Year-End Evaluation: Running Backs

A look at how the Texas Tech running backs performed this season under Kliff Kingsbury and the new staff.

Kenny Williams121174804.1408
DeAndre Washington11933994.336.24
Sadale Foster12251867.415.52
Quinton White121313010.010.81
Jakeem Grant1112776.470

In year one of Kliff Kingsbury's Texas Tech tenure, the Red Raider running backs, and the ground game in general, never took off.

Kenny Williams and Deandre Washington were advertised as possibly one of the better backfield duos in the country, but that high praise was never borne out on the field of play.

Despite an easy early schedule, Tech running backs didn't exactly flourish. SMU stifled the Red Raider ground game in the season-opener, the tally was somewhat better against Stephen F. Austin, but Washington and Williams were unable to accomplish much against TCU and Texas State.

Tech runners were tentative early in the season and almost never broke tackles. Interestingly enough, Williams and Washington ran harder and better as the season wore on and the competition improved. Still, no Tech back managed to crease the 100-yard mark in 2013. DeAndre Washington's 88 yards against Iowa State was tops for the Red Raiders.

On the season, Williams led Tech with 507 rushing yards on 117 attempts, which comes out to a very average 4.1 yards per tote. Williams also rushed for eight touchdowns. Washington was next with 399 rushing yards on 93 carries and a 4.3 yards per carry average. Both Williams and Washington were fairly prolific as receivers. Williams caught 28 passes for 238 yards, while Washington reeled in 33 lobs for 254 yards.

Oddly enough, Sadale Foster, Quinton White and even inside receiver Jakeem Grant added real spark to Tech's ground game, but were sparingly used. White looked like a potential star early in the season, but spent most of his time on the pines through the middle and late portions of the year. Injuries may be a partial explanation for his absence. The reluctance to use Foster and Grant frequently is more difficult to explain.

Another problem with the Red Raider ground game was the lack of a home run threat. It was hoped that Washington would provide some real explosion from the backfield, but the hope didn't materialize. No Tech ball-carrier was among the nation's top 100 in runs of 10 yards or more from scrimmage. In terms of total runs of 10 yards or more, the Red Raiders were No. 83 nationally. And Tech had only one run of 50 yards or more, and none of more than 60.

On the whole, running back productivity was down significantly from 2012. Two years ago, Kenny Williams plowed for 779 yards and an impressive 5.7 yards per carry. The lightly used—in 2013—Foster, jetted for 467 yards and 5.4 yards per carry. Even Eric Stephens, Tech's third back, netted five yards per carry and 423 yards, which was 24 yards more than DeAndre Washington, Tech's second most prolific back in 2013.

Perhaps the primary positive in this story was the short-yardage and goal-line running game. The Red Raiders were actually quite effective in picking up two or three yards when they needed to, and were able to crease the goal line with the ground game on occasion. This had been a real weakness for Tech in previous years.

Nevertheless, Tech's rushing attack was disappointing in 2013. Part of the problem was an inconsistent offensive line, but indifferent running, and an unwillingness to run the football, especially early in games, were also to blame. As many observers have noted, success on the ground is critical to the success of the spread offense. Thus, dramatic improvement in this area will be a top priority for Tech in 2014.

The Future: Texas Tech has a pair of three-star running backs committed for the 2014 class and they are both good ones.

Cibolo Steele running back Justin Stockton (5-9, 180) has rushed for 2,004 yards and 36 touchdowns this season with ridiculous averages of 12.29 yards per carry and a touchdown every five carries.

Spring Dekaney running back Demarcus Felton (5-9, 185) gained 1,783 yards and scored 11 times this year in just 10 games on a 2-8 team. Felton averaged almost 200 yards per contest.

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