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Position preview: Running backs

Posted Jul 12, 2012

The Panthers have enjoyed the luxury of fielding two established, dynamic running backs for the past several years.

Now the team has added a formidable third option.

Former San Diego Charger Mike Tolbert signed with Carolina in the offseason, joining a backfield that already includes  DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart,  the franchise's top two runners of all time.

Tolbert brings a punishing running style to Carolina and enters the season as the club's only fullback. With his unique 5-9, 243-pound frame, Tolbert should play a key role in short yardage situations.

The aforementioned trio will carry the load with their diverse skill sets, but there are several others vying for an opportunity to provide depth behind them.

RETURNERS

DeAngelo Williams
Became the first player in franchise history to reach 5,000 career rushing yards in 2011 when he led the team with 836 yards and seven touchdowns on 155 attempts. ... Started the first six games of the 2010 season before being placed on injured reserve with an injured right foot. ... Ranked second on the Panthers with 1,117 yards in 2009 and became the first player in team history to have back-to-back 1,000-yard rushing seasons. ... Gained a team-record 1,515 yards in 2008.

Jonathan Stewart
Ranked second on the team with 761 yards and four touchdowns in 2011 to become the franchise's second all-time leading rusher. ... Finished second on the team with 47 receptions for 413 yards and one touchdown -- setting team records for the most catches and receiving yards in a season by a running back. ... Led the Panthers in rushing with 770 yards in 2010 and 1,133 yards in 2009, a career-high.

Josh Vaughan
Played in seven games for Carolina last season after spending the first nine games on the practice squad and gained 24 yards on seven attempts. ... Played in three games for the Panthers during the 2010 campaign and scored his lone NFL touchdown.


ROOKIES

Tauren Poole
Signed as an undrafted free agent out of the University of Tennessee, where he was a two-year starter. ... Played in 50 career games with 25 total starts as a Volunteer, amassing 1,898 rushing yards and 16 touchdowns.

Lyndon Rowells
Joined the club as an undrafted free agent after playing his final two collegiate seasons at Humboldt State. ... Started his college career at College of the Redwoods. ... Finished second in Humboldt State history with 2,725 rushing yards and first with 29 rushing touchdowns on 483 carries. ... Compiled a Great Northwest Athletic Conference record 14 100-yard rushing performances.


RECENTLY ROSTERED

Mike Tolbert
Played in 15 games in San Diego last season with one start. ... Finished second on the Chargers with 490 yards and eight touchdowns on 121 attempts. ... Ranked third with a career-high 54 receptions for 433 yards and two touchdowns. ... Led the Chargers with a career-high 735 yards on 182 carries in 2010 and rated sixth in the NFL that year with a career-high 11 rushing touchdowns.

Armond Smith
Claimed off waivers by Carolina after spending the 2011 season with the Cleveland Browns as an undrafted free agent. ... Named Mid-South Conference West Offensive Player of the Year as a senior at Union College in 2010 after setting school records with 1,376 rushing yards and 16 rushing touchdowns on 152 carries.


Panthers.com is taking a position-by-position look at the 90-man roster leading up to the start of the training camp, beginning earlier in the week with quarterbacks and wide receivers.