Unit Analysis: Running backs and fullbacks

Posted: August 7, 2014 in Uncategorized

For a third straight year, the Bulls will enter the season with a very inexperienced backfield. Last year, a year after Demetris Murray left, Marcus Shaw took over as the leading rusher. Once again, the Bulls will have to find a new leading back. There are several candidates for the job, making the position an interesting one to watch entering the year.

Here is the 2013 roster, starting with running backs:

Willie Davis – 5’9″ 213 lbs – Redshirt sophomore – 39 carries for 139 yards, 7 receptions for 51 yards

Sta’fon McCray – 5’11” 212 lbs. – Freshman – No stats

Michael Pierre – 5’10” 202 lbs. – Redshirt junior – 41 carries for 144 yards, 3 receptions for 32 yards

Marcus Shaw – 5’9″ 178 lbs. – Senior – 156 carries for 765 yards, 3 touchdowns, 14 receptions for 115 yards

Darius Tice – 5’10” 198 lbs. – Freshman – 35 carries for 141 yards, 1 reception for 4 yards

Fullbacks

Ryan Eppes – 6’1″ 236 lbs. – Redshirt senior – 2 carries for -1 yard, 8 receptions for 76 yards

Elliot Jacobs – 5’11” 209 lbs. – Freshman – No stats

Auggie Sanchez – 6’2″ 233 lbs. – Freshman – No stats

Kennard Swanson – 6′ 245 lbs. – Freshman – No stats

Grant White – 5’11” 239 lbs. – Junior – No stats

So after the 2013 season, here are the players that left and are no longer part of the program:

Willie Davis – Transfer

Mike Pierre – Injury

Marcus Shaw – Graduation

Ryan Eppes – Graduation

Elliot Jacobs

Grant White

So the Bulls lost Davis, Pierre, and Shaw at the running back positions and Eppes, Jacobs, and White at fullback. Auggie Sanchez moved from fullback to middle linebacker this spring, taking him out of the depth chart.

So here is the returning roster heading into the season:

Running back

Sta’fon McCray – 5’11” 222 lbs. – Redshirt freshman

Kyle Peck – 5’8″ 188 lbs. – Senior

Darius Tice – 5’10” 213 lbs. – Sophomore

Rodney Watson – 5’11” 186 lbs. – Senior

Fullback

Kennard Swanson – 6′ 248 lbs. – Redshirt freshman

Incoming recruits:

D’Ernest Johnson – 5’10” 207 lbs. – 4-star recruit

Marlon Mack – 6′ 195 lbs. – 3-star recruit

The Bulls added two senior walk-ons for the 2014 season with Kyle Peck and Rodney Watson. At fullback, expect to see some of Tye Turner as well at times, lining up as a blocker in the backfield.

So entering the year, the Bulls will have to replace 765 yards of rushing offense which accounted for 72% of the running game last year. Darius Tice, who had 141 yards accounted for 13% of the running game, leaving little to return to the offense to start the season. The Bulls had a similar issue last season when they had to replace 36% of the total rushing offense, but this season, without a proven veteran with a large workload returning presents a huge challenge for the young Bulls. Is Tice the man moving forward? Or will one of the two highly touted freshmen rise up and take over the job? In my best guess we will see several backs rotate in with the coaching staff riding the hot hand. I would guess Tice would get the nod as the opening day starter, but a player like Marlon Mack or D’Ernest Johnson could finish the year as the starting back.

2014 projected depth chart:

FB: Swanson/Turner

RB: Tice/Mack/Everyone else

Overall grade: C. Its a low grade on the simple principle of the unknown. We saw sparks from Tice, but that was it. Behind him, there is not a lot of returning experience, which hurts the grade. The incoming freshmen, while talented, are still unknowns at this level, so its hard to predict what we will see out of them. The grade is low but could easily rise up to a B or above if the backs are able to take shape and break through.

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