By Dave Te Thomas
Cream Of The Crop | Best Of The Rest | Most Underrated | Most Overrated
First Day Possibilities | Second Day Possibilities
No group disappointed the NFL teams more at the Combines than the halfback crop. While more runners participated in the agility drills than ever before, the numbers produced at Indianapolis and in recent workouts on campus leaves the running back pecking order in total confusion. Before the Combines, it was a given that William Green would be the first tailback taken in the draft, but he did not show the explosion in the running drills and looked less than impressive catching the ball. Jerome Bettis clone T.J. Duckett inched ahead of Green after a eye-opening 4.38 clocking recently back at Michigan State, but DeShaun Foster continues to make his slow climb back up to the top spot he held before his 2001 season was sidetracked due to a suspension.
If not for a slew of injuries that leaves teams questioning his durability, Luke Staley would have been considered the front runner at this position. Teams that love his high octane tank are also wondering if he can stand up to the sixteen-game schedule grind. Maurice Morris was another high profile back who struggled with injuries throughout his senior year, but few have the lateral agility that the Oregon star possesses. Brian Westbrook is another intriguing product, as he is a very effective third down receiver with superb stats as both a runner and returner. An additional twenty pounds on his frame caused some teams to wonder if Jonathan Wells had eaten himself into a fullback job, but he turned in sub 4.5s in recent workouts.
Despite a pair of 1000-yard seasons, most teams are seeing that Ladell Betts is nothing more than a North-South runner who was blessed with an outstanding fullback (Jeremy Allen) leading the way. Ennis Haywood, Tellis Redmon, Damien Anderson and Adrian Peterson are all physical inside runners like Betts, so teams looking for grinders up the middle, will have plenty of talent to choose from.
Two interesting prospects are college quarterbacks Eric Crouch and Woodrow Dantzler, who will forsake throwing the pigskin to vie for jobs carrying it at the next level. Both will go lower than their draft stock indicates, as teams are usually hesitant in using an early round pick on a player that will be force-fed at a new position. Injuries also caused several high profile talents to see their draft stock slip. Questions still remain about Anderson's shoulder, Antwoine Womack was a mysterious no-show at the Combines after blowing out his knee in post-season action while Lew Thomas is still recovering from eight bone fractures in his foot. Others that bring up the medical red flag concerns are Ricky Williams, Delvon Flowers, Maurice Hicks and Dave Minnich.
Joe Burns may have wished he stayed at Georgia Tech after his simply awful showing at the Combines. Others who saw their stock plummet after poor performances are Flowers, Little John Flowers, Haywood, Dicenzo Miller, Minnich and Peterson.
MAKING THE GRADE…B…It will come down to either T.J. Duckett or DeShaun Foster leading this pack on draft day, but look for William Green and Clinton Portis to also hear their names called in the first round.
Cream Of The Crop
Positives: Dangerous open field runner with a muscular upper body and strong legs… Has good inside leg drive with stutterstep moves and lateral agility to break it open turning the corner… Durable workhorse with sturdy legs and exceptional upper body power… Reads the holes well and has the balance to power his way up the middle…Has quick feet and superb head & shoulder fakes…Shows loose hips dipping to the outside…Constantly driving forward with his legs to gain extra yardage after initial contact…Makes sharp lateral cuts and has that extra gear to vary his speed through the holes…Strong tackle breaker with the strength to punish opponents on the perimeter.
Negatives: Not an effective pass catcher, tending to let the ball absorb into his body rather than extend…Lacks the sustained speed to elude at the second level…Despite his frame, he only makes passive attempts to face up to defenders in pass blocking…Takes too many unnecessary hits running up the middle, as he tends to get a little too upright in his stance (needs to run at a lower pad level)…Has to show better ball security, as he does not always protect the ball away from the defenders.
Nicknamed the "Diesel," number 8 (in honor of his brother Tico, who wore number 35, 3+5=8) has drawn comparisons to the Pittsburgh Steelers' "Bus," Jerome Bettis, for their hard-driving running style…The three-year sensation opted to test the pro waters rather than return for his senior season, but he left MSU with 621 carries for 3379 yards (5.4 avg) and 29 touchdowns…His 621 attempts rank sixth on the Spartans' career-record chart while his 3379 yards are topped only by Sedrick Irvin (3504, 1996-98), Blake Ezor (3749, 1986-89), Tico Duckett (4212, 1989-92) and Lorenzo White (4887, 1984-87)…His 5.4-yard average places him ninth in school annals…Only Ezor (34), Irvin (35) and White (43) scored more touchdowns on the ground at MSU than his 29…Also had 22 receptions for 151 yards (6.9 avg) and a score.
REMINDS YOU OF… Jerome Bettis, Pittsburgh Steelers. Few big men have the explosive leg drive, lateral agility and quickness that Duckett possesses.
GAZING INTO THE CRYSTAL BALL… If not for more pressing needs elsewhere, Duckett would have been the primary target for the Detroit Lions. He is the complete back who will probably not be around after Cleveland picks in the first round.
Best Of The Rest
Positives: Talented athlete with that rare combination of size, strength and speed…Solidly built back with great vision…Able to make quick lateral shifts through traffic…Runs hard and lowers his head to make yardage after the initial contact…Very aware on the field, showing the vision in the holes to elude defenders as he cuts back to the outside…Skilled receiver with soft hands and superb open field moves…Aggressive running with the ball, taking on defenders in the open and smoothly bounces off their tackles…Very tough for linebackers to handle due to his shifty moves… Does an excellent job turning the corner, showing coordination and sharp cutting ability…Runs at a low pad level, displaying the ability to hit the seam in an instant…Has the flexibility to separate from defenders after the initial hit… Sets up his blocks well, possessing spin and hurdle ability to get over the piles.
Negatives: Needs structure, as he's had problems abiding by team rules in the past… Does not relish blocking, making passive attempts to face up and does not extend his arms properly to contain the blitz…Rounds his cuts in pass patterns and will absorb the ball into his body rather than extending to snatch…Physical runner, but must secure the ball better on the perimeter (like Ahman Green, he runs with the ball exposed to the defender)…Needs to be more patient waiting for his blocks to develop…Despite his speed, he does not show the hip snap and wiggle to elude at the second level…Ball security could be a concern, as he has some of the smallest hands (7 ¾-inches) of any running back in the draft.
Explosive and physical runner who has game-breaking speed and an attitude like Marshall Faulk (just give me the ball)…Proficient receiver who also has experience as a kickoff returner…In 31 games, he carried the ball 501 times for 2974 yards (5.9 avg) and 33 touch- downs…Only Troy Stradford (3504, 1982-86) and Mike Cloud (3597, 1995-98) had more yards rushing in school history…His 501 carries rank sixth on the Eagles' all-time record list while his 33 touchdowns are one shy of the school career-record of 34 by Keith Barnette (1973-75).
REMINDS YOU OF… Curtis Martin, New York Jets. Not in Martin's class as a receiver, but like the Jets star, he plays much faster than his 40 time would indicate.
GAZING INTO THE CRYSTAL BALL… If you can get by with his lack of blazing speed and are convinced that he will mature off the field, you will have the best back in the draft here.
Positives: Has good upper body muscle development with a solid chest and thick arms… Shows patience waiting for blocks to develop and the toughness and strength to get positive yardage running up the middle…Lowers his pads and drives through with his legs to break tackles, showing a good short area burst…Sets up the defenders bouncing between tackles…Runs precise routes, showing the balance and hands to get to the ball in traffic…Willing to step up and take on the blitzer…Has good acceleration on his cuts.
Negatives: While he accelerates off the snap, he does not have sudden movements…One-speed runner who accomplishes most of his yardage with power, rather than quickness…Needs to run at a more consistent pad level, as he gets too high in his power breaks, which results in his body taking unnecessary punishment…Does not have the burst to get into second gear (not a make you miss me-type of runner)…Lacks explosion running in space…Not considered a chronic fumbler, but will put the ball on the ground quite a bit… Will take on the blitzer, but does not show the desire or technique needed to block on a consistent basis…Has had some off-field problems in the past (arrested for possession of marijuana, but it belonged to a friend riding in his car. Was given a citation over the incident. Also lost his eligibility in 2001 for improper attaining of a vehicle).
Impact player who has the ability to make the big play and score any time he touches the football…Possesses excellent size, athleticism and the ability to change direction…Has great hands and the strength to break tackles, using a wicked stiff-arm and is a good blocker…The flashy tailback saw his banner senior campaign cut short when he was ruled ineligible to play by the NCAA for a rules infraction…Still, he he became only the sixth player in school history to rush for over 3000 yards in a career, ranking third on the all-time record list with 3194 yards and 40 touchdowns on 722 carries 4.4 avg)…Added 58 receptions for 548 yards (9.4 avg), including four scores and 229 yards on nine kickoff returns (25.4 avg)…His 44 total touchdowns rank second in school annals.
REMINDS YOU OF… Anthony Thomas, Chicago Bears. Runs at a low pad level and like Thomas, his power through the holes is simply devastating.
GAZING INTO THE CRYSTAL BALL… Like Thomas, ball security is one of his problems, but he has more lateral agility than the Bears standout. Durability is another concern and he will more than likely wait a few picks before he's selected.
Positives: Called by the coaching staff the best worker the program ever had…Hits the holes quickly, showing an explosive bounce coming out of his stance…Finds the rush lanes instantly, displaying the cutback ability to redirect when the lanes are clogged… Hits hard between the tackles, cradling the ball securely while running at a low pad level… Shows the body lean and stiff-arm ability to punish the initial tackler…Very difficult to bring down in isolated coverage and constantly keeps his feet churning to drag the pile… Has the deep acceleration to elude in the open…Effective receiver on dump-offs…Catches with hands properly extended and has large, soft hands to haul in the high pass…Very willing blocker who will do anything asked of him to help the team…Has the power to easily face up to the opponent in pass protection…Always seems to get a piece of the pass rusher when staying back to pick up the blitz…Well-respected team leader who spends countless hours in the film room…Shows incredible balance and hip swerve changing direction…Runs with instinctiveness and authority, showing a very tough and competitive nature.
Negatives: Despite his quickness, is more of a North-South runner, as he appears to gather himself before turning the corner…Not called upon much as a pass catcher, so evaluating his route running ability was difficult…Needs to pick and slide with more fluid movements when bouncing to the outside…Has good acceleration, but does not show that second gear needed to break for long runs in the open.
Called by the coaching staff the finest recruit in the last decade…The former junior college standout (Northeastern Oklahoma A&M), quickly established himself as one of the country's elite running backs…Despite playing only two seasons for the Wildcats, he ranks seventh on the career-record chart in scoring with 186 points, fifth in rushing with 1981 yards and third with nine 100-yard performances…His 31 rushing touchdowns set a school career-record, breaking the old mark of 26 by Jonathan Beasley (1996-2000) and Eric Hickson (1994-98)…His 31 overall touchdowns tied the KSU all-time record, first set by Ralph Graham (1931-33) and matched by Mack Herron (198-69).
REMINDS YOU OF… Olandis Gary, Denver Broncos. Much faster than Gary, but he is a power back with explosive acceleration.
GAZING INTO THE CRYSTAL BALL… If the Carolina Panthers don't go for a halfback in the first round, look for a first day surprise as they pounce on Scobey.
Positives: Very decisive runner who makes quick cuts running through the holes…Very patient waiting for his blocks to develop, creating space with his lateral agility…Has the strength to drag the pile running up the middle and his ability to run at a low pad level prevents defenders from taking him down in isolated coverage…Has the cutback ability to bounce to the outside when the rushing lanes are clogged…Lowers his head and keeps his legs moving to break arm tackles… Natural hands catcher who is very comfortable lining up in the slot…Has a knack for coming back for the poorly thrown pass, extending his arms properly to get the ball in traffic…Shows good torque as he uses his hip swerve to elude defenders…Holds the ball tight to his body to prevent the fumble.
Negatives: Lacks the speed to consistently get into second gear…Willing blocker, but tends to overextend and lunge, causing a loss of balance…Has the hip swerve to pick up the blitz, but does not use his power effectively and is rarely called upon to lead block through the holes… Does not have the open field acceleration or the body shake to elude upfield.
Impact runner who despite playing behind mediocre offensive lines during his career, he still managed gain 3686 yards on 831 carries (4.4 avg), topped only by Sedrick Shaw (837 attempts for 4156 yards, 1993-96) on the school's all-time record list…His 25 touchdowns rushing are surpassed only by Shaw (33) and Tavian Banks (33, 1994-97) in Iowa annals… Ranks tenth on the school's career-record scoring chart with 162 points…Joined Shaw the only players in school history to rush for over 1000 yards in a season twice in a career (Shaw accomplished that feat in 1994, '95 & '96)….Became the first player in Hawkeye history to lead the team in rushing four straight years…Started 43 of 46 games during his career.
REMINDS YOU OF… Lamar Smith, Carolina Panthers. Simply put, Betts needs a quality blocker to pave the way for him, for like Smith, he will go down after the first hit.
GAZING INTO THE CRYSTAL BALL… Someone will waste a first day pick on him, but sometimes, he appears so slow in his movements, if he was in a race with a pregnant woman, he'd come in third.
First Day Possibilities
Positives: Powerfully built outside runner with sudden moves turning the corner…Cradles the ball securely and has the leg drive to drag defenders for extra yardage…Effective short area receiver who is adept at picking up the blitz…Has elusive moves through the holes, displaying the vision to consistently pick the right rush lanes and the lateral agility to get into second gear quickly turning the corner…Has the quick stutterstep and side-step moves to elude defenders in the open…Runs at a low pad level with impressive in-line balance.
Negatives: Did not get enough opportunities as a receiver to gauge his effectiveness in this area…Has had ball security problems in the past…Shows marginal willingness to face up to defenders as a blocker…Runs a little too erect at times, but has the ability to accelerate around the corner.
One of college football's most underrated performers, Clinton quietly provided a crucial component in Miami's startling offensive success during the 2001 season…A player who proved he can carry the offense, he turned into one of college football's premier game-breakers…He showed the ability to be both a power runner and a long-distance threat in his first season as the primary tailback in Miami's offense…Finished his career with 440 carries for 2523 yards (5.7 avg) and 20 touchdowns…Only Edgerrin James (2960, 1996-98) and Ottis Anderson (3331, 1975-78) gained more yards rushing in a career at Miami…His 14 100-yard performances tied James' Miami career-record.
REMINDS YOU OF… James Jackson, Cleveland Browns. Fitting, as he served as Jackson's understudy until 2001.
GAZING INTO THE CRYSTAL BALL… Everyone says that the Browns will take Portis in the first round, but coach Butch Davis is mysteriously silent on that assessment. Look for Portis' questionable receiving skills to cause him to slip into the second round.
Positives: Has exceptional size, athletic physique and well-defined upper body structure…Hits the holes in an instant, showing quick cutting agility as he uses his blocks effectively to defeat threats…Has the power to run through arm tackles…Has the speed to easily bounce towards the outside…Shows an explosive burst to get to the second level…Makes the jump cut to cause defenders to miss and has the vision needed to elude when heading upfield…Runs with good ball security…Has natural hands and is effective on screens and flares…Hard-nosed player who will face up to defenders in pass protection.
Negatives: Has to learn to run at a lower pad level or he will end up having to take too much punishment…Little upright running through holes, showing a narrow leg base which causes him to get knocked off stride…Needs some work trying to locate the ball on pass routes, as he's more comfortable on screens rather than getting into deep patterns.
A standout sprinter in high school, Lamar was bypassed by the larger school due to his academics coming out of the prep ranks…He moved into the starting lineup late in his freshman year, putting together two 1000-yard seasons during his career…Finished with 4700 yards and 62 touchdowns on 783 carries (6.0 avg) in 41 games…Added 44 catches for 462 yards (10.5 avg) and a pair of scores…Totaled 384 points during his career…Only the second player in school history to earn back-to-back All-American honors…Holds every school game, season and career rushing records.
REMINDS YOU OF… Eddie George, Tennessee Titans. Not as big as George, but seems to have the same upright running style.
GAZING INTO THE CRYSTAL BALL… Small college competition makes you wonder how he will fare at the next level. Needs to learn how to run at a lower pad level, but you can see that the pedigree is there.
Positives: Well-built athlete with thick thighs and a muscular upper body…Has the frame to add ten pounds with no loss in quickness…Aggressive runner with superb leg drive… Runs with good body lean and balance…Changes speed smoothly and has an excellent upfield burst…Tough to stop inside when he gets the pads down…Solid blocker who knows how to shorten his stride through traffic…Patient waiting for his blocks to develop and can generate good acceleration through the holes…Power runner, but still has the hip swerve and wiggle to bounce to the outside…Shows good body control on the perimeter and uses his strong arms with force to break tackles…Does a fine job of maintaining position to wall off as a pass blocker…Catches with his hands extended away from the framework and keeps eye contact on the ball in flight…Extremely effective on swing passes and keeps his balance running near the sidelines.
Negatives: While he has the speed to turn the corner, he is not that quick to elude, absorbing too much punishment as he combats the initial hit…Durability is an issue, as he's had a high amount of carries and injury problems in the past…Lacks the shake needed to break free around the corner, but will power his way into the open…Will face up strong as a blocker in the backfield, but is not consistent getting upfield to block for the receivers as he loses balance, falling off his hits…Has had health issues in the past, taking longer than expected to recover from his injuries.
The Doak Walker Award winner, given to the nation's premier running back, has put up some very impressive numbers during his career, despite being hampered by injury problems…Blessed with the perfect blend of size, strength and speed, Luke gained 2507 yards with 41 touchdowns on 418 carries (6.0 avg)…Only Jeff Blanc (2663, 1973-75), Lakei Heimuli (2710, 1984-86) and Jamal Willis (2970, 1991-94) gained more yards rushing in school history…His 6.0-yard average broke the old Cougar career-record of 5.5 yards by Peter Tuipulotu (1987-91)…Caught 86 passes for 1000 yards (11.6 avg) and seven scores, adding 102 yards on three kickoff returns…His 48 total touchdowns broke the old school all-time record of 40, set by Willis…Gained 3609 all-purpose yards in his career, an average of 124.44 yards per game…Scored at least two touchdowns in 14 of 29 games.
REMINDS YOU OF… Jamal Lewis, Baltimore Ravens. Has the sudden burst that Lewis possesses, but unfortunately, also the durability concerns.
GAZING INTO THE CRYSTAL BALL… If only he could stay healthy, he'd be ranked among the league's elite, but his long injury history will see teams hold off on him in the first few rounds.
Positives: Lean, but well-built with good overall muscle definition and the frame that can carry ten more pounds…Has an explosive initial burst and the ability to get into second gear in an instant…Very decisive anticipating the rush lanes, instinctively moving through the crease as he moves forward with power to break arm tackles…Slides and attacks the seam with impressive balance, showing the ability to jump, cut and elude…Runs at the proper low pad level through contact…Patient turning the corner, waiting for his blocks to develop…Has excellent stop-&-go acceleration with superb separation ability in the open…Elusive runner with the hip swerve to make the initial tackler miss…Protects the ball well and can carry in either arm efficiently…Solid hands catcher who is effective on screens…Squares his shoulders and cut blocks with force when asked to pick up the blitz…Has a high threshold for pain…Displays long, smooth strides running upfield.
Negatives: Effective on screens, but needs refinement in his pass routes, as he tends to round his cuts…Stamina late in games was a concern last year, but he did battle an assortment of minor injuries.
No other Oregon running back had ever made such an immediate impression, with his quiet demeanor too often mistaken for a passive nature…Yet nothing could be further from the truth for the single-season school record-holder (rushing attempts) who became the school's first two-time 1000-yard rusher ever…Despite battling everything from bruised ribs to a shoulder ailment to a sprained toe to a laceration between his thumb and index finger, he had been the team's workhorse…Described as possessing an unorthodox running style bent on producing results over style, his natural talent and great athletic skills carried him to new heights, finishing his career with 466 carries for 2237 yards (4.8 avg) and 17 touchdowns…His 2237 yards rank fifth on the school's career-record list… Added 307 yards and three scores on 35 receptions (8.8 avg).
REMINDS YOU OF… Dominic Rhodes, Indianapolis Colts. Comes at you immediately with his sudden burst and has incredible open field balance.
GAZING INTO THE CRYSTAL BALL… Could be a perfect fit in the third round for a West Coast offense, much like the one Detroit incorporates.
Positives: Has a nicely proportioned frame with good upper body muscle development and the potential to add fifteen pounds with no loss of speed…Tough, dependable and very dedicated to the game…Has the sudden moves out of his stance to gain advantage and the quickness to avoid and accelerate past defenders…Shows a natural feel for the crease and displays excellent vision and hip swerve as he weaves through traffic…Keeps his pad level low going through the rush lanes and has the short area explosion and juking moves to elude defenders turning the corner…Cuts sharply with good acceleration and displays the body control and foot agility to step and slide on his way to avoid tackles…Protects the ball securely…Shows good flexibility and concentration in his pass routes, extending his hands properly away from the framework to catch the ball with ease…Despite his size, he attacks defenders with force blocking upfield…Has excellent change of direction agility and can freeze defenders with his fakes and body lean… Runs precise routes and is especially effective in the slot…Makes proper body adjustments towards the ball…Shows patience, body control and vision waiting for blocks to develop as a returner.
Negatives: Left knee could be a medical concern (no anterior cruciate ligament)…Despite showing aggression as a blocker, his size prevents him from gaining leverage vs. the bigger defenders…Has good leg drive, but gets better yardage when trying to avoid, as he is generally brought down on the initial hit…While he shows excellent hands, he does not get to the ball at its highest point and can get a little sloppy trying to explode out of his breaks…Could be more suited for third down duties, especially split out in passing situations.
One of the most decorated players in the history of NCAA Division 1-AA football…Holds the all-time national record with 9885 all-purpose yards, breaking the old collegiate mark of 9301 yards by Brian Shay of Emporia State (1995-98)…In 46 games, he scored 542 points, with 84 touchdowns, carried the ball 725 times for 4499 yards (6.2 avg), caught 219 passes for 2639 yards (12.1 avg), gained 2433 yards with four scores on kickoff returns, as he established 39 school, 13 Atlantic Ten Conference and five NCAA records…One of only two players in school history to rush for over 1000 yards in a season, accomplishing that feat three times…Only player in Division 1-AA and conference annals to score 160 or more points twice in a career.
REMINDS YOU OF… Tiki Barber, New York Giants. If for no other reason than his versatility, return skills, quickness through the holes and pass catching skills.
GAZING INTO THE CRYSTAL BALL… Could be a perfect fit for Tampa Bay, as he would quickly fill Warrick Dunn's shoes.
Positives: Physically cut athlete with excellent muscle tone…Has the thick legs needed to gain suddenness coming off the snap…Has a snappy short burst and the vision to quickly find the crease…Shows the cut back ability to gain yardage off tackle, displaying the perimeter speed to easily get to the edge…Has good stop-&-go action, sliding laterally with ease of movement… Displays strong ball security skills…Hands catcher who fluidly adjusts to the off-target passes… Flashes good downfield effort as a blocker.
Negatives: Tends to shy away from contact when running inside…Runs too upright and will throttle down a bit before taking the hit…Lacks aggression and true body lean through the rush lanes, appearing more comfortable attempting to bounce to the outside…His lateral slide appears a little choppy…Loses his feet at times going in and out of his breaks…Not much of a contact seeker and prefers to not go for the pass in traffic…Will absorb blows as a pass protector, but shows a passive nature as a blocker…Needs to develop better hip swerve, as his inability to swivel causes him to lose speed when redirecting.
Late bloomer who emerged in his senior year after waiting patiently in the wings earlier in his career…Stepped into the spotlight as the starter, displaying the size, speed and power to run inside the tackles or bounce outside the end…Has shown flashes of brilliance and is one of those runners who seem to get stronger as the game wears on…Also a fine receiver and a good blocker, he finished his career with 26 receptions for 233 yards (9.0 avg)…Despite starting only 15 of 45 games he played in, he carried 479 times for 2418 yards (5.0 avg) and 27 touchdowns… His 24218 yards rank 12th on the school's career-record list.
REMINDS YOU OF… Antowain Smith, New England Patriots. Power back with the quickness of a scatback.
GAZING INTO THE CRYSTAL BALL… Outside of Eddie George, the Buckeyes have not produced too many quality pro running backs in recent years. While he has the tools, it makes you wonder what took this kid so long to earn a starting job. Personally, I'd look at him on the second day, but some team may bite on the size/speed factor by the third.
Second Day Possibilities
Positives: Compactly built with thick calves and thighs…Patient waiting for his blocks to develop on returns…Decisive hitting the holes, squaring his shoulders properly before contact…Runs sharp routes, snatching the ball smoothly in traffic…Has good vision and cutback ability to the inside…Has the vision to quickly spot the seam and is very decisive picking his holes…Very smooth on crossing patterns and fades, extending his arms to snatch the ball and has the sudden burst to elude after the catch…Stays low in his stance to cut block and is very determined, standing with a wide base to face up and sustain the blitzers.
Negatives: Does not have the frame to absorb punishment as an every-down back…While he is elusive, he does not have the sustained speed to break long runs…Needs to do a better job of redirecting when the rush lanes are filled…Has good leg drive, but seems to get engulfed by the initial tackler…Does not have the acceleration to bounce to the corner with any consistency… More suited for third-down duties or on special teams.
One of the top all-purpose backs in the nation, he has very good size and speed…Opted to test his wares in the pros instead of returning to school in 2002, but finished his career with 486 carries for 2481 yards (5.1 avg) and 15 touchdowns…Only Marion Barber (3094, 1977-80), Chris Darkins (3235, 1992-95), Thomas Hamner (3810, 1996-99) and Darrell Thompson (4654, 1986-89) ran for more yards in a career at Minnesota…Caught 47 passes for 410 yards (8.7 avg) and a pair of scores…Returned 45 punts for 571 yards (12.7 avg) and two touchdowns, topping the previous school career-record of 541 yards by Chris Gaiters (1987-89)…Added 359 yards on 22 kickoff returns (16.3 avg)…His 3821 all-purpose yards rank behind Tutu Atwell (3907, 1994-97), Darkins (4347), Hamner (4363) and Thomspon (5109) on the school's all-time record chart.
Positives: Has a compact, well-defined frame with good chest development…Cuts sharply and changes directions suddenly…Makes quick decisions on the move, showing superb field vision… Very consistent in finding the cut-back lanes…Aggressive inside runner with the weaving ability to pick-&-slide through traffic…Maintains balance running through the pile and displays impressive power when making initial contact…His leg drive constantly keeps him moving forward…Bounces to the outside and has that accelerated second gear to separate from defenders upfield… Releases off the snap and gets into his routes smoothly in passing situations.
Negatives: Size is a big drawback…Does not possess the receiving skills to be an effective third-down back…While he has good acceleration, it is not explosive (4.5) and along with his short legs, he can be run down by the defender in his attempts to go the distance…Has a bad penchant for carrying the ball exposed working his way upfield… More of a body catcher and his hands are too small to get a proper grip extending for the ball…Will only go through the motions as a pass blocker and is not a contact seeker when asked to block upfield…Shoulder injury in 2001 needs further evaluation
The nation's leading returning rusher and leading returning Heisman Trophy vote-getter, Damien saw his final season cut short by injury problems…A quick, darting runner with excellent receiving skills, he also excelled in the classroom, graduating in June, 2001 with a bachelor's degree in Communications…Carried 1053 times for 4485 yards (4.3 avg) and 38 touchdowns, shattering the previous school career-records of 787 attempts for 3793 yards and 35 scores by Darnell Autry (1994-96)…His 4485 yards on the ground is the sixth-best career total in Big Ten Conference history…Added 502 yards on 58 catches (8.7 avg) and 284 yards on 11 kickoff returns (25.8 avg)…His 5271 all-purpose yards broke the old Wildcat all-time record of 4609 yards by Autry.
Positives: Workhorse with well developed muscles, cut upper body frame, tight waist and thick legs…Anticipates the gaps in the defense well, keeping his balance as he slips through the line to break tackles…Strong inside runner with the leg drive and stiff-arm techniques to punish defenders…Adequate receiver, working well on screens…Downhill runner who has good short area acceleration…Has the lower body strength to compensate for a lack of wiggle through the holes…Uses his strong upper frame and arm power to protect the ball…Runs with good body lean…Very willing to square up with the bigger defenders when asked to block…Has the flexibility and power to face up to the opponent upfield…Shows the proper pad level to run through traffic and the vision to anticipate openings…Does a nice job of feeling his way through the pile, breaking tackles thanks to his superb balance.
Negatives: One-speed rusher who lacks the wiggle to elude and the explosion needed to get into the second level…Lines up too tight to the line (does this in order to reach the hole), and is not always quick to spot the rush lanes…Lacks the sudden burst needed to bounce towards the edge…Untested as a receiver, as he was used only on screens…Does not have the second gear most feature backs have to run away from the defense…Knows his assignments, but has a marginal Wonderlic score…Working with tutors to overcome a speech impediment…May still be favoring an elbow ligament tear that he suffered in the 2000 season.
Holder of multiple school, Southern Conference and NCAA Division 1-AA records…The talented back delighted Georgia Southern fans for four years, rushing for a collegiate record 100 yards in 36 consecutive contests and shattering the NCAA career-scoring record with 524 points…His 40 total 100-yard performances (regular season) set another NCAA record (all divisions)…Including playoffs, he rushed for over 100 yards 54 times during his career…He also became college football's all-time leading rusher with 6543 yards and set the Southern Conference career-record with 996 rushing attempts…Became the first player in conference history to rush for over 1000 yards in four seasons…In 42 regular season games, he rushed for 85 touchdowns and averaged 155.8 yards per game…In 57 career contests, he carried 1378 times for 9145 yards (6.6 avg), 111 touch- downs and an average of 160.44 yards per game…Owns the top four season rushing total marks in GSU annals.
Positives: Well-defined athlete with a thick chest and tight waist and hips…Shows quickness through the holes and the cutting ability to elude…Elusive runner with good field vision to hit the creases…Has the pick-&-slide agility to make his own space…Runs at the proper pad level and likes to bounce to the outside…Has the short burst to get into top end speed and can make the jump cuts at the holes…Effective dump-off receiver who runs crisp short routes.
Negatives: More quick than fast…Can not gauge his inside running ability as he was used mostly on draws…Not overly strong and does not show consistency breaking arm tackles…Does not have the acceleration needed to break away in the open…Needs to show better ball security (runs loose with the ball exposed)…Will block, but prefers to cut rather than face up.
Two-year starter and team captain who joined the Davis brothers, Troy (9) and Darrell (5) as the only backs in school history to gain over 200 yards in a game three times during their careers…His average of 5.0 yards per carry rank second in school annals…Ranks sixth overall with 27 rushing touchdowns and fourth with 3468 all-purpose yards…Carried 572 times for 2862 yards in 43 games…Snatched 60 passes for 548 yards (9.1 avg) and returned four kickoffs for 58 yards (14.5 avg).
Positives: High-cut with a long torso and arms…Well-balanced runner with good weave through traffic…Keeps his shoulders squared when breaking tackles…Has the vision and patience to allow blocks to develop…Effective receiver in the flats, showing good arm extension and natural hands…Has the elusiveness to make defenders miss after the catch…His receiving skills could be better utilized as an H-back or slot receiver at the pro level…Drives with his legs to get additional yardage after initial contact…Strong second-effort runner who runs with his feet under him.
Negatives: Needs to learn how to run at a lower pad level…Stands too upright going through the holes, but does have good weave through traffic…Won't overpower anyone, preferring to finesse and avoid tacklers, despite his size…Shows poor blocking technique, often lunging or over-extending with little result…Won't break many tackles with his rigid running motion…His lack of lower body strength prevents him from running at a low center of gravity and diminishes his balance…Lacks vision to pick up the blitz…May have a hard time digesting a playbook (see Wonderlic score)…Hesitates when making turns, thanks to his penchant for running too upright… Does not take to hard coaching and has been known to lack intensity at times…Lacks the temperment, strength and technique to be an effective blocker…Has had a history of lower back problems…May have problems digesting a playbook (see Wonderlic score).
One of the most versatile running backs in the Big Ten Conference, he was somewhat overshadowed by 2001 Heisman Trophy candidate Antwaan Randle El in the high-octane Hoosier offense, but still managed to establish himself as one of the premier players in the Big Ten Conference…He has great hands and is extremely effective in the option game… An accomplished receiver as well as a fast and powerful runner, Levron has consistently ranked among the league leaders in total offense during his career…Gained 3095 yards with 31 touchdowns on 452 carries (6.8 avg), becoming only the sixth player in school history to rush for over 3000 yards in a career…Added 1088 yards and seven scores on 94 receptions (11.6 avg).
Positives: Instinctive runner with a good feel for the crease…Shows quickness coming off the snap and the leg drive to break tackles…Has the hip swerve and shifty moves to make the initial tackler miss…Cradles the ball securely, rarely fumbling the ball while running at a low pad level…Has the agility and lateral moves to escape linebackers in his pass routes…Extends his arms properly, making classic over-the-shoulder catches in traffic…Versatile player whose experience at fullback allowed him to display his leg drive and willingness to step up as a blocker…Very well-liked by teammates, who count on his leadership ability.
Negatives: Lacks that second gear needed to elude defenders after initial contact…His lack of size prevents him from being used as a short yardage inside runner, as he does not show the power to consistently absorb that punishment…Lacks the sudden moves to turn the corner when the rush lanes are clogged…Has problems on deep routes, as he fails to maintain eye contact on the ball in flight…While he shows a willingness to block, he does not have the power to plant and gain leverage (overextends and lunges at defenders).
Consummate team player who sacrificed personal success for that of the team during his career…Versatile athlete who not only excelled as a fullback and halfback, but also performed with flair on special teams…Shared halfback duties earlier in his career, but emerged as one of the dominating forces in the collegiate ranks during his final campaign…Despite not becoming a full-time starter until his senior year, he finished his career third on the school's record list with 2869 yards rushing, topped only by Larry Csonka (2934, 1965-67) and Joe Morris (4299, 1978-81)…His 529 rushing attempts are topped only by Csonka (594), Bill Hurley (685, 1975-79) and Morris (813) in school annals… His 5.4-yards per carry average ranks fourth in Syracuse history behind Robert Drummond (5.5 avg, 1985-88), Jim Brown (5.8 avg, 1954-56) and Ernie Davis (6.6 avg, 1959-61)..Only Floyd Little (35, 1964-66) scored more touchdowns rushing than his 29 in school history… His 31 total touchdowns scored (29 rushing, 2 receiving) are surpassed only by Ernie Davis (35) and Little (46) in Orange annals.
Positives: Tough inside runner who moves well through traffic…Has good balance & stays in control as he weaves through the pile…Effective receiver who makes defenders miss with his stutterstep moves…Makes up for a lack of blazing speed with his sharp cutting ability…Has that explosive upfield burst and uses his arms effectively to break tackles…Spots the rush lanes in an instant and is very effective cutting back when the holes are filled…Slides to the holes with ease and has the low center of gravity needed to make the initial tackler miss…Shows excellent leg drive going up the middle.
Negatives: Lacks the ideal size to be an every-down back…Only shows a willingness, but no technique or strength in his blocking efforts…Needs to do a better job of securing the ball, as he tends to leave it exposed for the defender to strip (does not change hands) when bouncing to the outside…Has had a history of injuries that leaves one questioning his durability.
Unheralded athlete who was a career backup with the likes of Travus Henry, Shawn Bryson and Jamal Lewis playing in front of him…Finally got his opportunity as a senior and flourished as the featured back…Finished his career with 488 carries for 2336 yards (4.8 avg) and 21 touchdowns…His 2336 yards rank eighth on the school's career-record list while his 488 carries rank sixth.
Positives: Quick and decisive runner with instant acceleration…Makes good decisions when running with the ball…Has the vision to properly see the field and is patient waiting for blocks to develop…Tough to knock off his feet with the initial tackle due to his powerful leg drive…Has the burst to turn the corner and the cutback ability to run away from defenders in the open…Runs with the ball securely placed (most of his fumbles were the result of pitch-outs)…Shows the toughness and exceptional balance to bounce off tackles…Has outstanding change-of-direction movements.
Negatives: Lack of size and an erratic arm dictate a move from quarterback…Runs through long cold stretches, but can instantly change the course of a game with his feet… While he has absorbed punishment in the option, he may not have the power to be an every down back…Has a good arm for the short area passes, but tends to get "happy feet" (wants to run with the ball) on most plays…Tends to get tunnel vision as a passer, with an inability to spot his secondary targets…May be better suited for safety, due to his keen field instincts and rare acceleration… Has had a large amount of minor injuries throughout his career, with several surgeries on his right shoulder.
The most decorated quarterback in the school's history, the 2001 Heisman Trophy, Walter Camp Player of the Year and Davey O'Brian Quarterback Award winner holds the NCAA record for most touchdowns rushing by a quarterback (59)…He became the 13th player in college football annals to rush and pass for over 1000 yards in a season…One of three players in NCAA Division 1-A history to rush for over 3000 yards and throw for over 4000 yards in a career…Tied an NCAA record in 1999 when he ran, threw for and caught a touchdown (vs. California)…Holds the school career-records with 7915 yards in total offense…Holds the Big Twelve Conference record for most yards rushing by a quarter- back (3434 yards)…Holds the school record with 88 total touchdowns…Completed 312 of 606 passes (51.5%) for 4481 yards and 29 touchdowns… Carried 648 times for 3434 yards and 59 scores.