As you can tell by tell by the beautiful weather, spring has sprung, and football is back. I covered the quarterbacks last week, and let me tell you, my DMs and emails have been blowing up for a follow up running back article.
Seriously, guys, I’ve been out of town, stop blowing up my phone with your thirst for my Purdue knowledge. I got into this gig to blog, not for any celebrity status, and while I appreciate everyone elevating my brand above all the other “bloggers” on this site, you’ve got to stop calling at 5 am and asking me about my thoughts on the long snapper battle.
So, without further ado, I present my super unofficial, speculative spring running back depth chart.
Note: I will once again remind you that I am using the official spring practice roster for my super unofficial, speculative spring running back depth chart. If a player isn’t on the spring roster, they aren’t on my spring depth chart.
- Tario Fuller - RS SR
- Evan Anderson - RS FR or Zander Horvath- RS SO
- Richie Worship* - RS SR
Tario has a strange career arc at Purdue. He shot to the top of the depth chart as a redshirt sophomore under the new Brohm staff, and showed the potential to the lead back for the Boilermakers.
He put up a monster 16 carry, 142 yard, 1 touchdown performance against Ohio in his second game and followed that up with a 19 carry, 90 yard, 1 touchdown performance against Missouri before destroying his ankle at the end of a long (but otherwise meaningless) run late in the game against the Tigers.
The ankle injury ended his 2017 season, and 2018 saw him parked in the 3rd spot on the depth chart behind Markel Jones and DJ Knox. Fuller only recorded 14 carries, and at times, it appeared that Zander Horvath was the coaching staffs preference as a 3rd option out of the backfield.
In theory (I suspect he might also apply for a 6th year) this is Tario’s last chance to make his mark at Purdue. He has all the physical tools you want in running back, and again, in theory, could provide the offense with a legitimate home run threat out of the backfield.
At the same time, there is a big difference between a guy that can theoretically play and a guy that can actually play. If Fuller is right both physically and mentally he brings a physical running style with solid top end speed. He is also a receiving threat out of the backfield. I expect his ability to catch the ball to keep him at the top of the depth chart.
Evan Anderson or Zander Horvath
Much like the quarterback position, the most intriguing spring battle at running back will be for the second spot on the depth chart.
Evan Anderson is coming off his redshirt season, and this spring is crucial for the former 3* RB out of Suwanee, Georgia. He needs to stake his claim to the number 2 spot on the depth chart with highly touted incoming freshmen King Doerue and Da’Joun Hewitt hitting campus this summer and Richie Worship hopefully back in the fall. Anderson has a chance to soak up reps and impress the coaching staff without those guys around. Anderson has a the opportunity to make the back up role his in the spring and make everyone else chase him.
I put Zander in competition for the back up spot as a bonus. He has already carved out a niche as a power back and pass catching option out of the backfield. Regardless of where he ends up on the official depth chart, I expect him to play a role in the offense this season. If he can come into spring camp and position himself as the primary back up to Fuller, he becomes even more valuable for the Boilermakers. As a walk-on, Horvath is already found money, the question now becomes, did Purdue find a 20 dollar bill or a 100 dollar bill?
I’m not going to lie, I’m a little concerned about Worship. His recovery from knee surgery has not been timely. The Purdue coaching staff thought they might get him back at some point last season, and that didn’t come to fruition. The fact that the big man is still out this spring isn’t a great sign.
When he’s healthy and in shape, Worship is a running back in a fullback’s body. His running style is Jerome Bettis like, with a huge frame and surprisingly nimble feet. Worship is just as likely to make a defender miss as he is to drop his shoulder and put them on the ground. He is truly a unique talent and I’m certain Brohm could find a use for an agile 250 pound running back in the offense.
“When he’s healthy and in shape” is the problem. He hasn’t been healthy and he hasn’t been in shape since his season ending knee injury against Norwestern in 2017. He’s a big boy, and his weight has been all over the place because of the injury. He needs to come into fall camp at 250 or below (not 250ish...maybe 260...ehh maybe 265) with a healthy knee if he wants to cash in on the promise we saw in his brief stint as the featured back in 2017.