There are no mixed emotions about winning the Rose Bowl for Ed Wesley. A victorious TCU was the only thing he cared about. But being hobbled by an injured ankle for the crowning moment to a 13-0 season was agonizing for the junior, nonetheless.
"It hurt so bad [emotionally], but I understood that our team has to win this game," Wesley said of his curtailed performance in the Frogs' Rose Bowl win in January. "It was a very important game, so if that means you have to step down and let someone who is 100 percent go, that's what you have to do to win."
Making way for other backs in the Frogs' backfield doesn't come easily to Wesley, who became the first TCU back to rush for more than 1,000 yards (1,078) since Robert Merrill in 2003. Coach Gary Patterson's philosophy to keep the running back rotation spinning smoothly from spring to August and into the season has paid huge dividends the past two seasons.
And in the Rose Bowl, with Wesley nursing an injury sustained two months earlier -- Oct. 30 at UNLV -- the Frogs were able to rely on Waymon James and Matthew Tucker to supplement nine carries by quarterback Andy Dalton.
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"Two of them went down today," Patterson said after Saturday's practice, referring to brief injuries to Aundre Dean and freshman Ethan Grant. "So that's what has to happen."
Wesley tried to ignore the injury late last season, but only had one carry against San Diego State on Nov. 12. Against New Mexico in the regular-season finale, Wesley rushed for 77 yards on 11 carries but did not play most of the second half.
"I didn't want to stop," Wesley said. "Sometimes you have to be smart about things, and I don't think I was."
Wesley took it slow during the spring and says he is fully recovered. It looks that way after three practices. Wesley, along with James, made several nice runs Saturday.
"It only makes you better to have everyone in the backfield coming back and have them as good as they are," he said. "It will show who works hard, in the end. You have a group of guys that were recruited because they were skillful. In the end, it will be the guy who really wants it the most."
Even with Dwight Smith no longer in the picture, Wesley knows with Tucker, James and Dean all returning, the competition for carries will be as tough as ever. Smith, a highly regarded redshirt freshman from Carthage High School, transferred to Navarro Junior College in late spring because of academic issues.
Wesley is second in career yards-per-carry with 6.43 during the Patterson era. His 1,078 yards were the ninth most in school history.
He'd love to rush for another 1,000 yards in 2011, but Wesley is more concerned with other numbers.
"A good season for Ed Wesley, stat-wise, would have to be 13-0," he said. "[Last season's statistics and records] are all nice to talk about, but I could have 500 yards and 13-0 again would be special."
Stefan Stevenson, 817-390-7760