For Coug RBs, it's all about total offense

WHAT MIGHT SET a Washington State running back apart from the group this spring is how well he performs after the catch. Much has been made about the Cougs' season rushing totals in 2012 -- but that's not nearly as important in the Air Raid as is something else…

A running back's total yards.

Mike Leach's running backs at Texas Tech didn't put up huge rushing numbers. They generally ranked towards the bottom of the NCAA in rushing attempts. But what they did do was generally place themselves among the RB leaders in the Big 12 conference in total offense.

Tech's top running back in the receiving department averaged 64.7 receptions in Leach's 10-year tenure at Tech.

That's more than the leading wide receiver last year at WSU (Brett Bartolone, 53).

The low water mark at Tech was 34 receptions by a running back in 2007, the highest was 98 in 2002. You could pretty much count on it year-in and year-out during Leach's tenure -- a Tech running back would end the season with between 50-60 grabs.

That's a lot.

Quick. Guess which Coug was the leading receiver last season out of the running back position. It's a trick question, since three backs tied for the top mark with 14 grabs apiece. Would you have guessed that along with Teondray Caldwell and Carl Winston, it was Marcus Mason who shared the top spot?

THIS SPRING, WSU will be looking for a running back who can get to that 50-60 reception mark, be that Caldwell, Leon Brooks, Theron West or Mason.

And if not, Daniel Jenkins, Gerard Wicks and Jamal Morrow arrive for fall camp and will get their shots.

If everything falls into place, the Cougs might even end up with a pair of running backs who excel in that department – Leach had several seasons where more than one running back put up big receiving numbers. His very first season at TT saw two running backs combine for 100 receptions.

Washington State attempted 252 rushes in 2012. That's a low number by Pac-12 standards. And it was amplified by the 3-9 record. Texas Tech in 2006 had but 242 rushing attempts – but they had nine wins that season so not a lot was made of it.

In 2008, they rushed the ball 317 times, still a low number, but went 11-2. There sure wasn't a lot of chatter about a lack of rushing attempts that year.

Every year at Texas Tech, Leach went to a bowl game and in none of those years did Tech rush for big numbers nor have a large number of rushing attempts. They accomplished the postseason streak in no small part due to their running backs still putting up sizeable numbers – total offense numbers.

If a running back in a traditional offense gains 1,000 rushing yards and another 200 hashes in the receiving game, is that any different than a running back who gains 700 rushing yards and 500 more receiving?

Cougar Fans may get to answer that question for themselves in 2013, starting with this spring.

No. of receptions by leading Texas Tech running back
2000 – 52
2001 – 92
2002 - 98
2003 – 69
2004 - 60
2005 - 67
2006 - 75
2007 - 34
2008 - 43
2009 - 57

No. of rushing attempts by Tech under Leach:
305 in 2000
261 in 2001
385 in 2002
308 in 2003
293 in 2004
308 in 2005
220 in 2006
246 in 2007
317 in 2008
319 in 2009

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