We continue our end of season review with a look at the tailbacks.
Running Backs Let's start with some data, then get into the analysis. Note: combined rushing totals excludes those from the quarterbacks and rushers not listed below.
|Player||Rushes||Yards (Net)||Yards per attempt||Yards per game||TDs|
Presented only with this table, most folks wouldn't think there was much of anything wrong with the Texas running game. We know better, though, and complained frequently. Commonly heard throughout 2006: "Why can't Texas pick up short yardage when needed?" "Why is the running game producing so many rushes for lost yards?" "Why can't Texas execute a power running scheme?"
If there was any area where Vince Young's departure truly killed Texas, it was this one. The zone-read offense, wisely and masterfully implemented during VY's tenure at Texas, was not well suited to this year's personnel. Colt simply handed the ball off over and over again, making the running plays vastly easier to defend than if, say, the defense had to worry about the quarterback keeping the ball.
Complicating matters further, the passing offense was working best when employed from the shotgun. Greg Davis did implement some under center running plays, but the meat and potatos of the Texas offense was a balance of run and pass with Colt in the shotgun. The end result was a solid-not-great running game and an above average passing game. Adjustments in the offseason are needed, and have been promised. We'll get into that more later. On to the individual notes.
Jamaal Charles He gained fewer yards on more carries. That's all you really need to know. His longest run from scrimmage was 46 yards, which is hard to believe from a man with JC's speed and quickness. We can't fairly say that the plays prevented Charles from getting going - after all, he was wildly effective with Vince last year. No, I think the lack of a credible running threat from the quarterback is what kept his numbers down. It's just infinitely easier to stop the running plays Texas was running when there was no need for defenders to play cautiously enough to cover both running back and quarterback.
Charles still does all the little things well - he can pick up blocks, cass patches, and the like - and there's no question he's got the speed and quickness to be successful at this level. The only questions that you hear are about his size and durability, and though I may be in the minority, don't count me in that group. I think JC will do just fine as the featured back next season; I expect 200+ carries and some All Conference numbers. Grade: B+
Selvin Young We bid adieu to Selvin with many fine memories - most notably from his steady, critical workmanlike performance in the Rose Bowl. 2006 was less glamorous for Selvin, though hardly a wasted effort. He'll be remembered as someone who didn't -quite- live up to his potential due to injuries, but he had a nice career at Texas nonetheless and very well might wind up playing on Sundays yet. Best of luck, Selvin, and thanks for all that you brought to Texas. Grade: B
Henry Melton Um... Grade: F (Seriously. I don't want to hear about Henry as a viable option any more. If you still think so, fine - it's your opinion. I'm done with him.)
Chris Ogbonnaya The man who should have been given Melton's carries, in my opinion, Ogbonnaya's a downhill runner with - from what I've seen - terrific instincts. The guy reminds me of Priest Holmes, and I'd love, love, love to see him as JC's complimentary back next year. Remember, it was Ogbonnaya who was the one to -finally- get in the end zone against Kansas State. We blew a huge opportunity by not turning to him sooner, and an even bigger opportunity when we turned to Melton one final time against Texas A&M. Grade: B+
Final Thoughts There's a mix of explanations for the running struggles this year. Part of it goes back to Vince Young, whose absence left Texas stuck in the wrong scheme. There's some blame for Greg Davis, who didn't figure out how to scheme Texas away from what worked for last year's personnel. There's also some blame for the players themselves, who ran poorly in short yardage situations, put the football on the ground in critical game situations, and frequently danced around horizontally, instead of getting into the hole quickly. Trying to explain the dip in Texas' rushing production can't be done in one sentence, and can't be pinned on one person. Ultimately, it was a combination of things, and for all that Greg Davis did well with Colt McCoy and the passing game, he has to take the hit for the failure in the running game.