No Press, Just Results From RBs
By Joe Coughlin
Professional sports are entertainment — I get it.
They are made for the fan. As gladiators buried in armor crash into each other, we cheer wildly and encourage more severe collisions.
It is within this mindset that we grow obsessed with the quarterback, the A-lister in the live-action drama playing before our eyes. It’s been that way since Broadway Joe and Johnny U.
Now, of course, things are far more intense, with all quarterbacks — not a select few —subject to public and media scrutiny on a daily basis. After any game, an interview with the quarterback is necessary.
That narrow focus has found its way to the college game. Johnny Football is a TMZ regular, and here at Football.com, we even ranked every FBS starting quarterback from best to not-so-best. We didn’t do that with any other position and neither did any one else.
But with the blinders on, we are missing a whole lot of awesome by the supporting actors — the running backs.
In the first couple weeks of the college season, I bet you can tell me how Teddy Bridgewater is doing, or Tahj Boyd, Aaron Murray, Braxton Miller ... but what about T.J. Yeldon, Todd Gurley, Lache Seastrunk, Ka’Deem Carey or De’Anthony Thomas? Pay attention because here’s what you need to know about early-season rushing feats and what to watch the rest of the way.
• Gurley is taking off for the Georgia Bulldogs. Their big win over South Carolina was in many ways a shootout between Murray and Connor Shaw, but Gurley was the workhorse, ripping off 134 yards on 30 carries and scoring twice (once on a pass). In Week 1, he had a 75-yard score on his first carry and totaled 154 yards in a loss to Clemson. He’s already compiled 288 yards rushing and has faced two of his toughest opponents. He’s the best tailback in the country and you’re missing it.
• Don’t look now, but Wisconsin is off and running. Under new coach Gary Andersen, the Badgers were expected to pass a little more. Not so much. With a stable full of power horses, why would you? In each of the first two games, Wisconsin has had three 100-yard backs. That’s only the third and fourth time that’s happened in school history. The second time was in the B1G title game last year. The main benefactor so far is Melvin Gordon, who looks every bit the talent I thought he was preseason. Gordon has 284 yards on just 22 carries (12.9 ypc) with big TD runs of 65 and 70. James White, the elder statesman of the group, has led in carries with 33, resulting in 252 yards, while freshman Corey Clement has 250 yards on 29 carries. It's the best backfield in the nation. Now, the Badgers have crushed UMass and Tennessee Tech and real tests are still a couple weeks away, but ignoring this storyline would be a mistake.
• Baylor’s Seastrunk made quite a bold statement last season (to The Sporting News): “I’m going to win the Heisman. I’m going to win it in 2013. If I don’t, I’m going to get very close.” He’s looking the part early. To end 2012, he averaged at least 6 yards per carry in each his final six games. Once Baylor decided to give him the rock (he only started getting 10-plus touches in Week 8), Seastrunk has dominated. His effectiveness has continued, with 261 yards in two games, averaging 9-plus yards per carry with five scores. Now, Baylor has scored 69 and 70 points in two non-competitive wins, but Seastrunk has one second-half carry so far. He’s legit — and a man of his word.
• Oregon’s rushing attack has been more prolific than Wisconsin’s, and Thomas is leading the way. His 254 rush yards take up the largest chunk of Oregon’s 856 (in two games!). Thomas looks untouchable. He is flying around and past defenders at will. The Ducks’ QB Marcus Mariota has been equally impressive on the ground, with 235 yards running in two games. Byron Marshall has chipped in 157 rushing yards. Thomas, though, will be the main runner going forward. Once Oregon needs him to get 20 touches against teams like Stanford, we’ll find out if he’s a Heisman contender. For now, though, Thomas looks on his way to the best year of his already-impressive career.
• And that’s not all: Last year’s leading rusher,Careyof Arizona will not win the rushing title again — well, probably not. But that’s only because he missed Week 1. His skills are still there; he rushed for 171 yards on 16 carries in a Week 2 win over UNLV. South Carolina sophomoreMike Davis burst on the scene with 264 yards on 28 carries in two games against solid opponents — a win over North Carolina and loss to Georgia. Davis only had 52 carries in 2012. Watch this one. Miami's Duke Johnson (40 carries, 245 yards) has been a workhorse and a successful one. ‘Bama’s T.J. Yeldon only had 75 yards on 17 carries and looked only decent in the Tide’s win over Virginia Tech. Don’t freak out! The Hokies’ defense is better than you think, and Yeldon is just as good as you think.
I hope that catches you up on what you’ve been missing. Now, if you’re sick of Johnny Drama like I am, check out some controversy-free goodness in backfields across the country.