Michigan has entered a pivotal season for coach Jim Harbaugh with three decisive wins, fueled by that downhill, weather-resistant offense that he and most northern teams prefer.
Recruiting and developing the right running backs to carry it out remains a vital part of programming in the Big Ten and elsewhere, a task that apparently never stops. Because once a team really stands out, the most important thing is to find another one.
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“The more good playmakers you have, the better,” Harbaugh said, appearing ready to help put together a coach’s book of pithy quotes.
The 19th-ranked Wolverines lead the FBS with an average of 350 rushing yards per game, behind a timeshare for senior Hassan Haskins and sophomore Blake Corum. They couldn’t have divided the races better if they had tried: Corum has 49 and Haskins has 48.
There is no place in the country that has seen more running backs than Ohio State, where player development is needed to stem the tide of NFL departures as much as the inevitable injuries.
Coach Ryan Day has yet to establish his depth chart this year, and no sympathy is needed given the 277-yard game TreVeyon Henderson had last week to set the freshman running record in a match with only 24 attempts. The Buckeyes were playing the “hot hand” against Tulsa, as Day put it, leaving Master Teague III in the background with 14 runs and Miyan Williams on the bench.
Williams won the preseason camp starting job that was presumed to be Teague’s for the second year in a row. In 2020, Teague ended up being eclipsed by transfer Trey Sermon, who became a third-round pick in the San Francisco 49ers draft.
“As we get into the meat of the season, having depth in this position is essential, especially with the balance we’re looking for. We have to be able to throw the ball, throw the ball. We don’t have to. not quite strike that balance, ”said Day, whose team is third in the conference in attempts to pass.
Traditional power programs aren’t the only ones in their quest for more running backs, with Minnesota having long been a prime example.
For three consecutive years from 2003 to 2005, the Gophers enjoyed the wealth of having two 1,000-yard rushers each season. Then coach Glen Mason even coined the perfect phrase for the formula: a pair and a spare. He should have put it down; there is now a Twin Cities based college football podcast using the smart mantra.
“It’s terribly difficult for a guy to carry the ball 40 or 50 times a game if that’s what you’re going to do in terms of your attack lineup,” Mason said this week during ‘a telephone interview. “If you still need two, then you better have another guy. Because if one guy breaks down, your whole philosophy can’t go out the window.”
Thomas Hamner (2000), Thomas Tapeh (2004), Marion Barber III (2005) and Laurence Maroney (2006) were all NFL draft picks who played for the Gophers under Mason.
“There is nothing harder in football than getting tackled. You ask any defensive player what they hate most in training, and they’ll tell you when they are. is the guy who needs to be tackled in tackle drills, “Mason said, adding,” There are a lot of plays that are designed for 4 yards. If it’s blocked well, it’s 4 yards and you’re going to take. a beating. “
This year alone, four coaches later, the Gophers lost star Mo Ibrahim in Game 1 to a season-ending leg injury. They turned to Trey Potts, who is fifth in the Big Ten in the race, and started working with freshmen Mar’Keise Irving and Ky Thomas.
Nebraska coach Scott Frost said: “I don’t think a single guy these days can go through a whole game.”
In this new age of the transfer portal and the benefits of image and name likeness, it can be even more difficult to keep players happy with partial workloads.
Wisconsin, which has long had one of the most powerful racing games in the country, turned to the transfer from Clemson to Mellusi this year, but also have second student Isaac Guerendo and main returner Jalen Berger on hand. . Separating so far seems to be a promising plan for coach Paul Chryst.
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“I think it’s extremely helpful. There’s no downfall when a guy is a little out of breath,” Mellusi said. “It’s more true when a guy kind of has a hot hand, it also gives you a hot hand because you kind of see what they’re doing and can kind of try to emulate that.”
Guerendo said: “Having a diverse backfield is something that a lot of teams can benefit from. You have really completely different rears. They have their own strengths. I think it allows you to open things up and see more of it. things with the offense. “