Texas Tech Breakdown: RBs

In a very short while Texas Tech's fall camp will begin, which means that football in earnest is tap, tap, tapping on the door. We duly open that door with an analysis of Tech's positions and units as they currently stand. This week it's running backs.

2010 Position Grade: Fears that Tommy Tuberville would scrap the spread and replace it with the Wing-Double T were exaggerated. Indeed, statistically speaking, the Red Raiders didn't run the ball dramatically more in 2010 than they did during the High Leach years.

Last season Texas Tech was No.93 nationally (out of 120) teams in rush attempts per contest. During Leach's tenure the Red Raiders were usually about 25 spots lower than that, but No.93 in rush attempts is still a very pass-happy offense.

What changed, however, was Tech's rushing efficiency. The 2007 Red Raiders were No.108 nationally in yards per carry and No.119 in yards per game. In 2009 Tech was only slightly better at No.104 in yards per carry and No.115 in yards per game. Last year the Red Raiders improved to No.75 in yards per game and No.62 in yards per carry. That's not eye-popping productivity, but it is respectable.

Individually, Baron Batch and Eric Stephens were far and away the biggest guns in Tech's ground game. Batch rushed for 816 yards and averaged 4.6 yards per tote, while Stephens netted 668 yards on 5.3 yards per attempt. Batch and Stephens combined for 11 touchdowns and also caught a combined 65 passes. Ben McRoy, Aaron Crawford and Harrison Jeffers chipped in, but were not significant components of Tech's gameplans.

On the whole, the Red Raiders authored a credible ground attack in 2010, but no more. Batch was a good plugger and Stephens provided some explosion, but opponents did not fear this duo.

Grade: C

2011 Starter: As noted above, Eric Stephens, who is slated to start for Tech in 2011, brought some burst to the Tech ground attack in 2010. The best evidence of this fact came in the TicketCity Bowl when Stephens rocketed 86 yards for a touchdown.

Stephens' greatest assets are his vision in the open field and the ability to cut sharply or subtly without scrubbing speed. That speed is little better than average, but his vision and cutting make him a very dangerous runner when he gets to the second and third levels of the defense.

Stephens' biggest problem thus far has been a propensity to fumble, and sometimes in goal line situations. Obviously, Stephens is working to improve his ball security, but he did fumble a few times during the spring. Tech's coaches will watch Stephens closely during fall workouts to see if he has licked this problem. If not, and if it continues into the season, Tommy Tuberville and Neal Brown will have myriad appetizing options with which to replace Stephens.

The Field: Aaron Crawford is currently listed as Tech's number two running back. He is a powerful, physical runner with good balance, a low center of gravity and good lower-body strength. Crawford will figure heavily in goal line and short yardage situations, and if he can stay healthy, could see many snaps in other scenarios as well. Unfortunately, Crawford has been plagued by injuries and breathing issues throughout his college career. To be an effective caddy or possibly a starter, Crawford will need to be 100 percent healthy.

Ben McRoy, possibly the fastest player on the team, could be a dandy situational player. He weighed only 160 pounds last season, and at that weight cannot carry the load on a regular basis. If, however, McRoy can steadily pack on muscle without compromising that world-class speed, his value as a player will improve. As is, he's a legitimate homerun threat when he gets to the edge.

Easily the most intriguing prospect in the backfield is true freshman Ronnie Daniels. He's listed at six-foot-one and 195 pounds but runs like he weights 225.

Daniels is a punishing runner and the intimidation factor is increased by his exceptional speed. Basic physics tells us that mass moving at high velocity creates enormous energy upon impact. Daniels certainly did that in the spring, and appetites have been whetted. A word of caution however—running back Harrison Jeffers was a practice phenom as a freshman, but has never consistently converted it in game situations. Daniels will have to prove he can tote the melon when the lights come on.

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