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Running backs

Standout running backs John Crockett of North Dakota State, left, and Marshaun Coprich of Illinois State will lead their teams against each other in the FCS national championship game at noon Saturday in Frisco, Texas.

FRISCO, Texas — All-American tailback Marshaun Coprich watches and studies the great runners throughout history.

"I look at Walter Payton, Ernie Davis, Gale Sayers, Barry Sanders, Jim Brown," Coprich said. "Everybody's style is a little different."

The Illinois State junior also has seen North Dakota State senior tailback John Crockett.

"I definitely appreciate him," said Coprich. "He's a tough runner. He's another good running back who is not really noticed out there. He's rushed for over 1,000 yards and taken his team to the national championship game. Doing that speaks for itself."

Crockett and Coprich will try to rush their teams to an FCS national championship Saturday when the Redbirds and Bison square off in a noon kickoff at Toyota Stadium.

Coprich has piled up school records of 2,168 yards and 27 touchdowns. Crockett has amassed 1,920 yards and 20 scores.

"You always have to appreciate another great talent, especially at the same position," Crockett said of Coprich. "I like to be a master of my craft. Seeing another player doing what he's doing is great.

"I've seen some highlights of him. If he goes off one week, I try to go off the next week. I compete with him a little bit. It's exciting to have two great running backs go head-to-head for the national championship."

NDSU coach Chris Klieman believes having quarterback Tre Roberson as a running threat as well makes Coprich even more dangerous.

"They make each other go. He (Coprich) has got unbelievable acceleration," said Klieman. "He breaks tackles, and he's got great vision."

ISU coach Brock Spack called the 5-foot-9, 205-pound Coprich "a great kid and an even better person than he is a player. He's really bought into this whole thing from top to bottom. He's really worked hard in the weight room."

Coprich and the 6-0, 215-pound Crockett are both durable. Coprich has 354 carries in 14 games and Crockett 346 attempts in 15 outings.

"The biggest thing is he's so versatile," Bison quarterback Carson Wentz said of Crockett. "The way our offense has evolved in large part is because of him. He can run between the tackles, he can run outside, he can run the zone play and we can split him out in the slot and play receiver.

"And he's done a tremendous job with pass protection as well."

Crockett has 495 yards and five touchdowns in three playoff games, while Coprich has totaled 485 and six TDs.

"It's just the hunger. You have the mentality this might be your last one," said Crockett. "You fight to live and play or you just die and you're done and go home."

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Reporter for Lee Enterprises Central Illinois.

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