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Pre-Spring Practice Position Breakdown: RB

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Purdue has a bunch of running backs, but can't figure out how to get more than 2 on the field. Who stands the best chance to actually touch the field next season?

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Yesterday I covered the quarterback position, which could be solidified with Blough, or could be up in the air with a new coordinator. It could be a deep position, or it could be a position of need, depending on how the depth chart shakes out, and who (if anyone) transfers. Today is a little more certain, at least at the top part of the depth chart, because I'm covering...

Running Back:

The top of the running back depth chart is one of the few positions that is settled, but after the top spot, things are a little convoluted. Purdue may not recruit well, but they do recruit a lot, and the running back position runneth over with bodies. Now, normally I would say this is great. You can never have enough running backs, and these guys should be athletic enough to be used in several different ways. Unfortunately, this staff has been about as creative with personnel as Hazell is with his hat selection. We would rather run our players into the ground than play someone off the bench, but I digress. Here's what's cooking at the running back position for next year.

Markell Jones: SO

Markell Jones is about as sure of a starter as their is on the roster. Mr. Indiana football came in with high expectations, and didn't disappoint. Jones is an interesting combination of quick feet and power. He appears to be missing the top gear that elite running backs possess, but if he gets run down from behind, well, at least he's picking up yards.

Att

Yds

Avg

Tds

Rec

Yds

Avg

TD

168

875

5.2

10

34

239

7

1

Markell's 5.2 average and 10 touchdowns is impressive for a true freshman. It's even more impressive when you realize that most teams keyed on the Purdue running game. Almost as impressive is his ability to catch the ball out of the backfield. His 34 receptions was good for 3rd on the team in receptions, and his 7 yard average shows that he wasn't just catching little dump off passes for 3 years a pop. If there is a reason to be optimistic about the next football season, Markell Jones is that reason.

D.J. Knox: JR

D.J. started the season strong, but was slowed down by a bum ankle, and then overtaken on the depth chart by the dynamic Jones. On first appearance, you would probably guess that Knox is a 3rd down, scat back type, but you would be wrong. Knox is a tough, between the tackles runner who uses his diminutive stature to hide behind the line and hit the hole hard. Unfortunately, Knox really lacks that extra gear to get him through the second level and into the open. He is a capable receiver and solid back overall. He can serve as a capable starter in a pinch, but is obviously a step behind Jones in both athleticism and production.

Att

Yds

Avg

TD

Rec

Yds

Avg

TD

108

409

3.8

2

26

189

4.5

2

Knox is a solid back-up plan to Jones, but he doesn't really compliment Jones because they basically do the same things, Jones just does them slightly better. I don't mind Knox being the second option, but I would like to see Purdue develop a speed guy to compliment Knox and Jones.

David Yancey: RS JR

As I mentioned before, Purdue recruits a bunch a players, but plays very few. I suppose when you're searching for diamonds in the rough, you end up with a few pieces of broken glass, but come on, you can't miss on more than ½ of your players. David Yancey was the only running back outside of the Jones/Knox combo to touch the ball this year, and he touched the ball 5 times.

Att

Yds

Avg

TD

Rec

Yds

Avg

TD

5

13

2.6

0

2

11

3.4

0

Strangely, Yancey falls under the same, between the tackles back, category as Jones/Knox, he's just not quite on their level yet. He has no defined role on the team beyond, 3rd string running back. When you're recruiting at Purdue's level, you might be able to pull guys with one particular skill, and then you put them in position to use that skill. The current regime appears to just want to horde of between the tackle running backs to sit on the bench.

Keyante Green: RS JR

Keyante came into the season out of shape, and the former 4* recruit found his way into the deepest, darkest, dankest dog house imaginable. His dog house had a leaking roof, dirty straw, and an infestation of black widows. Now, stop me if you've heard this before, but Green is a between the tackles runner that lacks top end speed. He's basically a slower version of Markel Jones, and the coaching staff couldn't think of one possible way for him to make an impact on offense.

Keith Byars II: RS JR

Byars was the guy rumored to have the most "shake" and "speed" on the team, but that's just a rumor. He was banged up with a bad shoulder, and I can only assume that he was one hit away from losing his arm, because the supposedly "shifty" and "fast" Byars couldn't find a role on a team that lacks a "shifty" and "fast" running back. The fact that Byars couldn't carve out a role was highly disappointing.

Tario Fuller: RS FR

Fuller is an intriguing player coming off his redshirt season. He is a little taller than the other backs in the Purdue stable, and he is more of a glider than a punishing back. He put together an excellent high school career and would seem like a different kind of back who might be able to find a role on a team desperate for playmaker, either at running back or another skill position.

Richie Worship: RS FR

Worship is another guy who could find a role on the squad next season if the coaches are willing to actually create a role. At 6'1, 245, Worship is by far the biggest back on the roster, but don't force him into short yardage back role just because of his size. Worship has excellent speed for a man his size, and I have dreams of him playing a FB/H-back type role where he gets a few carries, a few catches, and blows up a few linebackers. That role did not exist in the offense last season, but maybe things will change.

Prediction:

Jones is the obvious star in this bunch, and receives the majority of carries. When he needs some rest, Knox will come in and do the exact same thing he does. The rest of the running backs will languish on the bench unless they are forced on the field because both Knox and Jones go down.

Best Case Scenario:

"Hey, look at all these athletes, if we don't use them we basically wasted 5 scholarships to find 2 running backs. Maybe we can find something useful for these guys to do."

Worst Case Scenario:

Jones gets injured, Knox is the feature back and averages 3.2 yards a carry while the rest of the running backs knit socks on the sidelines.

Recruiting Implications:

At this point, the cupboard is full. It wouldn't shock me to see several defections during the offseason, but as of right now Purdue will not be taking a running back. Jack Wegher from IMG Academy is currently committed to the Boilermakers, but I see him more as a slot receiver. However, Purdue is always looking for extra running backs to sit on the bench, so he might come in and fill that role.