scheme, there’s no ego in the group. Hill said the general tone of the running back room is the atmosphere they’ve created.

“Everybody is always together,” Hill said. “Everybody always wants to see the next guy doing good.”

Hill said he feels he has something to prove after missing most of the 2022-23 season. 

“I got to show people I can play,” Hill said. “I can still ball at a high level.”

The current mentality of the Texas State running backs is to collectively replace the loss of Pare and make a statement.

“As a position group, our goal is to win a conference championship,” Stephens said. “Hopefully, have as many All-Conference guys in that room as possible.” 

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