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Breaking Down the Minnesota Vikings’ Third-String Running Back Options

Yahoo Contributor Network

COMMENTARY | As the Minnesota Vikings head to San Francisco to take on the 49ers in their third preseason game, plenty of roster spots have yet to be decided with multiple battles still brewing.

The Vikings currently have a heated battle between four legitimate candidates to win the third-string running back spot.

Last season, second-year running back Matt Asiata manned the third-string running back position, spending most of his playing time on special teams. Now entering his third season in the league, Asiata has major competition fighting to take his job.

Matt Asiata: As previously mentioned, Matt Asiata was the Vikings' third-string running back last season. Asiata spent the 2011 season -- his rookie year -- on the Vikings' practice squad before winning over the third-string running back spot last year. With Adrian Peterson and Toby Gerhart ahead of him, Asiata spent most of his time on the bench, watching greatness unfold. This preseason, he has struggled to reclaim the third-string position as he continuously missed blocks against the Bills.

Preseason Stats: 6 rushes, 18 yards, 3.0 YPC average, 5-yard long

Joe Banyard: After spending last season on the Vikings' practice squad, Joe Banyard has had flashes in both training camp and preseason. Banyard stole the show late against the Buffalo Bills, rushing seven times for 47 yards and a touchdown. The second-year player out of UTEP has been the most impressive running back for the Vikings. To get noticed by the league MVP, Adrian Peterson, you must be doing something right. According to Brian Hall, Adrian Peterson has been impressed by Joe Banyard.

Preseason stats: 11 rushes, 55 yards, 5.0 YPC average, 38-yard long, 1 touchdown

Zach Line: Featured by the Vikings' website as a fullback, Zach Line will have a tough time beating out Pro-Bowl fullback Jerome Felton. Unless the Vikings plan on using two roster spots on fullbacks, it is beyond a reasonable doubt Line will need to make the team as a running back. That said, the talents of rookie Zach Line have been on display since the first week of the preseason when he took a dump-off pass from backup quarterback Matt Cassel 61 yards for a touchdown. Line could potentially be used as both a third-string running back and backup fullback, but his special teams play will ultimately help determine his fate.

Preseason Stats: 2 catches, 73 yards, 36.5 average, 1 touchdown

Bradley Randle: One of the most intriguing and fun players to watch, undrafted rookie running back Bradley Randle is one of the toughest players on the team. At only 5 feet 7 inches, Randle isn't afraid to get down and dirty, throwing blocks on the biggest defensive lineman. The combination of size and speed remind people of Saints running back Darren Sproles, but Randle still has a lot to prove before he can accurately draw those comparisons. Randle is a great change-of-pace back in the Vikings' offense that features MVP Adrian Peterson and former Heisman runner-up Toby Gerhart.

Preseason Stats: 5 rushes, 18 yards, 3.6 YPC average, 8-yard long

Dennis Parsons is a Minnesota-area sportswriter covering the Minnesota Vikings for Vikings Central. He previously covered all Minnesota professional sports teams for Minnesota Sports News Nightly. You can email him at or follow him on twitter @Parsons_VC.

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