Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Running Backs and Unpopular Opinions

Potentially unpopular opinion alert! I think running backs are the most expendable position on a football team. (Excluding peripheral positions like full back or tight end)

Now let me defend my opinion. In order for a running back to be deemed successful he needs to average roughly 4.0+ yards per carry. I personally think any D-1 level running back can achieve that benchmark behind a good-to-great offensive line. Assemble an elite offensive line; find a creative coach, and boom! You just made that running back a Heisman contender (assuming the W’s follow that elite offensive line and creative coach).

A few disclaimers… an elite college running back can swing a college football team, the talent gap across the nation is far greater than it is in the NFL (which is where I originally developed my unpopular opinion; 1,000 yard rushers grow on trees in the right system). It just bothers me when the Heisman race is ALWAYS between the best quarterbacks (the most crucial position on field) and the running backs with the best statistics. It’s the offensive lineman who deserve that trophy, they are the ones who open up the first hole and get those backs to the glorious green grass. Stick an elite running back behind a subpar offensive line, good luck cranking out 100-yard games.

With that being said… thank goodness the Aggies have a near elite level offensive line developing (that of which we will break down next week). The SEC will demand us to perform in the trenches, and I think our O-line (and the backs runnin’ behind them), has the right mixture of power and finesse to thrive.

Now please do excuse me for a quick 180 degree turn to praise one of my favorite Aggies to come along in quite some time, Cyrus Gray. That guy was an all-american teammate and all-american performer. His leadership, his toughness, and his attitude will be missed. Thank you Cyrus.

Christine Michael-Senior

Upon his arrival to Texas A&M as the Aggies' first 5-star recruit since Martellus Bennett, Michael was lauded as the dynamic game-changer at running back. With a marvelous blend of speed, agility, and power, Christine Michael certainly possesses the tools to terrify opposing defenses. In fact, Michael has been stellar during his time at Texas A&M - when he's healthy. Gruesome leg injuries have robbed Michael of potentially great sophomore and junior seasons. In both cases, Michael was on pace to break the 1,000 yard mark at the time of injury. Although Cyrus Gray picked up the slack, the Aggies have missed Christine Michael. His experience in the backfield can't be understated as A&M moves into the SEC. No one can question his talent and production when he is healthy, but one question that remains unanswered is how Michael will fit into Kevin Sumlin's offense. We will know more as spring practice progresses.

Ben Malena-Junior

In his first meaningful action as an Aggie, Ben Malena picked up 160 yards on 48 carries in the final two games in 2011. Malena got the chance to prove himself last season when both Christine Michael and Cyrus Gray went down with injuries. I had no idea what to expect from him, but I was pleasantly surprised with Malena's production against Texas (one of the nation's best defenses) and Northwestern. Malena certainly isn't going to win a Doak Walker, but I feel comfortable with him getting some playing time. If he can find a way to contribute by catching passes out of the backfield, Malena could find himself being the Aggies' change-of-pace running back until Trey Williams is ready. Which reminds me...

Trey Williams-Freshman

Wow. If you haven't watched Williams' high school highlight reels on YouTube, do it now. Stop reading this, and watch the videos. Williams arrives to A&M as the program's most highly decorated recruit in years. More than 8,000 yards rushing and 86 TD over the span of a high school career in Texas will do that for a guy. Williams has the kind of natural ability that makes football fans drool, including me. I'll say this: Coach Sumlin must find a way to get the ball to Trey Williams.

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