Today we continue our position by position report cards by looking at the running backs. First, the numbers:
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Discussion: Raise your hand if predicted what the running backs were going to do this year. No one? Well, I didn't see it coming either. Yesterday, we discussed how important Alshon was to the receiving corps. Marcus Lattimore was even more important to the running backs.
Entering this year, just like every year of the Spurrier administration, the hope was that a running threat would emerge. After Kenny Miles's performance against Clemson last year there was hope that he might emerge as an every down back. It was also hoped that the offensive line would be able to open enough holes for a serious running threat.
The running game was fundamentally changed by the addition of Marcus Lattimore. His contributions were so overshadowing that he became the entire running back corps. I could gush for paragraphs about the season Marcus had, but I won't. Suffice it to say Marcus was productive in a way that we haven't seen in many, many years. His play was so complete as to be without serious complaint.
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The rest of the running back corps was not as productive. They didn't have to be, and they didn't get as many chances. Brian Maddox played very well against Vanderbilt when he was needed, but the second half of the Kentucky game was a glaringly bad performance when Marcus was out. Without Marcus, the running backs would not have been graded very well, but fortunately they didn't have to play without Marcus very much.
Another aspect of the running backs that usually doesn't get much attention is the fullback position. Brian Maddox started the season as fullback but moved back to running back as Patrick DiMarco stepped into the role. There aren't lots of numbers to look at to grade a fullback. You have to look at his blocking, both as a lead blocker and in pass protection. DiMarco did an outstanding job of opening holes for Marcus and protecting Stephen.
Grade: A-. Marcus Lattimore did everything you could ask a running back to do and more. There aren't many running backs in the nation that could handle the workload as productively as he did. DiMarco did a great job as a fullback. The only flaw in the corps is the lack of production from the backups. Until that materializes, this unit will still be incomplete.
Glancing Ahead: It's easy to look at Marcus and say that next year will be great, but there are two areas of worry. One is depth. Marcus is great, but who is going to back him up? Kenny Miles is a viable option, but he didn't have his best year in limited carries this year. The second concern is fullback. DiMarco will leave a big hole to fill, and someone will have to step up there.