Plenty Of Promising RBs In Mountain West
By Joe Jenkins
The Mountain West has always been a conference known for its offensive brand of football, but big-time running backs have rarely been the staple.
That was, of course, until Doug Martin came along and terrorized defenses for two years at Boise State. Last season, Stefphon Jefferson one upped Martin by rewriting nearly every single-season conference rushing record with more than 1,800 rushing yards and 24 touchdowns.
This is starting to become a trend.
With Jefferson bolting for the NFL after his junior season, somebody else will have to keep the momentum going.
Here’s a look at some of the backs that will try to make a run at Jefferson’s records in 2013.
What to like: Ajayi’s 2012 stat line looks similar to Jefferson's in 2011 because of how efficient he was. The tailback averaged 6.7 yards per carry in his freshman year while serving as D.J. Harper’s understudy.
What not to like: 82 attempts is not a large enough sample size to get a good feeling on how good a guy can be, especially from a freshman for whom no team has game-planned.
QB Joe Southwick didn’t throw an interception in his last four games, so it stands to reason that head coach Chris Petersen will open up the playbook a bit more in the signal-caller’s second year at the helm.
Verdict: The last time a Bronco didn’t rush for 1,000 yards in a season was 2008, so you can pencil Ajayi in for a solid season, but the offense simply won’t get him enough touches to come near Jefferson’s record. More than 1,000 yards and double-digit touchdowns aren’t out of the question.
What to like: If it wasn’t for Jefferson’s monster season, Carrier would have been all the rage in the Mountain West last season. All he did was rush for 1,469 yards on 255 carries. He had five games of more than 130 yards, including a monster 338-yard performance at Air Force. The Lobos don’t make throwing the ball a priority. They only averaged 68.8 yards per game through the air in 2012.
What not to like: At 5-foot-9 and 185 pounds, the redshirt senior doesn’t have a body that screams “durable workhorse.” He also has something of an injury history after missing 2011 due to a bum knee.
Verdict: Carrier has proven he can produce in a one-sided offense, but with no other discernable threats, how long can he keep it up? Provided his body holds, the senior could have another noteworthy season, but he’ll have to endure one heck of a beating to get anywhere near 1,800 yards.
What to like: There aren’t many flaws in Muema’s game. He produced at the same level as Carrier (1,458 yards), but was more efficient doing it (237 carries). At 5-foot-10, 205 pounds, the junior running back also has a body that looks to be a bit more durable on an every down basis.
What not to like: Not having an established backup might look like a good thing, but it also means Muema has to carry the water for the Aztecs' running game. His ability to keep from wearing down could determine what kind of season he has.
Verdict: Muema is the closest thing to a sure-fire star in the Mountain West this year. If the Aztecs can muster up a passing game to keep defenses honest and find a suitable backup to spell him, Muema should tally the next big season.