CHART WEEK – Part 4: Rushing Offense

Courtesy ESPN

More CHARTS! As a reminder, we’ve aggregated our weekly Film Study charts for the full 2016 season, and each day this week, we will use a few of those charts to learn something about what happened in 2016 and what might happen in 2017.

We’ve already covered the pass rush, passing offense, and passing defense.  We’ll cover the rushing offense today before CHARTING our way through tackling and rush defense tomorrow.

While Indiana produced a 1,000 yard rusher for the third consecutive season, the running game had some struggles.  Gone were current-NFL players Tevin Coleman and Jordan Howard as well as tackle Jason Spriggs.  Dimitric Camiel missed most of the season. Dan Feeney battled injury and played out of position due to the Camiel injury.

Despite these offensive line woes, it was clear there was a running back drop-off from the previous seasons.   It wasn’t only the transition at starter over the years from Coleman to Howard to Redding, but depth was also an issue that we will touch on later.

Devine Redding was a fine Big Ten running back.  Hopefully he will be drafted late, but at a minimum he will be in a NFL training camp.   However, the talent drop from Coleman and Howard was evident.

Tevin Coleman was fantastic as a Hoosier averaging an out-worldly 10.5 highlight yards per opportunity over his final 2 seasons.  That measures his ability to bust large runs.  Jordan Howard didn’t have that big play ability, but was great at moving the chains.  Everyone remembers his ability to gain the extra yard or two.  That reflects his high success rate.

While Devine Redding’s big play potential was similar to Howard, his success rate was far lower.  He was unable to move the chains as well as his predecessors.

That’s not a knock on Redding as much as evidence of how blessed Indiana was with Coleman and Howard.   But it is worth mentioning that the potential from Indiana’s leading back was certainly lower than other seasons in the Wilson era and affected the running game.

Having said that, I’m of the opinion that Indiana would have been in a better place had Redding returned for his senior season.  Even if Camion Patrick cut heavily into his carries, he provided a steady presence at back.  Patrick has the potential to run for a lot of yards this upcoming season, more than any back in a recent season not named Coleman. But aside from a handful of Wildcat plays in 2016, he’s never actually played running back in the B1G,  and behind him are a lot of unknowns.

Tyler Natee was 2nd on the team in carries, but had the lowest opportunity rate, meaning the percent of carries going for 5+ yards, on the team at 27%.  His highlight yards per opportunity was higher than you would expect, but still pedestrian.  However, 7 of his 16 highlight opportunities occurred during the Bacon N Legs debut against Maryland.  Excluding that game,his highlight yards per opportunity drops from 3.4 to 2.1.  That isn’t to say that Natee wasn’t effective.  When you think of the big fella, explosiveness doesn’t immediately come to mind.  Instead he had one of the better success rates on the team, slightly better than Devine Redding.  On a distance-to-go of 3 or less, Natee converted 67% of these for a first down.1  Hopefully DeBord will utilize Natee’s interesting skill set this fall.

Devonte Williams was next on the team in carries, but didn’t do a lot with them.  He had a low success rate, his highlight yards per opportunity was subpar, and his fumble rate was high.  I’d expect him to be 3rd or 4th on the depth chart although as I mentioned on Tuesday, he could factor in the passing game.

Mike Majette flashed his explosiveness in limited time prior to his season-ending injury.  His success rate was abysmal and he gained no yards or lost yards on 28% of his carries.  His highlight opportunity rate was also average, but he is explosive when he gets into space.  His highlight yards per opportunity was the highest among running backs and even better than the 5.0 he averaged as a freshman.  If he’s healthy, he should finish the season with the 2nd most carries.

Outside of the main guys, Ricky Brookins had a high success rate and should get his number called in case of injuries.  Cole Gest only received 10 carries prior to injury so the sample size is way to small to make any conclusions.  I’d expect him to battle Williams for carries this fall.

As a team, Indiana should be able to replicate the production of Devine Redding.  Ideally, Camion Patrick breaks out as the lead back, Tyler Natee or newcomer Morgan Ellison provides short-yardage efficiency, and at least one of Majette, Williams, or Gest brings a high level of explosiveness to the backfield.  While Indiana likely won’t reach the rushing successes of the 2014 and 2015 seasons, the Hoosiers could easily surpass their 2016 production.

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