Tuesday, June 12, 2007

2007 Position Previews: Running Back and Fullbacks

This is the second part of my position by position breakdown of the 2007 roster.

RUNNING BACKS AND FULLBACKS

We’ve put plenty of offensive lineman in the NFL and Ryan will join the Hasselbecks, St. Pierre and Quinton Porter on NFL rosters shortly, so it is easy to forget that during most of the TOB years we produced stud RB after stud RB. In their three seasons as our featured backs, both L.V. Whitworth and Andre Callender have been serviceable but never explosive and never consistent. I think all Eagles fans are hoping that one of them finally breaks out this year. Or better yet, that the new staff finds something in reserve A.J. Brooks or return specialist Jeff Smith. Let’s not get our hopes up.

Overview

Instead of hoping that someone breaks out, I decided to look back at Jags at BC and Steve Logan at East Carolina. Their track records are probably the best indicator of how our running backs and more importantly our rushing offense will perform. First here are the main contributors of Jag’s first go around at BC.

YearRBRushes Yards Avg
1997Mike Cloud1378866.5
1997Omari Walker1366524.8
1998Mike Cloud3081,7265.6


Here is how we ranked in the Big East in Total Rushing during Jags' first go around
1997 – 4th
1998 – 4th

Logan only produced one All-Conference USA RB in his time at East Carolina (Leonard Henry 2001 and 2000), but in his last six seasons his teams did well within the conference’s total rushing stats.

1997 - 8th
1998 - 5th
1999 - 3rd
2000 - 2nd
2001 - 1st
2002 - 5th

Looking at that history, I expect we’ll be middle of the pack rushing team within the ACC regardless of who gets the carries.

The Players

LV Whitworth, SR, 5’11, 216lbs
Andre Callender, SR, 5’11, 204lbs
AJ Brooks, JR, 6’0, 207lbs
Jeff Smith, SO, 5’9, 190lbs
James McCluskey, FR, 6’2, 240lbs
Patrick Quinn, SR, 6’2, 225lbs

Capturing each guy’s style is pretty easy at this point. Whitworth is more of a North-South runner with less speed and a little more power. Callender is more elusive but can break a tackle. Both have battled bouts of fumblitis (at the worst time). Brooks looks the part – good size, good speed, good instincts. He just couldn’t get out of TOB’s doghouse. Jeff Smith is another guy who is explosive but didn’t have a feel for what to do in the offense last season. Based on spring practices, Smith and Brooks will get their chances but are still fighting an up hill battle for playing time.

As for the Fullbacks, James McCluskey looks to fill the huge void at Fullback. He’s a good athlete and has good size. His ability and willingness to switch positions was one of the high points of spring. I think he’ll get some balls thrown to him this season but probably will not get many carries.


Outlook
I don’t know what to expect. I would like to see AJ Brooks have a season like Mike Cloud’s 1998 or Jeff Smith becoming a lethal 3rd down back. Realistically I think you’ll see another season of a Whitworth/Callender combo. They’ll be effective and frustrating but won’t make or break the season.

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