5 College Football Running Backs Doomed to Underachieve in 2012
A great running game does a lot for an offense. It makes the quarterback's job much easier, gives the opposing defense something else to worry about and opens up the passing game for even the most one-dimensional offenses out there.
But just because a certain running back is talented does not guarantee success. He could have to split carries with a talented backfield or play against tough defenses week after week, or his offensive line could not be up to par. Those are just a few of the reasons a running back may not produce what many expect of him.
As we get closer to kicking off the 2012 college football season, we will see running backs that should have a great year but fail to come up big for whatever reason. Here are five backs that will likely take a step back in their career this season by underachieving.
Malcolm Brown, Texas
Harry How/Getty Images
Malcolm Brown had a very successful freshman season last year, rushing for 742 yards and scoring five touchdowns. But there was another freshman by the name of Joe Bergeron that also played well, averaging over six yards a carry and scoring five touchdowns in very limited playing time.
While Brown was the workhorse for this team last season, Bergeron is more of a complete running back and was much more productive than Brown when given the opportunity. He is a solid blocker (something Brown struggles at) and he can be a major threat in the passing game.
There are already reports out there that Bergeron could be the starter this season for the Longhorns (h/t ESPN).
Brown is going to get his fair share of touches, but with arguably a better back on the roster and Brown battling turf-toe injuries, it could hurt his production heading into his sophomore season.
Keith Marshall, Georgia
Marshall is arguably the best running back to come out of the 2012 recruiting class and should receive his fair share of touches his true freshman year.
Wait, I think we have seen the movie before. Isaiah Crowell was a top recruit, played as a true freshman with expectations through the roof and despite rushing for 850 yards, he didn't quite fulfill those high standards.
The fact is, with these 5-star recruits, the expectations can be so high that it is nearly impossible to have a successful season. The fans will always so much from you to where nothing is enough. Marshall is still an undersized back at 5'11", 190 pounds and is going to be playing against some of the toughest defenses in the SEC.
Then there is that former 5-star recruit named Crowell that should end up having a much better season with a year under his belt. Give Marshall a year to get comfortable, and he will have a productive career—he just may struggle early on like the current starter did.
Silas Redd, Penn State
Jamie Sabau/Getty Images
Penn State had one of the worst offenses in the country last season, finishing ranked 110th in total points scored. The Nittany Lions relied heavily on running back SIlas Redd, who carried the ball 244 times for 1,241 yards and seven touchdowns. Only three other backs in the Big Ten had more carries than Redd did last season.
There are simply no other offensive weapons on this team for the defense to focus on other than the junior running back. With the defenses in the Big Ten, you have to believe that they will do a much better job of slowing him down and forcing Penn State to find other ways to beat them.
Then, of course, you have the offensive line issues, where only one starter from last year's unit returns. With no skill position players to spread out the defense and nearly an entire revamped offensive line, things aren't looking good for Redd or this Nittany Lions offense as a whole.
Devonta Freeman, Florida State
We all had high hopes for Devonta Freeman since he came out of high school in Miami, Fla. He had a very productive 2011 season, rushing for 579 yards and scoring eight touchdowns. He even caught 11 passes for 111 yards.
Freeman is a dangerous runner who can use his speed to outrun defenders or show his strength by running between the tackles and picking up those tough yards. As he heads into his sophomore season, Freeman is projected to be the starter in a talented backfield. Besides having to share carries, Freeman has also been dealing with back issues throughout the offseason.
Then you throw in the fact that the Seminoles had one of the worst offensive lines in the country last season and have lost a couple of last year's starters. It just doesn't look good for Florida State running backs, regardless of how talented they may be.
What do you expect from Florida State running backs anyway? The last 1,000-yard rusher they had was Warrick Dunn in 1996.
Christine Michael, Texas A&M
Sarah Glenn/Getty Images
Christine Michael will finally get his chance to prove what he can do as a full-time starter. He has played well the last three seasons for the Aggies, but it was all in limited roles. Regardless, he has averaged over five yards a carry in each season and has scored 23 total touchdowns.
Michael is a playmaker with the ball in his hands and will be the workhorse for an offense that lost a lot during the offseason.
The problem is that Texas A&M is moving to the SEC, and that is a conference that actually plays defense. This is no longer the Big 12, where five schools allowed over 150 yards on the ground last season. The SEC had five schools that were ranked in the top 50 in rushing defense; the Aggies unfortunately have four of those teams on this year's schedule.
The size of the Aggies offensive line is very concerning. Only two projected starters are over 300 pounds, and those two players barely tip the scale. Games in the SEC are often won in the trenches, and you better bring some big boys if you expect to win those battles.
Like every back on this list, Michael is talented, but the odds are stacked up against him heading into the 2012 season.