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2012 Denver Broncos Training Camp Preview: Running Backs


In 2011 the Denver Broncos lead the entire league with 2632 yards rushing, averaged 4.8 yards per carry and totaled 11 touchdowns. Leading the team in yards was running back, Willis McGahee who totaled 1199 yards and 4 touchdowns. Quarterback Tim Tebow also carried the ball for 660 yards and 6 touchdowns.

Returning to the Broncos this year will be 2011 starter Willis McGahee, former 1st round pick Knowshon Moreno, Lance Ball, Jeremiah Johnson and the promising youngster Mario Fannin. Some new faces will compete for playing time this year, most notably 3rd round pick Ronnie Hillman and recently acquired Chris Gronkowski.

Willis McGahee

#23 / Running Back / Denver Broncos



Oct 20, 1981


2011 rushing leader for the Broncos, returns in 2012 hoping to improve on his good 2011 campaign. McGahee will probably get less touches this year, but i still expect him to be the starter for most of the year, if healthy. One problem going against him, is that he'll be turning 31 in October. Running Backs over the age of 30 usually decline quickly. It will be interesting to see if production declines or not this season. Also, while he isn't "injury prone" per-say, he did have alot of small nagging injuries in 2011, which kept him out of a few games, so that will be another thing to pay attention to as the season goes on.

I expect to see McGahee be productive this year, but not nearly as productive as he was last year. He will probably see less carries this year, and will be a year older. I expect a 800-1000 yard season at best for McGahee

Career Stats
TOTAL 1,790 7,366 -- 77 59 176 1,098 -- 56 5 23 17
2011 DEN 15 14 249 1,199 4.8 60T 4 12 51 4.3 12 1 4 3
2010 BAL 15 2 100 380 3.8 30T 5 14 55 3.9 32T 1 2 2
2009 BAL 16 1 109 544 5.0 77T 12 15 85 5.7 14 2 1 1
2008 BAL 13 8 170 671 3.9 77T 7 24 173 7.2 35 0 3 3
2007 BAL 15 15 294 1,207 4.1 46T 7 43 231 5.4 30 1 4 3
2006 BUF 14 14 259 990 3.8 57T 6 18 156 8.7 56 0 4 2
2005 BUF 16 15 325 1,247 3.8 27 5 28 178 6.4 19 0 1 1
2004 BUF 16 11 284 1,128 4.0 41 13 22 169 7.7 16 0 4 2
2003 BUF 0 0 -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- --


• A 10th-year running back who has played 120 career games (80 starts) in the regular season with Denver

(2011), Baltimore (2007-10) and Buffalo (2004-06), placing fifth in the NFL with 7,366 yards since 2004.

• Selected to his second career Pro Bowl in 2011 after rushing for 1,199 yards in his first season with the

Broncos and helping the team produce a franchise-record 164.5 yards per game on the ground to lead the league.

• Tied for the NFL lead with seven individual 100-yard rushing games in 2011 and owns 30 career 100-yard efforts to rank fourth among active players.

• Joined Ricky Watters as the only two players in NFL history to rush for 1,000 yards in a season with three different teams (Buf., 2004-05; Bal, 2007; Den., 2011).

• Totaled the fourth-most rushing touchdowns (59) in the NFL since 2004 and is one of only three non-kickers in the league to score at least 30 points each year during the last eight seasons.

• Owns 30 career 100-yard rushing games to rank fifth mong active NFL players.

• Earned his first Pro Bowl nod in 2007 as a member of the Ravens after ranking fourth in the AFC with 1,207 rushing yards on 294 carries (4.1 avg.) with seven touchdowns.

• Broke University of Miami single-season records with 1,753 rushing yards and 28 touchdowns as a sophomore in 2002 to earn consensus first-team All-America honors in addition to being named a finalist for the Heisman Trophy.

• Joined the Broncos as a free agent on July 31, 2011.

• Selected by the Bills in the first round (23rd overall) of the 2003 NFL Draft.

Via: Denver Broncos

Knowshon Moreno

#27 / Running Back / Denver Broncos



Jul 16, 1987


The curious case of Knowshon Moreno. Will this be the season he breaks out? Can he stay healthy? Will he make the team? Bust? Those are all the questions surrounding the former first round pick.

Those are the questions i'm wondering about too.I've been optimistic each of the past 2 seasons that this year that Moreno will break out. Each year he has disappointed me. Is this the year? I don't know but i hope so. He's best utilized in space and in the passing game, which i think with the addition of Manning, they will use him in that role. That might be Morenos saving grace, unless he gets hurt. Which brings us to question two, can he finally stay healthy? It always seems like he's dinged up during training camp, which leads him to miss valuable time during camp, or is out for weeks during the season. If he gets hurt again, we may have seen the last of Knowshon in a Broncos uniform.

I ultimately think Knowshon makes the roster, if healthy. I would not be surprised if the Broncos put him on the trade block though. Running Backs always go down during camp, and if someone needs a back, it could happen. I doubt that happens though. Knowshon would be the 2nd string back to start the season, and probably see alot of time on passing downs.

Career Stats
TOTAL 466 1,905 -- 36 12 76 686 -- 45 6 8 7
2011 DEN 7 2 37 179 4.8 24 0 11 101 9.2 28T 1 1 1
2010 DEN 13 13 182 779 4.3 35 5 37 372 10.1 45 3 3 2
2009 DEN 16 9 247 947 3.8 36 7 28 213 7.6 27 2 4 4

• A fourth-year running back who led the Broncos in rushing in consecutive seasons (2009-10) to begin his career before an injury-shortened campaign in 2011.
• Totaled at least 1,000 yards from scrimmage in each of his first two seasons, representing the only player who entered the NFL in 2009 to accomplish that feat and one of just four players in franchise history to reach that milestone in his first two years.
• Emerged as a considerable receiving threat out of the backfield in 2010, becoming one of just five NFL running backs to average more than 10 yards per reception (10.1) and tying for the league lead in receiving touchdowns (3) among his position group.
• Tied for third in the Associated Press’ NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year voting and was a consensus All-Rookie selection in 2009 as only the fifth Bronco in team history to lead all league rookies in rushing yards.
• Earned first-team All-Southeastern Conference honors during his two years at the University of Georgia, totaling 2,734 rushing yards and joining Herschel Walker (1980-82) as the only Bulldogs in school history to post 1,000 rushing yards in consecutive seasons.
• Received several All-America honors and was a finalist for the Doak Walker Award (nation’s best running back) as a sophomore for the Bulldogs in 2008, totaling 1,400 rushing yards (5.6 avg., 16 TDs) that led the SEC and ranked 11th in the nation.
• Selected by the Broncos in the first round (12th overall) of the 2009 NFL Draft.

Via: Denver Broncos

Lance Ball

#35 / Running Back / Denver Broncos



Jun 19, 1985


Lance Ball was a solid contributor in 2011. Ball carried the ball 96 times for 402 yards and 1 touchdown. Ball averaged a solid 4.2 yards a carry. To me, Ball is the type of back Coach Fox likes to have. He's a big, straight ahead power runner, who can move the chains. You always need a back like that in your stable i think.

Question is, does Ball fit into the offense now? He's more of a power back, and the Broncos are probably going to use more quicker and backs who can contribute in the passing game. Ball is on the roster bubble i think. It really depends if the Broncos want to carry 3 or 4 running backs and if anyone gets hurt during camp or the preseason. I'd like to see him make it, but i have my doubts.

Career Stats
TOTAL 150 643 -- 34 1 20 169 -- 34 1 4 2
2011 DEN 16 0 96 402 4.2 34 1 16 148 9.3 34 1 2 2
2010 DEN 10 0 41 158 3.9 19 0 3 16 5.3 13 0 1 0
2008 IND 1 0 13 83 6.4 23 0 1 5 5.0 5 0 1 0


• A fourth-year running back who totaled 560 yards on 137 carries (4.1 avg.) in 26 regular-season games played for the Broncos over the last two seasons, ranking third on the club in rushing during each campaign.

• Played all 16 regular-season games for the first time in his career in 2011 and contributed to

the league’s No. 1 rushing attack by registering a personal-best 96 carries for 402 yards (4.2

avg.) and one touchdown to go along with 16 receptions for 148 yards (9.3 avg.) and a score.

• Finished the 2009 season on Denver’s practice squad after seeing time on Tennessee’s practice

squad and competing in Indianapolis’ training camp earlier in the year.

• Played one game as a rookie for the Colts in 2008, registering 83 yards on 13 carries (6.4

avg.) in their regular-season finale vs. Tennessee (12/28/08).

• Competed on the practice squads of the Rams and Colts as a rookie in 2008.

• Finished his career at the University of Maryland ranked fourth in school history in rushing

yards (2,487) and tied for fourth in rushing touchdowns (26).

• Joined the Broncos as a practice-squad signee on Nov. 3, 2009.

• Entered the NFL with St. Louis as a college free agent on May 15, 2008.

#34 Ronnie Hillman, Running Back. 5'9 190lbs. San Diego State

Hillman was the 67th overall pick in this years draft. Hillman is a very fast. At San Diego State, Hillman carried the ball 573 times, 3243 yards and 36 touchdowns. He also caught 33 balls for 338 yards and 2 touchdowns. That's a total 3581 yards and 38 touchdowns from scrimmage. Hillman is a fast back, he's a homerun waiting to happen. He is a little undersized, so he won't be a 20-25 carry type guy, but can contribute in the passing game and in a change of pace type back.

Now what to expect from Hillman? I can see him batting Moreno for third down duties. He will contribute in the passing game in check downs, and screens. I can see him getting up too 15 touches a game in the early part of the season. I would love for him to be a Darren Sproles/Jamal Charles type runner, but only time will tell on that. I'm pretty excited about Hillman this year.

Mike Mayock on Hillman: "Another third-down change-of-pace guy who has the ability to make you miss. He's a guy I think provides instant offense for the Denver Broncos in the screen game, the check-down game. Peyton Manning is going to love him."


Hillman is an early entry junior to the draft from San Diego State, where he started every game for the Aztecs in the past two years and was first team All-Mountain West. He is a bit undersized but has the speed and quickness to have an immediate impact in the NFL. He likely won't demand the bulk of the carries for an NFL team but is a good "change of pace" guy who does a lot of things well enough to project to make an impact.


STRENGTHS: Hillman relies heavily on his quickness and immediate vision to find a seam to be an effective runner. He has decent speed for his size, but his quickness is his biggest asset. He has a natural feel for how to find daylight and can be patient to wait for a pulling interior lineman to get to the second level. He has a good burst in a short area to make guys miss, and has the quickness to be an effective short-yardage back in the NFL.

WEAKNESSES: Hillman is a very smooth mover but is not very explosive with the ball in his hands. He likes to feel his way through the line of scrimmage and usually gets to the second level with ease, but he struggles to run with power or elusiveness to make defenders miss and really break for a big gain. He averaged 5.5 yards per carry in his senior year, but those numbers were a bit skewed thanks to some long runs.



• A running back who played 26 games (20 starts) at San Diego State University and finished third in school history with 3,243 yards rushing in just two seasons with the Aztecs.

• Totaled 15 100-yard rushing games and three 200-yard outputs to go along with 36 rushing scores during his collegiate career at SDSU.

• Received first-team All-Mountain West Conference honors following both of his seasons in addition to being selected as the MWC Freshman of the Year in 2010.

• Rushed for a career-high 1,711 yards and 19 touchdowns on 311 carries (5.5 avg.) as a redshirt sophomore in 2011 and was named MWC Player of the Week on three occasions.

• Ranked fourth in the NCAA in rushing (131.6 ypg) in 2011 while ranking ninth nationally in scoring (9.2 ppg).

• Played at La Habra High School in La Habra, Calif., where he led his team to consecutive division titles during his final two seasons, including a senior campaign in which he totaled 2,104 all-purpose yards and 27 total touchdowns to receive League MVP honors.

• Selected by the Broncos in the third round (67th overall) of the 2012 NFL Draft.


2011: Hillman started 12-of-13 games for San Diego State as a redshirt sophomore and totaled 1,711 yards (second in school history) and 19 touchdowns on 311 carries (5.5 avg.) along with 24 receptions for 270 yards (11.3 avg.) and one score... Named a third-team All-American by The NFL Draft Report and received first-team All-Mountain West Conference honors in addition to being selected to the watch lists for the Walter Camp, Doak Walker and Maxwell Awards... Led the MWC and ranked fourth in the NCAA in rushing (131.6 ypg) while placing 16th in the nation in scoring (9.2 ppg)... Totaled 100 yards in nine contests and was named MWC Player of the Week three times... Scored 11 of his 17 rushing touchdowns from at least 10 yards out, including four of 40+ yards... Ran for a season-high 224 yards and added 81 receiving yards vs. Wyoming (10/29) with his totals including a school-record 99-yard rushing score and a career-long 71-yard receiving touchdown.

Via: Denver Broncos

Mario Fannin

#42 / Running Back / Denver Broncos



Dec 04, 1987


At 5'11" 224lbs, with a 4.37 40-yd, this guy is big and fast, and was the all-time leader in receptions with 97, and receiving yards, with 985 yards by a running back at Auburn. He has excellent vision and is a true north-south runner, who knows how to find hole and find daylight. He also has an exceptionally strong lower body and runs hard, with good effort. Ran as a power runner in a run oriented spread offense, and can get the corner by both option and power sweep, so he has good backfield versatility.

I honestly do not know what to expect from Fannin. He did look good in his limited time in camp, but did not see any action in the preseason. He's battling to make the roster. I'd like to see a guy with Fannins size and speed and athletic ability to make the team, but he needs to stay healthy. i'm excited to see what he can do in camp and in the preseason.

Biography: Part-time starter the past two years at Auburn. Senior rushing totals included 61/395/5 with 17/173/2 receiving. Posted just 285 yards rushing as a junior with 42/413/3 receiving.

Positives: "Impressive looking running back prospect who only occasionally plays to his ceiling. Effectively follows blocks on the field, shows strength carrying the ball, and rarely brought down by a single defender. Throws his shoulders into opponents and falls forward when tackled. Possesses solid vision, better than average quickness, and the ability to bounce around piles. Does not go down without a fight. Terrific receiver out of the backfield and has proven to be a downfield threat."

Negatives: Must improve his ball security. Really does not show a burst in his game. Has had an up-and-down career that never took off.

Analysis: "Fannin has the size and speed and has flashed the skills necessary to be a top running back prospect, but he never put it all together. His pass catching ability makes him invaluable and Fannin could see significant playing time if he increases his productivity carrying the ball."

Via: Sports Illustrated


• A second-year running back who spent his rookie season on injured reserve (knee) after competing with the Broncos early in training camp.

• Played 54 career games (16 starts) at Auburn University, where he rushed 233 times for 1,366 yards (5.9 avg.) with 11 touchdowns in addition to setting the school’s all-time receiving yards mark by a running back with 985 yards and nine touchdowns on 97 catches.

• Appeared in 13 games (4 starts) as a senior and totaled 61 carries for 395 yards (6.5 avg.) with five touchdowns and 17 receptions for 173 yards (10.2 avg.) with two scores.

• Recorded 990 all-purpose yards as a junior in 2009 (285 rushing, 413 receiving, 297 kickoff return).

• Entered the NFL with Denver as a college free agent on July 27, 2011.

2011: Fannin, who entered the NFL with the Broncos as a college free agent on July 27, hurt his knee during training camp and spent his rookie season on injured reserve.

COLLEGE: Fannin played 54 career games (16 starts) at Auburn University and rushed for 1,366 yards and 11 touchdowns on 233 carries (5.9 avg.)… Became the school’s all-time leader in receiving yards by a running back, totaling 985 yards and nine touchdowns on 97 career receptions… Added 44 kickoff returns for 944 yards (21.5 avg.)… Appeared in 13 games (4 starts) as a senior and totaled 61 carries for 395 yards (6.5 avg.) and five touchdowns to go along with 17 receptions for 173 yards (10.2 avg.) and two scores… Played 13 games (7 starts) as a junior in 2009 and totaled 990 all-purpose yards (285 rushing, 413 receiving, 297 kickoff return) for the Tigers.

PERSONAL: Fannin attended Lovejoy High School in Hampton, Ga., where he threw for more than 1,000 yards and 20 touchdowns and added 1,200 rushing yards and 12 scores as a senior… Graduated from Auburn in August 2010 with a degree in public administration… Mario Fannin was born on Dec. 4, 1987.

Via: Denver Broncos

Jeremiah Johnson

#37 / Running Back / Denver Broncos



Feb 15, 1987


Johnson is a speedy change of pace back, who doesn't offer much as a between the tackles runner. Johnson did help the 2011 Broncos by carrying the ball 14 times for 77 yards and added 7 receptions for 62 yards. Johnson is nothing more than a third down back who can help out in the passing game and as a change of pace back.

Ultimately, i have a hard time seeing Johnson making the final 53, unless a few backs get hurt in camp. His only saving grace is that he is a speedy change of pace back who would help Manning out in the passing game, but the Broncos drafted Ronnie Hillman, and have Moreno to fill that hole. So i think it's a long shot that Johnson makes the roster.

Career Stats
TOTAL 14 77 -- 25 0 7 62 -- 17 0 -- --
2011 DEN 8 0 14 77 5.5 25 0 7 62 8.9 17 0 -- --


• A third-year running back who played eight regular-season games and both playoff contests for the Broncos in 2011, contributing 14 carries for 77 yards (5.5 avg.) for the league’s top rushing attack (164.5 ypg).

• Spent time on practice squads with Denver, Carolina and Washington in 2010 after his rookie season with Houston in 2009.

• Participated in the Texans’ training camp in 2009 before sustaining a shoulder injury and being placed on injured reserve on Aug. 8.

• Rushed for 2,336 yards and 30 touchdowns in four seasons at the University of Oregon, including a career-best 1,201 rushing yards as a senior that marked the sixth-highest total in school history.

• Scored 18 rushing touchdowns as a senior at Dorsey High School in Los Angeles.

• Joined the Broncos as a practice-squad signee on Dec. 10, 2010.

• Entered the NFL with Houston as a college free agent on May 1, 2009.

2011: Johnson played eight games (0 starts) in the regular season and totaled 14 rushes for 77 yards (5.5 avg.) to help the Broncos finish first in the NFL in rushing with team-record 2,632 yards on the ground... Added seven receptions for 62 yards (8.9 avg.) in the regular season... Saw action in both playoff contests, rushing four times for 10 yards (2.5 avg.) in Denver’s AFC Divisional Playoff Game at N.E. (1/14)... Spent eight weeks of the season on the club’s practice squad.

Via: Denver Broncos

Xavier Omon

#33 / Running Back / Denver Broncos



Feb 15, 1985

NW Missouri State

Omon is a third year running back who has bounced around the league. Omon has been with the Browns, 49ers, Jets, Bills, and now the Broncos. Omons has carried the ball 11 times in his carrer and totaled 27 yards, all with the Buffalo Bills. Omon signed with the Broncos on January 16th.

I'm going to be frank here, i do not know much about Xavier Omon, but all signs point to him being a camp body and possible practice squad player(if eligible). We'll see what Omon can offer in camp, but i would be very surprised if Omon made the final 53.

Career Stats
TOTAL 11 27 -- 7 0 0 0 -- -- 0 -- --
2009 BUF 5 0 5 22 4.4 7 0 0 0 -- -- 0 -- --
2008 BUF 2 0 6 5 0.8 2 0 -- -- -- -- -- -- --


• A third-year running back who competed on practice squads the last two seasons with Denver, Cleveland, San Francisco, and N.Y. Jets after two seasons with the Bills in which he played seven games and totaled 11 rushes for 27 yards (2.5 avg.).

• Finished his career at Division II Northwest Missouri State University with 7,073 rushing yards and 92 touchdowns on 1,271 attempts (5.6 avg.) to become just the third player in college football history to top the 7,000-yard mark.

• Named a first-team Mid-America Intercollegiate Association selection in three of his four seasons (second-team in the other) with the Bearcats and left school as one of two players in NCAA history to compile 1,500 yards rushing in four separate campaigns.

• Wrapped up his collegiate career ranked third in Division II history in rushing touchdowns (92), total scores (98) and total points (590) in addition to compiling 7,777 all-purpose yards to rank ninth in NCAA annals.

• Joined the Broncos as a free agent on Jan 16, 2012.

• Selected by Buffalo in the sixth round (179th overall) of the 2008 NFL Draft.

Chris Gronkowski

#49 / Running Back / Denver Broncos



Dec 26, 1986


The Broncos acquired Chris Gronkowski on May 23rd via a trade where the Broncos sent CB Cassius Vaughn to the colts for Gronkowski. Patriots star TE Rob Gronkowski, and former Bronco Dan Gronkowski are Chris's brothers. Gronk is a versatile FB who can contribute in the passing game and as a lead blocker. During his career, Gronk has carried the ball 5 times for 17 yards and added 7 receptions for 35 yards and a touchdown.

Gronk will battle with teammate Austin Sylvester for a roster spot. It will be interesting to see how often the Broncos utilize the fullback position in the offense with Manning.

Career Stats
TOTAL 5 17 -- 8 0 7 35 -- 12 1 -- --
2011 IND 7 0 -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- --
2010 DAL 14 7 5 17 3.4 8 0 7 35 5.0 12 1 -- --

• A third-year fullback in his first season with the Broncos who has played 21 career games (7 starts) with Indianapolis (2011) and Dallas (2010).
• Saw action in seven games for the Colts in 2011 before being placed on injured reserve (pectoral) on Oct. 25.
• Made Dallas’ 53-man roster as a rookie reserve fullback in 2010 before ascending to the top role as lead blocker three weeks into the season.
• Played H-Back at the University of Arizona, starting 15-of-26 games for the Wildcats from 2008-09 after transferring from the University of Maryland.
• Spent one year (2006) as a reserve baseball prospect before competing on Arizona’s football team as a linebacker in 2007.
• Joins two brothers—tights ends Rob Gronkowski (New England) and Dan Gronkowski (Cleveland)—as the first trio of brothers in the NFL together since the Baldingers (Brian, Gary, Rich) in 1992.
• Joined the Broncos in a trade from Indianapolis on May 23, 2012.
• Entered the NFL with Dallas as a college free agent on April 30, 2010.

Via: Denver Broncos

Austin Sylvester

#40 / Fullback / Denver Broncos



Apr 15, 1988


Austin Sylvester spent time with the Broncos during the 2011 season. He was signed to the active roster late in the 2011 season. Sylvester saw his only career game action against the Kansas City Chiefs in the season finale. Sylvester will battle for a roster spot with Chris Gronkowski.


• A second-year fullback who had stints on practice squads with Denver and Tampa Bay as a rookie in 2011 before being signed to the Broncos’ active roster late in the year.

• Saw action in 37 career games (6 starts) at the University of Washington, including six contests as a true freshman in 2007.

• Played linebacker and fullback throughout his high school and college careers, eventually developing into the Huskies’ No. 1 fullback by his senior season in 2010.

• Joined the Broncos as a free agent on Feb. 8, 2012.

• Entered the NFL with Denver as a college free agent on July 27, 2011.

CAREER TRANSACTIONS: Signed by Denver as a college free agent 7/27/11; Waived by Denver 9/3/11; Signed by Denver (practice squad) 9/4/11; Waived by Denver 10/18/11; Signed by Tampa Bay (practice squad) 12/13/11; Signed by Denver (active roster) 12/27/11; Waived by Denver 1/13/12; Signed by Denver 2/8/12.

2011: Sylvester, who entered the NFL with Denver as a college free agent on July 27, spent five weeks on the club’s practice squad and three weeks on Tampa Bay’s practice squad before being signed to the Broncos’ active roster at the end of the year... Did not appear in any games... Inactive in Denver’s regular-season finale and its AFC Wild Card Game vs. Pit. (1/8) before being waived on Jan. 13.

COLLEGE: Sylvester played 37 career games (6 starts) at the University of Washington and developed into the Huskies’ No. 1 fullback by his senior season… Saw action in a combined 19 games his sophomore and junior seasons, mostly on special teams… Played linebacker and fullback as one of seven true freshmen on the team to see playing time in 2007.

PERSONAL: Sylvester attended Bishop Manohue High School in Reno, Nev., before transferring to The Hun School, a prep school in Princeton, N.J., for his senior year… Played fullback and linebacker throughout his prep career… Austin Sylvester was born on April 15, 1988, in Reno, Nev


Position Overview: The running back position is a very curious one to me. A lot of question marks. Can McGahee repeat his 2011 season? Can Knowshon Moreno prove he isn't a bust? How will rookie Ronnie Hillman transition into the NFL, can Mario Fannin be a solid contributor? and how effective will the running game be with Peyton Manning at QB?

Lots of questions, which we all have answers too here soon. Should be fun, as Bart Scott said "Can't Wait!"