2012 Spring Preview: Running Back

Happy Tuesday Cougar fans! On Tuesday, I previewed the Quarterback position heading into Spring Ball and came away with the notion that Tuel should take the reins of the 1st Team prior to the Crimson and Gray Game. In-case you missed yesterday, Huddy gave you seven changes that need to occur within the football program for us to be Bowl Eligible in 2012.

As promised on Tuesday, here is a look at the Running Back position.

For years, WSU has employed the single back set, and occasionally gone to a Pro Set (FB in the mix) if the personnel and situation presented itself.  Given Mike Leach’s new Air Raid attack, it’s fair to guess that 2012 will be an entirely different scenario at the running back spot!

We know that Leach is going to chuck the ball a ton, sometimes 60 times or more per game, so it will be interesting to see how our current personnel of running backs are utilized. This got me thinking, and so I decided to take a look at the Texas Tech rushing numbers over Leach’s final six seasons in Lubbock. The numbers I found were staggering compared to my expectations!

That means we have some numbers and players to look at, click the jump for more….

Excluding QBs, his final six teams in Lubbock at the running back position averaged 284 carries, 1,135 yards and nearly 23 Touchdowns per season.  Those numbers are collectively better than any one season produced in the Paul Wulff Era. Yet they don’t even include the amount of receptions that Leach spreads around to his Running Backs.

*Author’s Note: After crunching rushing statistics, I included carries by WR’s but not quarterbacks. I’m not going back to re-crunch the numbers, because the WR touches don’t significantly skew the numbers either way.  Just think of it as rushing attempts by skill players, but not QB’s.

On top of the rushing statistics, you can also count on the RBs to get their fair share of catches, and of course it would only be appropriate to include those numbers. Looking at the same final six seasons Leach was in Lubbock, RBs averaged nearly 74 receptions, more than 460 yards, and three touchdowns per season!

It’s amazing what you can find when you start crunching numbers. To think, how much I make fun of my accountant friends behind their backs. Stupid me!

Known Commodities:

Rickey Galvin, RS Sophomore, 5’8″, 185 lbs

Last month, our own Sutra dubbed Galvin “RG5” and named him the XFactor for our offense in 2012. Rickey showed the vision and speed in 2012 that many anticipated ever since his senior year at Berkeley HS in 2009. He showed on a few occasions that he can make great things happen, catching the ball out of the backfield (see his TD late against UCLA). Galvin had an solid 5.3 YPC last season on 114 carries and scored five TDs.  If Galvin can stay healthy, he could explode in the new offense!

Carl Winston, Senior, 5’8″, 200 lbs

The thunder to Galvin’s lightening? When I think of Trey, the picture above is seared in my memory. It happened less than 50 yards from me as the Cougs were mounting a late-game come back in Boulder last October. The two words I think of here are “heart” and “determination”, but I am not quite sure yet how short-yardage backs are utilized by Leach?  But what we do know is that in 2011, Winston had nearly 445 yards, on 123 attempts, and scored three TDs.  But best of all he provided a physical presence at the running back spot, unafraid to lower his shoulder and try to move the pile.

Marcus Mason, Sophomore, 5’9″, 180 lbs

This kid reminds me of Galvin, maybe even faster??  In his first game as a true frosh, he took it 65 yards to the house last year in the blow-out win over Idaho State.   But outside of that big first game, he didn’t do a whole lot the rest of the season from the running back position, as he racked up 153 yards on only 19 touches on the year.  That’s still good for an eye popping 8.1 YPC.   But even if you back out his 65 yard TD Run, he still averaged better than five yards per carry. Is it possible he redshirts, if Galvin and Winston stay healthy? 

The Unknown:

Jared Byers, RS Junior, 6’0″, 235 lbs

Byers came to WSU as a walk-on from nearby Pullman HS. Originally a Linebacker, he was moved to Fullback sometime during the 2009 campaign. He was lost for the season during the first game of 2010, but was a dependable back in 2011 for the Cougs. He caught two passes with one TD against Colorado but had zero carries. If Leach never utilizes a FB, is it possible he moves to LB to provide depth?

Teondray Caldwell, Sophomore, 5’10”, 185 lbs

Caldwell comes to Wazzu, after he originally committed to Nevada out of high school, but never enrolled, so he should have five to play four. New RB Coach Jim Mastro was at Nevada when Caldwell signed his LOI to play for the Wolfpack, so there’s no doubt in my mind that Mastro believes Caldwell has what it takes to play in the Pac 12. Caldwell ran for 1,085 yards and 19 TDs in an injury-abbreviated 2010 campaign. Also a teammate of incoming Coug Gabriel Marks, at Venice HS in 2009/2010, Caldwell arrived for the spring 2012 semester in Pullman. Here’s a fun little Q&A with Caldwell that a Wolfpack blog did with him a couple years ago.

In Conclusion:

It appears we have three or four RBs who should see a fair amount of action for the Cougs this spring. As you may notice, all of them are 5’10” or shorter which probably plays right into the hands of the Air Raid Offense, utilizing the smaller, faster players in space.  It will be interesting to see what happens with Byers, not to mention Eric Oertel and Leon Brooks. Oertel had a few carries in 2011, but I just don’t see him sticking on the offensive side of the ball.  Oertel was a highly regarded LB coming out of Racine Lutheran (WI) in 2009 and will be a Junior this fall. Our sudden lack of depth at LB leads me to believe both Byers and Oertel will get looks there?  Leon Brooks had a few carries last year as well, but spent more time signaling for fair catches on special teams than anything else. It’s hard to imagine he will make an impact at RB in 2012.

I hope you enjoyed both of my previews this. Check back next Friday, as I preview the WR/TE and OL. Have a great Thursday and Go Cougs!