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Belt Loops: Looking at the top MAC running backs

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We made mistakes last year. Let's correct them this year.

They probably got it wrong last year. It happens. The hype was there. We all were swept up in the Fleckness of it all. But when the MAC chose offensive player of the year, it should have been easy. Instead they zigged when they should've zagged. Javorian Franklin was not the best offensive player last year. He wasn't even the best running back last year (but you could probably guess who is).

Before we get into that though, let's start from the bottom. Congratulations to Miami for failing to run the ball 100 times with their running backs over the course of the season. While Miami's pass attack was mediocre, their running attack was downright putrid, averaging a mere 3.74 yards per carry. Smart of the coaches to go with what works. Of course, with only two wins, they didn't many opportunities for the "clock-killing runs" that inflate the carry total. The only other team with less than 200 running back attempts was Kent State.

TEAM Count ATT.Total YDS.Total YDS/A.Total TD.Total
TOL 5 447 3,072 6.87 28
CMU 6 439 2,048 4.67 19
BGSU 4 425 2,199 5.17 26
NIU 6 418 2,208 5.28 24
BUFF 4 394 1,943 4.93 13
WMU 3 394 1,936 4.91 25
BALL 4 373 1,709 4.58 13
UMASS 6 297 1,234 4.15 13
OHIO 4 288 1,253 4.35 12
AKR 5 253 1,317 5.21 13
EMU 4 242 998 4.12 5
KENT 3 186 703 3.78 4
M-OH 4 93 348 3.74 1

Rounding out the teams that did not have double digit running back touchdowns or 1000 yards from their running backs is EMU, another team that struggled last year (should we call them the single digit club or the triple digit club?). As a matter of fact, the bottom three teams in attempts were a combined 6-29. Run the ball to win, folks (or, winning results in more runs at the end of games to kill clock, therefore increasing your run attempt total).

The most interesting team on the list is Akron. Akron was second in quarterback attempts this year despite starting Kyle Pohl under center (by choice!). Meanwhile, their running backs saw only 253 carries, despite their hyper-efficient 5.21 yards per carry, good for third overall. Nothing says coaching like recognizing what works, then doing the opposite.

At the top, meanwhile, we see Toledo and our case for the best running back last year.

PLAYER TEAM ATT YDS YDS/A LONG TD
Kareem Hunt TOL 205 1,631 8 91 16
Terry Swanson TOL 113 732 6.5 48 6
Joel Bouagnon NIU 113 655 5.8 49 5
Fred Coppet BGSU 141 764 5.4 69 6
Jawon Chisholm AKR 114 620 5.4 80 8
Thomas Rawls CMU 210 1,103 5.3 46 10
Travis Greene BGSU 180 949 5.3 75 12
Conor Hundley AKR 104 540 5.2 42 4
Jarvion Franklin WMU 306 1,551 5.1 61 24
Anthone Taylor BUFF 282 1,403 5 76 12
Cameron Stingily NIU 193 971 5 43 14
A.J. Ouellette OHIO 160 785 4.9 65 7
Jahwan Edwards BALL 262 1,252 4.8 56 12
Shadrach Abrokwah UMASS 123 573 4.7 24 7
Andre Givens BGSU 101 479 4.7 60 8
Nick Holley KENT 125 516 4.1 50 3
Lorenzo Woodley UMASS 102 420 4.1 43 5

Kareem Hunt was scary effective last year. While Jarvion Franklin took down the rushing title, of all running backs to have 100 attempts, Kareem hunt had the highest average per carry at a shocking 8 yards per carry. Actually, all hail Toledo's offensive line, as second on the list is Terry Swanson at 6.5 yards per carry. No other team had a running back rush for over 6 yards per carry (min. 100 carries).

Meanwhile, Franklin comes off as mighty pedestrian (or let's call it just really good) when looking at effectiveness. At 5.1 yards per carry, Franklin is surpassed by eight other running backs, including Akron stud Jawon Chisholm, who was probably facing loaded boxes as no one respect Kyle Pohl.

If you value durability, you might try to make the case that Franklin's 306 carries were valuable, but then you have Anthone Taylor right behind him at 282 carries and a similar rate stat. The only stat where Franklin excels over all others is touchdowns, but his touchdown conversion rate of 7.84 carries per touchdown doesn't exeed Hunt's 7.80 significantly. Also, touchdown's tend to regress to normal levels, so you shouldn't expect another 24 touchdowns next season (cut to December and me eating my words).

The one place I did find additional Value for Franklin is in the pass game. When adding in his 14 catches for 163 yards to his running total, Franklin's efficiency shot up enough to separate him from the A.J. Ouellette's of the world.

PLAYER TEAM Total Attempts Total Yards Attemps/Game Catches/Game Touches/Game Yards/Game Yards/Attempt
Kareem Hunt Toledo 214 1,670 20.50 0.90 21.40 167 7.80
Terry Swanson Toledo 125 885 9.42 1.00 10.42 74 7.08
Joel Bouagnon Northern Illinois 126 725 8.07 0.93 9.00 52 5.75
Jawon Chisholm Akron 122 697 10.36 0.73 11.09 63 5.71
Thomas Rawls Central Michigan 220 1,196 23.33 1.11 24.44 133 5.44
Travis Greene Bowling Green 207 1,124 15.00 2.25 17.25 94 5.43
Jarvion Franklin Western Michigan 320 1,714 23.54 1.08 24.62 132 5.36
Fred Coppet Bowling Green 148 790 10.85 0.54 11.38 61 5.34
Conor Hundley Akron 113 595 9.45 0.82 10.27 54 5.27
Jahwan Edwards Ball State 291 1,488 21.83 2.42 24.25 124 5.11
A.J. Ouellette Ohio 181 918 16.00 2.10 18.10 92 5.07
Anthone Taylor Buffalo 298 1,511 25.64 1.45 27.09 137 5.07
Cameron Stingily Northern Illinois 195 977 14.85 0.15 15.00 75 5.01
Shadrach Abrokwah Massachusetts 135 656 15.25 1.63 16.88 82 4.86
Nick Holley Kent State 152 715 11.36 2.45 13.82 65 4.70
Andre Givens Bowling Green 104 488 9.18 0.27 9.45 44 4.69
Lorenzo Woodley Massachusetts 109 474 10.40 0.50 10.90 47 4.35
Ryan Brumfield Eastern Michigan 107 424 7.92 1.00 8.92 35 3.96

The two Toledo backs still tower over all though. I haven't mentioned UMass yet, but Shadrach Abrokwah did exist, and he wasn't terrible. The less said about UMass this time around the better (see you when I talk about Wide Receivers).

Of course, this is just a look back. A year of growth can mean that Franklin's yards per carry increase enough that the regression in touchdowns doesn't matter. Or maybe instead Akron realizes that the running game should be the focus and Conor Hundley could become a thing (he did have a better YPC than Franklin, after all). Let's just hope the latter doesn't happen, though, as my spell check can't handle  the name Conor. Get a second N, my good man.

2015 Tier Rankings, Running Backs (projected starters):

Player School
Tier 1: Kareem Hunt TOL
Tier 2: Jarvion Franklin WMU
Anthone Taylor BUFF
Joel Bouagnon NIU
Conor Hudley AKR
Travis Green BGSU
Tier 3: A.J. Ouellette OHIO
Devon Spalding CMU
Tier 4: Shadrach Abrokwah UMASS
Darius Jackson EMU
Nick Holley KENT
Alonzo Smith M-OH