Running Back Notes

RB Michael Carter, North Carolina (5’8”, 201, 4.50)

Improved his efficiency last year but was also a starter in 2019 and rotated in before that. Was part of a committee in college and will probably do that in the pros as well because of his below-average size. Doesn’t have elite speed or explosiveness but is a smooth mover who weaves through congestion; looks best when he’s running off-tackle or stretching and cutting back upfield. Able to recognize and hit cutback lanes; good stop-start. Contact balance is very impressive. Willing to lower the shoulder but isn’t much of a threat to break tackles. Good effort and alertness in blitz pickup; looks chippy. Doesn’t present a huge target in the passing game, was mostly used on swing passes, but has the open-field movement skills to break off some chunks of yardage. Also returned kicks.

RB Kenneth Gainwell, Memphis** (5’8”, 201, 4.44)

Was productive in his only season as a starter (2019). Undersized running back who lines up all over the formation; frequently in the slot or in motion from the slot pre-snap. Shows good burst and solid top-end speed; dangerous with a lane. Shifty player who can make defenders miss in space; more comfortable getting outside the tackles than pounding it between, but shows some physicality and ability to get low, squeeze through tight spaces, and fight for additional yardage; small but tough. Good contact balance. Natural receiving skills in terms fo selling routes, sinking hips, and catching. Route tree as a receiver was somewhat limited to hitches, screens, etc. Willing and alert as a blocker but doesn’t engage with proper technique/hands enough. Future is probably as a package player type/third down back.

RB Khalil Herbert, Virginia Tech (5’9”, 210, 4.49)

Originally attended Kansas. Was pretty well-integrated into the offense as a sophomore and junior, but sat out most of the next season and transferred. Put together a solid season at Virginia Tech last year, totaling over 1,300 yards. Ran a lot of off-tackle attempts and one-cut stretch concepts out of the shotgun, with good speed to get to the edge and the ability to drop his center of gravity and make defenders miss with head-fakes and jukes. Weaves through traffic and is hard to bring down in the open field. Was not asked to do a lot of between-the-tackles running during the games reviewed and may struggle to push the pile and grind out tough yardage at the pro level, although he does tend to fall forward at the end of his runs. Limited receiving production. Contact balance as a blocker is just adequate, but engages from his feet. Also returned kicks.

RB Chuba Hubbard, Oklahoma St.* (6’0”, 210, 4.50)

Started four games as Justice Hill’s replacement as a redshirt freshman, then broke out with over 2,000 yards and 21 touchdowns the following year. Missed four games due to injury last season, with his efficiency dropping off dramatically. Big back who carried a huge load in 2019 but got hurt the next year. A smooth runner with good vision between the tackles. Adequate change-of-direction to hit cutback lanes. Able to pinball off of defenders and continue gaining. However, doesn’t have a ton of explosiveness, elusiveness, or physicality; won more because of his decision-making in college. Fights hard but doesn’t have a ton of power to push the pile. Could do a better job of protecting his legs. Has had some ball-security issues. Still cleaning up his blocking but was fairly well-integrated into the passing game in college, particularly in 2018 and 2019.

RB Jermar Jefferson, Oregon St.* (5’10”, 206, 4.56)

Stepped right into the lead role and enjoyed a great freshman season of nearly 1,400 yards on the ground, then was limited to just twelve starts over fifteen games between 2019-2020, missing four games during that span. Decisive when he finds a lane, with adequate build-up speed, but knows when to bounce runs outside. Some ability to make jump-cuts/shuffle into holes when running between the tackles; finds room in congestion. Tough back who is able to run through arm tackles. Finishes by lowering his shoulder and falling forward, although he takes a lot of punishment by running a little bit upright. Was able to run off-tackle in college but might struggle to outrace faster pro ‘backers to the corner. Ball security may be an issue. Struggles as a blocker with awareness, positioning, and technique. Was really only used as a receiver in his first season. If he can stay healthy, shows enough competitiveness and heart to work his way into a running back rotation as someone who consistently fights to finish.

RB Trey Sermon, Ohio St. (6’0”, 215, 4.59)

Spent his first three seasons at Oklahoma, enjoying two pretty productive years to begin his career before being limited to 62 touches as a junior and transferring to Ohio State, where he had some big games. Big, well-built runner who doesn’t shy away from contact. Decisive when he has a lane. Shows some burst in the hole and lowers his shoulder into contact. However, doesn’t break as many tackles as anticipated; needs to do a better job of driving his legs. Too easily stopped at or behind the line of scrimmage; needs a head of steam to create. Some shake and bake in space and actually looks better running stretches or off-tackle. Balance through contact is adequate at best. Limited receiving production. Willing to take on rushers in blitz pickup, showing form. Some past injury issues may raise durability concerns. Over 60% of his total yardage last year came over two games.

RB Rhamondre Stevenson, Oklahoma (6’0”, 231, 4.63)

Was academically ineligible in 2016 and went to junior college for the next two years before ending up at Oklahoma. Was suspended for six games, starting with the 2019 bowl game, for a failed drug test. In total, managed almost 1,200 yards and 13 touchdowns over two years at Oklahoma. Big back who makes good reads in zone; has natural instincts for the position. Patient when following blocks; lets things develop successfully while navigating through congestion. Footwork is a plus. Generally smooth but also shows some build-up speed in space; can pick up chunks. Above-average flexibility for his size. Explosiveness into contact is impressive; exacts a price to finish his runs, fighting for additional yardage. Relies more on brute force in space, without much ability to make defenders miss. Works in a good stiff-arm. Doesn’t have a ton of value on passing downs, although he has the size to block.

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