The chief indicator of this fact was the team’s yards per carry average.
Last season, Tech’s ball carriers averaged an impressive 5.17 yards per carry, which was No. 26 nationally, and third best in the Big 12 behind Oklahoma and TCU. Going back to the 2008 season, the 5.17 number is best and the 26th place finish is second best. The magical year of 2008 provides the closest competition to the 2014 running attack, with Tech backs averaging 4.83 yards per tote and the Red Raiders finishing No. 24 nationally in that category.
At the opposite end of the spectrum was the 2009 rushing attack which saw Tech average a paltry 3.42 yards per rushing attempt and finish No. 104 nationally. Thus, from 2008 to 2009 the Red Raider ground game deteriorated dramatically.
Such a wide swing can be seen from 2013 to 2014, too. In contrast to last season’s excellent rushing game, the 2013 Red Raider ground game had all the punch of a pneumonic kitten. That season saw Tech average 3.64 yards per rushing attempt and finish No. 99 nationally. The improvement from 2013 to 2014 was dramatic and largely unforeseen.
On average, from 2008 through 2013 Tech’s backs averaged 4.08 yards per carry and finished No. 70 in the nation. So again we see that the 2014 performance was unusually good from a mid-term historical perspective.
The most obvious reasons for Tech’s strong running game in 2014 were the emergence of Deandre Washington as a premium back—he averaged 5.9 yards per tote—the homerun hitting of freshman Justin Stockton (pictured above) who carried for a mindboggling 8.2 YPC average, and the consolidation of the Red Raider line as more than just a pass protecting unit. Left guard Alfredo Morales’ development paved the way for many a rushing yard.
|TOP RETURNING RBs|
So with Washington and a presumably improved Stockton back in the fold, to go along with four returning starters in the line, there is every reason to believe Tech’s rushing attack will be even stouter than in 2014. Is there any reason to expect regression?
First, Tech’s 2015 opponents will be fully aware of the Red Raiders’ rushing prowess and will gameplan for it more conscientiously than in 2014. Second, there is cause to suspect Kliff Kingsbury will lean somewhat more heavily on the ground game this year—he has said as much—which could reduce yards per carry while simultaneously producing a more cumulatively productive ground game. Then, too, history demonstrates that Tech’s rushing proficiency can vary widely from year to year.
The projection here is that the yards per carry average does in fact decrease slightly in 2015, while the overall productivity of the running game increases.