Silas Redd at BYU? a Comparison of Redd vs. Alisa
Silas Redd could have chosen almost any school to attend, he chose USC. The Pac-12 and USC will be stronger with the addition of Silas Redd. In writing an article about the value of Redd going to USC and the impact it would have on the Pac-12 race, I wondered what the impact would be if Redd had come to BYU.
The No. 1 running back at BYU right now is Michael Alisa. Though he had one year and missed three games, the two men compare favorably in many ways.
Redd is 5’10” and 209 pounds. Alisa is 6’1” and 213 pounds. In comparison, Alisa is about 7-10 pounds light for his height advantage. But you would need to have them side by side to really make that evaluation. The keys to this evaluation would be in the weight room and on the track with a stop watch.
Unfortunately, I am not standing by the side of a track with the two of them running past me or in the weight room watching them bench press 225 pounds in preparation for the NFL Combine. The two statistics for the combine that are most critical for this comparison is the 40-yard dash and the bench press.
The record at the combine is 4.24 by wide receiver Rondel Melendez in 1999, but neither of these two are receivers. So looking down the list for running backs, the first running back is the 5’11” Chris Johnson who weighed 197 pounds in 2008.
None of the top times were run by men who were 5’10” and weighed more than 200 pounds. As for those who were in the 6’1” to 6’2” range, they ranged from 176 pounds to 210 pounds.
If we were to use the NFL Combine results as a measuring stick for each of these two running backs, we need to look at the leaders from the combine.
Doug Martin from Boise State ran for 1,266 yards and 16 TDs in 2011. He is 5’9” and weighs in at 223 pounds. He bench pressed 225 pounds 28 times to lead the combine running backs. His 40-yard dash time was 4.55, placing him 13th.
Of the top-15 performers in the bench press, all 15 were 5’8” to 5’11”.
Of the top-15 performers in the 40-yard dash, all 15 were 5’8” to 5’11”.
Clearly, Silas Redd is in good company size-wise.
The following is a comparison of the two players in their games last year, and at the end is my preference for either Silas Redd or Michael Alisa.
Read on and see if you agree.
Comparison 1: The Red Zone
Silas Redd is coming off a 1,241-yard year at Penn State. His 5’10” frame carried not only his 209 pounds, but it also carried the pigskin 244 times. He is not only fast—running the 40 in 4.45—he is strong, with good feet and good moves.
He is the kind of speedster that USC will be able to utilize in its multifaceted attack behind Barkley.
He had seven rushing TDs in the red zone and a rushing average of 3.9 yards per carry. He played some big-time opponents like Alabama and nationally ranked Nebraska and Wisconsin. On top of his ground game, he also caught the ball nine times for 40 yards—a 4.4-yard average per catch. These stats gained him second-team All-Big-10 honors.
Michael Alisa missed three games, and on 85 carries, he gained 455 yards for a 5.4 average and three TDs. Alisa added five receptions for 55 yards—the longest being 26-yard touchdown scamper.
One has to wonder with that kind of performance why he wasn’t used more.
Redd obviously has the advantage in touches and in red zone scoring and scoring overall. But one wonders, if Alisa had carried the ball 244 times like Redd, what would his numbers have been like? Redd was the cross bearer for Penn State; Alisa had no such mission for BYU.
BYU was using Alisa as a back up to JJ Di Luigi, who carried the ball 116 times for 584 yards. Combine the two and you get a 1,000-yard runner. However, Di Luigi is gone, and the designated heir to the running game at BYU, Josh Quezada, is also gone. Quezada had 86 carries for 298 yards and a 3.5 yard average.
Stick with me, I am trying to make a case for Alisa here. If Alisa had gotten Quezada’s touches and ran his own average, he would have had an additional 464.4 yards. Alisa would have had 919 rushing yards on 171 carries.
Clearly, the stats don’t tell the story, as there is also Bryan Kariya and even David Foote, who carried the ball for 344 yards on 87 touches.
Given those yards and opportunities, Alisa would just as prolific as Silas Redd was.
The difference was not in the ability to carry and gain yards; it was the difference in application of resources and strategy, as BYU had a running game by committee, never giving any one man the same time Redd had at Penn St.
Comparison 2: Balance in Performance
Redd adds depth to the USC backfield that has already gained over 1,500 yards on the ground. USC may use Redd in much the same way that Alisa was used in a more balanced offensive running game split between three or even four men.
Last year, Redd ran for five consecutive 100-yard games. He ran for 703 yards in October before being hurt, averaging around 20 carries per game. Looking deeper, he gained 104 yards on 12 carries against Indiana State, 129 yards on 29 carries against Indiana, 142 yards on 28 carries against Iowa, 131 yards on 28 carries against Purdue, 164 yards on 18 carries against Northwestern and 137 yards on 30 carries with Illinois.
Indiana State is a FCS team, and Indiana was 1-11 last year, only beating an FCS team. It would be expected that your feature back would gain 100 yards in those games. Iowa was 3-1, but that was against two FCS teams, one AQ team and one lower-level FBS team.
Purdue wasn’t fairing much better. They were 3-2 and went 7-6 for the season. The ability to stop the run was an Achilles heal for Purdue last year.
Northwestern was 2-4 when they met Penn State, having beaten Boston College and an FCS team, but they lost to Army. Northwestern ended the season 6-7—another team struggling against just about everything, including the run.
Illinois started the season 6-0 before ending 7-6, barely beating UCLA 20-14 in a bowl game. The games that were the patsies on the Penn State schedule, Redd ran them ragged.
The games where Penn State met good teams was a different story.
In the second game of the season, Alabama held Redd to just 65 yards. Eastern Michigan held him to 48 yards—not exactly BCS material, but evidently they had a run defense that stymied Redd.
Nebraska held Redd to 53 yards, while Ohio State held him to 63 yards, and Wisconsin, 66 yards. The season ended for Redd against Houston, where he achieved just 53 yards on 14 carries.
The summary we can take away from this? Redd did well, exceptionally well, against poor teams. Against mediocre teams (Eastern Michigan went 6-6) or good teams, he averaged only 62 yards per game. Hardly the stuff of notoriety.
Michael Alisa had some good games and some bad games. One wonders if it was all his fault, in the same way that Silas Redd had difficulty at times. Alisa missed three games—UCF, Utah State and the bowl game with Tulsa.
In the first three games with Ole Miss, Texas and Utah, he only had the opportunity to touch the ball three times, though he did catch three passes against Ole Miss, including a dramatic 26-yarder that helped preserve the BYU victory. Not many plays went for 26 yards in that game—or any other for that matter.
Against San Jose State, Alisa had 16 carries for 91 yards, splitting time with four other backs. Against Oregon State, he had 20 carries for 84 yards. His only other notable participation was against Idaho, with 10 carries for 99 yards.
Alisa, in his stats as a back up running back, showed promise and even flashes of being really good if not great.
One has to wonder that if Alisa was running in the place of Redd, would we be talking about Alisa in the same way we are talking about the Penn St. transfer.
Comparison 3: Big Games and Big Plays
Silas has the manifest ability to deliver big plays in big games.
Seven touchdowns inside the red zone speaks volumes; so does his longest run from scrimmage—42 yards in two games versus Ohio State and Northwestern. He delivered touchdowns in the Purdue, Northwestern and Illinois games, as well as one against Alabama.
But again, against the really good teams, other than Alabama, he delivered goose eggs.
In the receiving game, he caught a pass for 18 yards against Eastern Michigan, a game in which he delivered only 48 yards on the ground.
It is hard here to judge Alisa. He was not the premier back, the go to guy or the man in the trenches that BYU went to with the hopes of the first down or making the big play at the key time.
Alisa was a grind-it-out guy who came in to give the others ahead of him in the rotation some rest. Talent ahead of him had earned their turn in the sun. Alisa for his part, when called upon, did what was asked of him.
This year with Quezada, Di Luigi and Kariya gone, he will be called upon to do much more.
Obviously, Redd performed last year with what he was asked to do, while Alisa played the role given to him. Both will need to step up and deliver in the big games and during the big plays to allow their respective teams to win. We can only wait for the teams to take the field to see how each player will be used and how effective they will be this year.
Comparison 4: Intangibles
Virtually every team in NCAA football would welcome Silas Redd. Most teams would also find room for and welcome Michael Alisa. The difference? One was the premier runner on a marquee team in the Big 10, and the other was a backup player with few stats.
Had they been in each others shoes, perhaps the notoriety would also be switched around.
One of the intangibles is the style of play both teams will utilize. Both will be passing teams. Both will need to defend against the blitz. Who do you want in the back field protecting your quarterback? Who do you want out in front of him as he scrambles? Who do you want just over the line to dump a pass to and stretch out to get the first down or touch down?
From the NFL Hall of Fame list, here are some of my all-time picks of who I would like to have been there on my team. Eric Dickerson was 6’3” and 220 pounds; Jim Brown was 6’2” and 232 pounds; Larry Csonka, 6’3” and 237; Franco Harris, 6’2” and 230; Paul Hornung, 6’2” and 215; Marcus Allen, 6’2” and 220; Frank Gifford, 6’1” and 197, and O.J. Simpson, 6’1” and 212.
In a direct comparison, it is hard to say who is the best player. Time will tell this year and next, depending on the intangibles, the performance of the offensive line and the quality of defenses each face.
That's the reason why the NFL holds the combine and gives a man the chance to prove himself in strength, speed, mobility and other tests. His intelligence is tested along with his personality.
The intangibles of vision on the field and intuition with the ball are also tested. The intangibles asking whether he runs out of bounds with the ball or tries to run over that safety or cornerback, whether he flinches when the linebacker zeroes in on him or if he put his shoulder down and runs straight ahead will be seen on the field.
Having played football and rugby, I know when I was trying to tackle a man who was 5’10”, no matter how fast he was, myself being much bigger, I never feared being hit by him as I brought him down.
But when a man 6’1” or 6’2” and 220 or 225 was headed my way, there were times when, for a brief second as he headed toward me, I calculated how I was going to take him on.
Perhaps that's why I never made it to the NFL.
Both Redd and Alisa will be facing men who will never go to the NFL, and in the end, those men will have the same decision to make each time these two very good athletes come steaming toward them on game day.
One thing you might think about: the Doak Walker watch list was announced, and Silas Redd was not on the watch list, but Michael Alisa was.
So I put it to you, who would you rather tackle Silas Redd at 5’10” and 200 or Michael Alisa at 6’1” and 215?
If I were Coach Mendenhall, I would be kneeling down tonight saying things like, “thank you, God, for giving me Michael Alisa.” But tomorrow morning, I would be standing next to him in the weight room.