Monday, December 15, 2008

Poinsettia Bowl Preview: RBs

Every day this week I will preview a different aspect of both teams and then give me prediction on who has the edge. Today we will be looking at the running backs for both squads.

TCU – Joseph Turner, Aaron Brown and Ryan Christian
You can grab his facemask, but you can't stop him.

RUSHING GP Att Gain Loss Net Avg TD Long Avg/G
Turner, Joseph 11 130 505 11 494 3.8 10 21 44.9
Brown, Aaron 9 85 460 15 445 5.2 2 41 49.4
CHRISTIAN, Ryan 12 90 399 19 380 4.2 4 15 31.7
It seems like more and more teams are employing “thunder and lightning” ground game, and TCU is no different. Joseph Turner is a big, pounding back who is always good for short yardage situations when healthy. Aaron Brown is elusive with great breakaway speed and is usually one cut or one sideline away from busting a big one, but, again, only when healthy. Ryan Christian came in last season as a fill in when Aaron Brown went down with an injury against Baylor and ended up cementing himself as the starting RB early this season and was highly productive. None of these guys put up huge numbers and, in fact, we didn’t have a 100 yard rusher until Brown did it against the Utes. We didn’t even have anyone average more than 50 yards per game. No matter, this tactic worked to great success for the Frogs as we averaged 215 yards per game, good for 14th best in the country. A lot of this can certainly be credited to a very solid offensive line who, given our backfield absences over the season, were able to open up holes for a wide variety of different runners on the way to 37 ground scores. Regardless, the fact is when we were in situations where we needed a few yards, there were very few instances where the ground game was unable to get it done. Aaron Brown, despite missing the first four games of the season due to a suspension, not to mention the myriad of injuries he has had through his career, will still finish as one of the better running backs in TCU history. Joseph Turner held up well this season until the Utah game and was second only to Dalton in TDs scored. Christian, despite a failed skunk hair do, did very well this season and was second on the team in rushing attempts.

I can’t laud the ground game without mentioning the contributions of Andy Dalton, Marcus Jackson, Jai Cavness and, of course, Jeremy Kerley. Andy Dalton (97-358-8) began the season focused far more on running the ball if he didn’t like his check downs before developing into a dual threat QB, and Jackson (70-384-4) had several game changing runs in the two games he started as well as the junk time he played at the end of games. Cavness (31-134-3) showed a lot of promise, but will be severely tested next year with the arrivals of Waymon James and Matthew Tucker. Kerley, although injured in practice following his Wild Frog breakout game against BYU, lined up in the backfield 21 times for 133 yards and 3 TDs, but it goes without saying how much we are going to see his running impact before his career is over. Having almost a month off for these guys to recuperate from their injuries should have our ground game clicking just in time for the 23rd.

Boise State – Ian Johnson, Jeremy Avery and DJ Harper.

Hey Ian, you might want to get your head out of the poon and into the game for this one.

RUSHING GP Att Gain Loss Net Avg TD Long Avg/G

Ian Johnson 12 143 780 42 738 5.2 12 69 61.5

Jeremy Avery 12 109 636 23 613 5.6 4 57 51.1

D.J. Harper 12 52 272 13 259 5.0 4 29 21.6

Like the Frogs, Boise State took a three back approach to running the ball this season. Like the Frogs, this attack was very balanced and they only had two 100 yard rushers on the season, and only one rusher averaged over 60 yards per game. Unlike the Frogs, their overall average was pretty, well, average, ranked 53rd in the nation with 162.7 yards per game. I can also tell you that they didn’t play any defenses this year that even remotely resembled that of TCUs because, frankly, what team did if they weren't on our schedule? Ian Johnson (yes, the guy who proposed to his cheerleader girlfriend) took a bit of a backseat to Avery and Harper this season, with Harper having almost as many attempts on the year, but, who can argue with a 12-0 record? The fact is, the Broncos wore teams down with their trio of runners, and also had a QB capable of moving the ball through the air. Having this combination is the envy of a lot of teams, and the Broncos did it to perfection. Just because they may not put up big numbers doesn’t mean we should overlook them. Stopping the ground game is going to be a big part of our formula if we are to beat Boise.

Overall - Matching up against Boise State, the Broncos allowed 104.9 yards per game on the ground this year, which is good for 13th nationally. Daunting. They held Nevada, who is the second best rushing team in the country, averaging 291.4 yards per game, to 144. Heck, they gave up 7 TDs on the ground all year while we, and we are the best mind you, gave up 8. The closest we came to seeing a rush D like this in 2008 was against Oklahoma, who ranked 17th, where we only put up 102 yards. However,that was TCU THEN, and since then our guys had the opportunity to go up against the best run defense in the nation every single day in practice, so I’m pretty sure they know a little something about adjusting to a strong run defense. Yes, they typically went against the scout team, I understand how this works, but going against a Patterson coached scout team is as good as going against at least 75% of the starting run defenses in the country. Seeing these tactics has surely given our experienced O line the knowledge and confidence to go out and blow up holes in the Boise defensive line.

On the flip side, even if we aren’t able to effectively move the ball, and I feel confident that we will (but I’m a homer), do I even need to mention our run defense? Best in the country, and it’s not even close (we lead Texas, the next closest team, by 25 yards per game). If Boise had a superior offensive line (which they may or may not, you’ll have to wait until Wednesday) and a true big threat in the backfield, I might throw them a bone. But, when I’ve gotten to watch TCUs defensive front absolutely DESTROY opposing running backs pretty much all year (stupid Wyoming), there’s just absolutely no way I can give any other team, no matter how sneaky with their play calling or threatening with their run game (see: Murray, DeMarco), the edge in any game against TCU.

The Pick – TCU.

Frogs add committment No. 16

picture courtesy of

Matthew Tucker, running back out of Tyler Chapel Hill, committed to the Frogs yesterday following his official campus visit. Tucker, who had offers from Nebraska, Missouri, Arkansas, Kansas and UTEP, rushed for over 2,700 yards and 31 touchdowns this year adds another star running back to TCU's very impressive class.

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