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Making the Grade: Running Backs

With the 2016 season in the books, we’re taking a look back at each position group — as well as handing out final grades. Here’s a review of the running backs. 

Wins

When Ryan Nall and Artavis Pierce were healthy, they flat out produced. Together, the duo rushed for 1,424 yards, averaged 6 yards per carry, and scored 17 touchdowns — proving to be a nice 1-2 punch. Much like Yvenson Bernard-Clinton Polk, or Ken Simonton-Patrick McCall… Even better, they complemented each other, as Nall was a bruiser, Pierce more of a burster. Both ran hard and physical. 

All those numbers are gaudy, but perhaps the most impressive was the 6 yards per carry average. It was an indication of how well both Nall and Pierce kept their feet moving and gained yards after contact. In fact, Nall was one of the best in the nation this season, after contact. Just go back and watch the second half of the Civil War, and you’ll see how the two squeezed out every yard they could on runs.

What made their performance even more remarkable is that the Beavers’ offensive line was up and down this season, due to injuries, inexperience, and re-shuffling. Yet, outside a little spell of struggling on 4th-and-short, Nall and Pierce made the most of their opportunities. 

And while it’s not saying a lot because of the Beavers’ struggles passing the ball this year, Nall and Pierce ranked third and fourth on the team in catches (22 and 21), so they were active in that area, too.  

Finally, special shout outs to Tim Cook and Ricky Ortiz — Ortiz for his remarkable journey at OSU, from academics to playing several different positions. How sweet was it to see him catch a touchdown in his final game? And to Cook for his strength and determination recovering from injury to be a valuable contributor to the program, on and off the field.

Opportunities

The Beavers appear to be sitting pretty at running back. Nall will be a junior and Pierce a sophomore next season. The potential addition of TJ Green will provide more talent and depth to the position. Green put up monster numbers this year for Chandler High School (An OSU pipeline).

Honestly, the only thing holding this unit back is the ability to stay healthy, as both Nall and Pierce missed two and one games respectively this season. But if they can, watch out. Who needs a passing game? It’ll be smash mouth football for the Beavers, which honestly wouldn’t be all that surprising, as it would follow the Utah blueprint that Coach Andersen appears to be replicating in Corvallis. If you want to be picky, it would be nice to convert more in short-yardage situations next season.

One question I do have about the running game is who will fill Victor Bolden’s role running the ball. He was third on the team in rushing yards and touchdowns (329, 2)? Keep an eye on Trevon Bradford or perhaps incoming players such as Quantino Allen and Arex Flemings.

Final Grade: B+

Considering the offensive line was a work in progress much of the season and the passing game was non-existent at times, the OSU running backs exceeded expectations. With Nall finishing less than 50 yards shy of 1,00 yards and Pierce eclipsing the 500-yard mark, the Beavers ended up with a nice balance of power, burst, and even breakaway speed. If OSU relies on the run game more next season, and is even more effective, watch out!

Making the Grade: Quarterbacks


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