Darrell Hazell is not afraid to run the football and he has the players to do it at Purdue this year. Last season he had not one, but two 1,000 yard backs at Kent State. Purdue has only had eight 1,000 rushing seasons in its history. The most recent was Kory Sheets with 1,131 in 2008, and he is tearing it up in Canada this season.
This is part of the reason we're the Cradle of Quarterbacks. A 1,000-yard rusher is extremely rare. That could change this season, however.
Purdue lost its top two rushers from the 2012 season, but it returns two the players that led the team in yards per carry. Hunt is one of those players. Through two seasons of his career he has not been the featured back, but he has shown he is a big play waiting to happen. Last season he averaged eight yards per carry on 42 carries for 335 yards and two touchdowns. He also caught 13 passes for 204 yards and a touchdown. That's 55 touches spread over 13 games. The Nordfense must have thought he was too successful, however.
Many are drawing parallels to Dri Archer, who had a huge season as a small, underrated back last year at Kent State for Hazell. Hunt has already accumulated 622 yards for his career and a near 1,000 yard season would put him into the top 20 all-time at Purdue. Does he have the durability to be an every down back, however? Fortunately, thanks to the recruiting class brought in Purdue does have options.
As for Freytag, the fifth-year senior walk-on has seen his playing time increase each year to the point where he finally got some touches last season. He'll serve mostly as a blocking fullback that can get the occasional carry or even pass out of the backfield. Last season he had eight carries for 47 yards and a score as well as three reception for 32 yards. At 6'1" 240 pounds he has enough beef to plow the road for Hunt.
While Hunt is a lightning quick back, Cottom is a huge running back that can give Purdue a Thunder and Lightning approach to the running game. He is gigantic for a straight up running back at 6'2" 256 pounds and can even serve as a fullback if need be. He had 11 games of experience as a freshman in 2011 before tearing his ACL. He recovered in time to play in all 13 last year. On 31 career carries he has an impressive 9 yard per carry average and two touchdowns. He also caught seven passes for 79 yards and two more scores last year.
One of Cottom's highlights was an 87 yard rumble for a score against Eastern Michigan last season. He was also one of just two players to actually score in last season's bowl game. Cottom is a punishing runner that should see a lot more carries this season. He is more than good enough to spell Hunt for a few plays and even soften up defenses with his power compared to Hunt's speed.
As for Anthrop, he is listed as a receiver, but lined up more in the backfield last season. He had 58 yards rushing on seven carries and touchdown to go with one catch for a 25-yard score. Since there is not a lot of experience you could see Anthrop line up almost anywhere. After finding out he scored over 100 touchdowns in his high school career I am fine with that.
The Freshmen: Keith Byars II - Fr., Robert Gregory - Fr.-RS, Dalyn Dawkins - Fr., Keyante Green - Fr., David Yancey - Fr.
Outside of Hunt, Cottom, and Freytag there is almost no experience at running back, but a lot of promising young talent. Four of these guys are eligible for a redshirt but I would be that at least one sees significant snaps. Each of these guys has a slightly different edge.
For Byars, he had a year of seasoning at Milford Academy in New York for a year of prep school. He has the genes since his dad is NFL and Ohio State legend Keith Byars, who played 13 years in the League.
Gregory was rushed for 919 yards and 15 TDs as a senior in high school, but is a converted quarterback. It looked like he might see the field at times last year but he hung onto his redshirt and we were mostly introduced to him at this year's spring game. His advantage is relative experience to the four true freshmen.
Dawkins has the big statistics for a big-time program in Louisville. He was a four-star prospect by Scout and ran for 1,479 yards and 18 scores for a Louisville Trinity team that was among the best in the nation. He also was versatile coming out of the backfield with 38 catches for 367 yards. He is a smaller, quicker back like Hunt.
Green was the highest rated player that Purdue was able to land on signing day. An almost consensus four-star, Green had almost 6,000 yards as the "Danny Anthrop of Georgia" (featured player on a small-school power). He is a quick, elusive back that also has some power behind him.
Finally, you hve Yancey, who had the advantage of enrolling early so he could go through spring practice. As a junior he had 1,345 yards and 16 touchdowns and had 1,168 yards and 17 scores before a knee injury slowed him last season. In the spring he appeared to make an impact on special teams and could be used as a punt returner. he also played some quarterback in his career, as his highlight reel shows.
I honestly like all of these guys, but picking who will play and who will sit is a crapshoot right now. I would probably rate them, in order, as Green, Dawkins, Yancey, Gregory, and Byars right now, mostly on high school production and recruiting rankings.
The good news is that all five of these guys are talented. If Hunt were to get injured we have some serious options.
T-Mill's Depth Chart:
- Hunt, Freytag (Fullback)
- Cottom (can also play fullback)