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Houston adjusts to life as a backup for IU football

Fifth-year running back Stephen Houston transferred to IU during the 2011 season.
Since he’s been a Hoosier, he’s led the team in rushing attempts, touchdowns and yards.

But not this year. Now he’s a backup, which came as a surprise to him.

Sophomore running back Tevin Coleman was named the starter in August, but Running Backs Coach Deland McCullough said the staff knew Coleman would be the starter in the spring.

“Coach said we were neck and neck,” Houston said. “But at the same time, you can’t complain about it. So you got to go out there and control what you can control.”

Houston’s statistics are virtually identical for the past two years. In 2011, he averaged 67 rushing yards per game. In 2012 it was 62 yards per game. Through three games this year, the senior is averaging 65 rushing yards per game.

The difference is somebody’s ahead of him on the depth chart. Coleman is averaging 111 rushing yards per game and 8.1 yards per carry.

“You still have to be a great teammate,” Houston said. “I’m still cheering him on, asking him what is he seeing out there, so when I go out there, I will be able to pinpoint it and find it.”

Houston said he isn’t worried about who starts the game — he’s concerned about who finishes. McCullough said he shouldn’t worry about who starts the season either.

“Stephen has been around and seen how this thing goes around,” McCullough said. “Last three years he’s seen other guys start ahead of him. He kept on working. He won’t get in any funk because he’s been in this situation the last two years. He didn’t start the season the last two years.”

Last week against Bowling Green, Houston took advantage of the 13 carries he was given. He ran for 162 yards and broke big runs of 60 and 50 yards.

Coleman ran for 131 yards and two touchdowns. It was the first time in a decade two Hoosiers rushed more than 100 yards in a game. After the game, Coleman said he was happy for his teammate.

“I was happy for Steve because he’s my backup, and I was happy for him to go good,” he said. “He’s a competitor, and he’s good.”

Coleman had a career-high 19 carries compared to Houston’s 13.

Houston said he wants more.

“I may not be getting the carries that I want,” he said. “But at the same time, I have to make light of my opportunities.”

In an interview earlier this season, McCullough said Coleman was an A- player and Houston was a B player. He said Houston needs to run more like his weight.

“That’s been the challenge for Stephen,” McCullough said. “Can he consistently run like a 225-pound guy? (Coleman) is only 205-pounds and he runs big. Stephen’s challenge consistently has been to run hard. He doesn’t always run hard.”

Houston said is it up to the coaches who starts. He will prepare each week as though he’ll be the primary back.

But he said he is hesitant as to whether he should be the starter.

“That’s up to the coaches,” he said. “I’m just going out there and play hard. If they maybe go and start me later on down the road, that’s on them.”

Follow reporter Evan Hoopfer on Twitter @EvanHoopfer.

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