Running back carry splits: we went over them in last week's roundtable, argued them in the practice tweet post, and then Brian answered a question about it in his mailbag. This horse has been very bad; perhaps it needs one more lesson.
What I'd like to do is illustrate this point of Brian's from the mailbox:
Even if Fitzgerald Toussaint is 100% healthy, someone else is going to get a lot of carries. Michigan ran 502 times last year, and even carry-magnet LeVeon Bell only scooped up 382 for Michigan State. Meanwhile, Toussaint has 130 and 187 carries the last two years. There are going to be 200 to 300 carries, minimum, handed out to other players, and with the situation at quarterback only a handful will be Devin Gardner's.
Last year, yes, but last year was a weird one for rushing and I'd like to see what's really been out there. And here we go:
[Jump for splits by depth and discussion]
So the number of carries fluctuates between 595 (Biakabutuka!) and 428 (senior Tom Brady behind an OL playing hurt), centering around 500 most years. Years with great running fullbacks (Jarrod Bunch & Burnie Legette 1990; Chris Floyd in 1997; B.J. Askew in 2002, though a lot of those last were at tailback when Perry was hurt or struggling)
ate into what's left for the RBs. Since Askew graduated the fullback carries have diminished to barely visible slivers. Starting in 2008 the QBs became a major part of the running game (I couldn't take out sacks else it would be even more dramatic), and that dropped the RBs' share to around 300 a season. Chart:
% of Carries by Position:
Hoke was riding out the Denard years and the expectation is a return to something approximating Carr-ian levels since 1) No Denard, 2) Year of the Gardner Protection Program, 3) Decent RBs: we has them, 4) Fullbackian weapons: not just walk-ons anymore. Anyway this didn't seem to matter much or at all to the % of carries that went to running backs nominally below the "Starter":
What does seem to matter is how good the starter is relative to his backups. Sometimes there is no starter or that changes during the year, for example in 2008 McGuffie led the backs with 118 touches with Brandon Minor close behind at 103, with another 85 carries split between Shaw, Brown, and Grady24. Sometimes two guys split it nearly 50-50 (closest to that is 1996 when Clarence Williams and Chris Howard were a 55-44 division). On the opposite extreme are the years when there's a clear-cut #1 running back. In 1999 Anthony Thomas had 87% of the handoffs to running backs, and 66% of total rushing plays because he was that good.
The chart also shows that 2002-2006 (minus 2005 when Hart was injured and Kevin Grady was the new 5-star toy) glut of starter carries for Perry and Hart. In '02 at least Askew and Perry were a tandem. But the more important factor was the backups in those years were mostly David Underwood, Tim Bracken, Jerome Jackson, and a spattering of freshmen who transferred when it was clear they couldn't compete with the top guy. In '07 Hart was hobbly again, but the Minor/C.Brown tandem (90 and 75 carries respectively) were now sophomores and would have likely garnered a goodly share anyway.
Anyway with all those variable considered, your baseline expectation ought to be something like 200-250 carries for the starter, 60-100 for the backup depending on how close he is in effectiveness to the guys above and below him, and another 100 or so to split among the other RB and FB folk.
So what's the nearest thing to 2013 among the stables since Moeller? I'm going with 1992 despite the returning starters being two juniors instead of one senior because it shows what Michigan has done in the past when an all-world youngster enters a crowded backfield.
The breakdown that season:
|Burnie Legette (FB)
|Che' Foster (FB)
It takes a lot of squinting, I know. In 1991 Ricky Powers got the majority of carries with Jesse Johnson (107 carries) and freshman Wheatley (86) getting fed plenty. In 1992 Wheatley took over. Imagine Johnson and Powers combine to become senior Toussaint and Green is Wheatley reborn (this is a pleasant fiction) and you get 222 carries for Fitz and 185 for Green and over 100 carries to spread around the other pieces. Unfortunately Steve Everitt isn't blocking for these guys so depress the yardage totals.
UPDATE: The other example pointed out in the comments by whitedawg is 1997, when Chris Howard and C-Will had to compete with freshman A-Train. As dawg mentioned Thomas would have been comparable in recruiting hype (link goes to Sandeep's ancient
|'97 A-Train via.
blog) to Green. You've even got Patrick McCall and Ray Jackson to stand in for Deveon Smith and Wyatt Shallman. That breakdown:
* If Stephen Hopkins had stuck around he goes here.
Still squinting: Chris Howard was just a decent, non-fumbling north-south guy and nowhere near the home run threat that Toussaint is. Fitz's game is closer to that of original diminutive Cass Tech back Clarence Williams, Michigan's leading ballcarrier in 1996 who had many of his carries taken away by A-Train. Also comparing Smith to McCall isn't fair; Patrick transferred to Denny Erickson's Oregon State (they were pretty good then) and ended up their #2 or 3 guy his junior and senior seasons, respectively.
The point is there are plenty of carries available after the nominal "starter" gets his, even on a team that wants to pass first.