Thicc Stauskas' Big Ten Position Rankings: Running Back, Part One
It's not a good sign for Iowa that we keep using photos from last year's Big Ten title game.
SITE STUFF: Yes, a co-authored post! We’ll be doing a few of these to make sure we get through our planned offseason content. Dan did all the research and compiled the rankings, Ace wrote the words.
Previously: Quarterback (Part One, Part Two)
Dan’s position rankings are back with a twist: I (Ace) am doing some of the writeups, including this entire post, to maximize our efficiency. In Big Ten backfield terms, we want to be 2021 Michigan, not 2021 Indiana.
Dan’s methodology was to take the top two returning players from each team — or, in some cases, a top incoming transfer — and rank them individually after diving into the numbers. Here’s his helpful, color-coded spreadsheet:
Some stat definitions: Y/C is yards per carry, YO/C is yards after contact per carry, and RBY/Opportunity is average yards gained once the player has already made it five yards on a carry (this is alternately called highlight yards).
After accounting for external factors — this comes up with Minnesota, in particular — he ranked the backfields 1-14. We start, as usual, from the bottom.
RB1 (rank among returners): Gavin Williams (20/28)
RB2 (rank among returners): Leshon Williams (27/28)
Tyler Goodson entered the NFL Draft early despite averaging only 4.5 yards per carry as a junior. While he went undrafted, I’m not sure coming back to play in Iowa’s system behind a putrid offensive line was in his best interest — he got picked up by Green Bay as a free agent.
Goodson displayed obvious high-level athleticism backed up by his pre-draft testing but struggled to find room to run, particularly last season. His backups, Gavin Williams and Leshon Williams, couldn’t overcome the leaky line, and unlike Goodson they couldn’t make much happen on the rare carries the blocking delivered them to the second level of the defense.
While it’s difficult to separate any part of Iowa’s offensive struggles from the surrounding issues in the offense, these guys haven’t done much to separate themselves, either.
RB1 (rank among returners): Kyle Monangai (22/28)
RB2 (rank among returners): Aaron Young (25/28)
Rutgers is in similar situation to Iowa. They lost an early NFL Draft entrant, seventh-rounder Isiah Pacheco, after largely wasting his talent (3.9 yards per carry in 2021) because of poor blocking and a one-dimensional offense.
Sophomore Kyle Monangai and junior Aaron Young were less effective runners than Pacheco behind the same line. While Young was utilized as a third-down back, his receiving success came largely on one touchdown catch against Michigan. Otherwise, neither player was much of a threat on the ground or out of the backfield.
Monangai is reportedly set to take on a workhorse role. He fared poorly against teams with winning records last year. Even if he improves, it might be hard to notice, what with all the surrounding Rutgers.
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