Most Important Tangible Skills a RB Recruit Needs for Success
One of the easier positions to play in football is the RB position, due to a player needing fewer tools to be a successful back. As a former RB when yours truly played, I tend take special pride when evaluating RB prospects.
The position can really help take a team over the top, as having the ability to feed a back 20-25 times a game while also impacting the passing game takes a lot of pressure off of your QB and the offense as a whole. Last year, in 2013 recruiting, we saw a great year for running backs, and many of them should go on to be impacting in the college game.
For this read, let's take a quick look at some tangible tools a RB recruit needs for success. These tools are things that are deemed concrete skills a RB recruit needs to have to really get noticed by college coaches.
Vision, Instincts and Awareness
Vision comes in the pre-snap phase and in the post-snap phase. RBs must be able to break the huddle and read a front seven alignment to see where possible creases are.
However, things are not always how they appear on the defensive end so in the post-snap phase of a play, I want a RB who has the instincts and vision to see and read the flow of the linebackers, awareness of safeties coming up to support the run and the ability to see backside holes.
If I see a back who continuously runs into the back of his OLs, plays like a robot and lacks the knack for instinctively making plays, then he gets graded down. Instincts are very important, in my opinion.
Sony Michel is a back this year who exhibits exceptional instincts and vision. Keith Ford also fits this mold.
Quickness and Burst to and Through Holes
Every back needs this tool and if they don't have it, the offensive line will eventually begin to lose patience with the RB.
After the back comes out of his stance at the snap, he must have the ability to burst through holes and run alleys. Once he's there in those holes, he must also have the burst to get quickly through them to arrive at the second level of the defense.
When I watch RB tapes of recruits, one the first things I'm looking for is if I see the back exploding to and through holes. That's a sign of a possibly great RB prospect.
Kelvin Taylor is a back that really has this skill. So does Greg Bryant.
Elusiveness and Change of Direction Skils
If you like straight-line runners, then that's cool. I, however, want a back who's elusive with the football once he shows good vision and burst through holes.
When you watch a RB, see if they just run and get tackled or if they make defenders miss with quick feet, good moves and change directions quickly.
I know not everyone is going to be Tavon Austin coming out of high school, but a RB has to have some wiggle in his style to elude defenders, or he's going to take too many hits.
At 52 seconds in this clip, Leonard Fournette makes a classic elusive run and the move he makes at 57 seconds is a clear example of elusiveness.
Strength, Power and Ability to Break Tackles or Get Yards After Contact
If a RB is going to be brought down and tackled by one defender every single carry, then that doesn't bode well. RBs have to have the ability to, at times, be their blocker and strike a defender and drag him a few extra yards.
Backs to need to have the strength and power to challenge defenders at the point of attack and either physically ward them off upon contact or carry them and a few other tacklers upfield.
Elijah Hood and Leonard Fournette are two backs from the 2014 class who show this skill on a consistent basis.
Now, not every RB you see will be able to outrun people and have the long speed to break off 70-yard runs every single time. But a back does need to play fast when he has the ball.
Kelvin Taylor probably isn't the fastest guy in the 2013 class, but he has just enough speed to get by and be effective. Thomas Tyner is more of a pure speed guy who's a dangerous big-play threat anytime he has the ball.
Backs have to be able to have some speed to advance the football downfield.
Hands and Ability to Impact the Passing Game
In this day and age, RB prospects who can't catch are just going to be limited to playing on running downs because teams throw the ball a ton.
Running backs have to be able to catch the football, whether it be on screens, swing routes or checkdowns. Now, some backs like Sony Michel, Leonard Fournette and D.K. Buford can line up in the slot and catch passes like a WR.
Those backs are advanced in this department, but others at least have to be make defenses account for them in the passing game. Ty Isaac had good hands last year and Warren Ball is another recent RB recruit who exhibited good ball skills.
Pass Protection/Blitz Pick Up Intelligence and Skills
Finally, whenever a back has to stay and help protect the QB, he must be able to recognize where the blitz is coming from or adjust to the protection scheme.
Also, backs must be able to use their hands to hold up crashing LBs and safeties coming after the QB. RBs must be able to strike a blitzer, adjust and anchor to protect the passer like an OL.
This is something many RB recruits aren't accustomed to doing because they're usually more valuable to their high school offenses with the ball in their hands, even on passing downs.
Alvin Kamara did flash potential to be a good blitz pick up guy last year at a couple camps and combines.
Edwin Weathersby is the College Football Recruiting Analyst for Bleacher Report. He has worked in scouting/player personnel departments for three professional football teams, including the New York Giants, Cleveland Browns and the Las Vegas Gladiators of the Arena League. He spent a year evaluating prep prospects and writing specific recruiting and scouting content articles for Student Sports Football (formerly ESPN Rise-HS). A syndicated scout and writer, he's also contributed to WeAreSC.com, GatorBait.net and Diamonds in the Rough Inc., a College Football and NFL Draft magazine.
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