Running Back Sketches

Shorter writeups for some of the top running back prospects in this year’s class.

RB Tyler Allgeier, Brigham Young* (5’11”, 224, 4.60)

Big-bodied back who played out of a lot of pistol and shotgun formations. Able to change up his speeds in the backfield before hitting the hole, giving his linemen a chance to clear holes. Pretty clean footwork for a power back; appears to have a pretty good feel for when to plant his foot and get upfield in a hurry. Shows some ability to make defenders miss with stop-start moves. Weaves through tight spaces for solid yardage. Can become dangerous once he gets going, but struggles to break tackles or make defenders miss in the backfield or at the line of scrimmage. Doesn’t play with as much violence or physicality as anticipated given his frame. Willing to lower the shoulder into contact but doesn’t break a ton of tackles; leg drive looks pretty good once he gets going. Does the vast majority of his  work grinding out yardage or looking for chances to cut upfield, struggling to outrun opposing defenders to the edge. Tends to catch or dive as a pass protector. Usage in the passing game is limited to the typical outlet passes.

RB James Cook, Georgia (5’11”, 199, 4.42)

Split time with Zamir White this past year and probably doesn’t have the bulk to carry the load in the pro game, either; only had four games all season with ten or more rushing attempts. Played in an offense which featured more pro-style concepts, but was typically on the field when the team was working out of the shotgun; despite that, workload included plenty of attempts between the tackles and just off-tackle. Capable of changing speeds to let lanes develop. Speedy back who shows impressive acceleration out of the backfield and can beat defenders to the edge and rip off chunks of yardage. Has enough power to run through some arm tackles. Feisty back who drives his legs and fights for additional yardage after contact, although he’s not going to break too many tackles. Tends to run a little bit upright, which could be a concern given his thinner build. Not afraid to stick his nose in as a blocker. Has the receiving skills to potentially earn a third-down role. Can catch throws away from his frame and is fast enough to challenge downfield on wheel routes. Also motioned out to take snaps as a receiver and showed some solid nice releases at the line. Dangerous when he gets a lane in space.

RB Tyrion Davis-Price, Louisiana St.* (6’0”, 211, 4.48)

Started off in a limited role but functioned as a workhorse for his hometown team in the second half of the season; still developing his overall feel for the position but has a really desirable package of physical/athletic/temperamental attributes. Well-built runner who runs hard with a bit of a galloping style and who exacts a price from tacklers at the end of his runs to help set the tone and wear down defenses. Shows impressive burst through the hole and into contact. Excellent leg drive to continue churning out yardage after contact. Was given some pretty big holes to run through in college; relies more on energy and brute force than patience and vision when working between the tackles. Fumbled three times last season on just over 200 touches. Somewhat willing to get involved in blitz pickup but might have some work to do before pro teams would feel comfortable leaving him in on passing downs. Wasn’t really thrown the ball much at all in college.

RB Breece Hall, Iowa St.* (5’11”, 217, 4.39)

Played in an offense which did a lot of work out of the pistol/shotgun, with a lot of off-tackle runs and sweeps. Does a nice job of mixing up speeds and letting holes develop. Pretty good vision/anticipation to weave through traffic. Home-run hitter when he sees daylight. Has nice moves and shows creativity once he gets to the second level; nice little stutter-step/side-step to make people miss. Can often break the first tackle, and sometimes create or salvage plays when the blocking isn’t there. Very good leg drive and lower-body strength to push the pile and finish. Played in a horizontal rushing attack behind a weak offensive line, so there are quite a few negative plays on tape compared to what you’d expect from a top running back prospect. Willing in pass protection but results are iffy and could be more consistent with his form and positioning. Looks dangerous as a receiver when he’s able to find a lane; actual usage was more of a safety valve/swing target.

RB Dameon Pierce, Florida (5’10”, 218, 4.59)

Didn’t have the same college workload as some of the other prospects in this year’s class (more of a change-of-pace slasher), but has a solid build for a pro ballcarrier. Offers a nice violent running style that should endear him to coaches and teammates. Doesn’t waste time in the backfield and show solid burst when he finds a crease. Able to recognize cutback lanes. Weaves through congestion effectively and shows very good contact balance between the tackles; often attempts to spin off of attempts. Knows how to finish runs with punishing blows and strong leg drive to push the pile. Can really hear the pads clicking when he runs. May not be a home-run hitter but is fast enough to win the edge and rip off chunks. Runs through arm tackles but doesn’t show a ton of creativity when it comes to making defenders miss in space. Engages defenders from his feet and with his hands in blitz pickup. Pretty limited usage as a receiver during the games reviewed.

RB Brian Robinson Jr., Alabama (6’2”, 225, 4.53)

The biggest of the top running back prospects in this year’s class. Shows pretty good flexibility for a player his size. Took a lot of snaps out of pistol/shotgun formations, and shows some pretty smooth running skills on off-tackle attempts. Nice footwork and cuts. Has enough juice to win the edge, with some build-up speed to pick up chunks and hit the occasional home-run.  Able to make some defenders miss in one-on-one situations at the second level. Works through arm tackles with a head of steam. Fights for additional yardage with adequate leg drive at the end of runs but isn’t the most punishing back, running with a high pad level and generally being a little bit more of a  finesse back than is usual for Alabama products. Not the most physical pass protector; will turn down some opportunities to chip and help out, and often engages with his body instead of his hands. Very simple responsibilities as a receiver, with some basic releases out of the backfield and some delayed leak-outs.

RB Abram Smith, Baylor (6’0”, 213, 4.50)

Slightly overaged back who carried a heavy load last year in an offense which featured more work from under center than is typical in college. Has a solid build and impressive combination of size/speed. Nice one-cut runner who can recognize and hit lanes with some burst; does a nice job of getting to the line of scrimmage quickly, although perhaps a little bit more patience would be warranted at times. Has the speed to rip off big chunks of yardage when he finds a crease. Overall contact balance is pretty good, and shows impressive competitiveness to fight for additional yardage and fall forward; more of a tough runner than someone who breaks a ton of tackles, although he can run through arms. Would like to see him get lower at times to limit the contact he absorbs. Doesn’t make too many defenders miss. Ball security was solid in 2021. Played behind an iffy line last year and showed some ability to salvage runs against early penetration. Can shy away from contact in pass protection, and needs to be more consistent about engaging defenders with his arms. Very little-used in the receiving game.

RB Isaiah Spiller, Texas A&M* (6’0”, 217, 4.63)

Big, well-built back who often worked out of the shotgun in college, with a lot of stretch/one-cut running. Nice footwork in the backfield. Plays with patience and lets lanes develop. Uses his hands well to set up/follow blocks. Does a nice job of recognizing cutback lanes and picking up what yardage is there between the tackles, without unnecessary bouncing. Plays with good flexibility. Able to bend his knees and running behind his pads, with a lower center of gravity than his size would suggest. Easily runs through arm tackles and glancing blows, with excellent contact balance. Good leg drive to fight for additional yardage, although he’s not a major pile-pusher. More of a smooth/tough runner than an explosive one; probably going to churn out tough yards with the occasional chunk at the pro level, rather than hit home-runs. Willing and effective in pass protection, engaging from his feet. Usage in the passing game was relatively straightforward, but shows some creativity and elusiveness once he gets into space.

RB Kenneth Walker III, Michigan St.* (5’9”, 211, 4.38)

Very consistent, productive workhorse this past year, playing in a pro-style offense and finishing with only three games under 20 carries. On the shorter side but has nice weight distribution with a thick lower body. Doesn’t mess around, lowering his shoulder and burrowing ahead for solid gains between the tackles. Runs with a good pad level and solid contact balance. Plays the game with some violence, fighting for yards to finish runs. Nice stiff-arm when working his way horizontally. Some ability to make defenders miss in the backfield when linemen blow blocks. Sees opportunities to bounce runs and get into open space. Works in an effective dead-leg at the second level. Was fast enough to win the edge at the college level but doesn’t look like he plays as fast as he timed. Some opportunities to gain in the open field limited due to slipping. Keeps his head on a swivel and engages with technique but can be walked back as a blocker. Looks like a reliable receiver but usage is simple.

RB Rachaad White, Arizona St. (6’0”, 214, 4.48)

Slightly overaged back who totaled over 220 touches last year, albeit distributed somewhat unevenly. Well-built back who looks like he could potentially handle the lion’s share of carries as a pro. Lacks ideal overall speed and explosiveness (solid for his size), but plays with patience and an impressive feel for the position. Very smooth runner who relies primarily on his vision and ability to make cuts to weave through traffic and pick up yardage. Some ability to cut back and make something out of nothing when there’s congestion. Looks elusive once he gets to the second level, with a nice mix of different jukes and moves. Didn’t break a tn of tackles during the games reviewed, but works hard to fight for additional yardage after contact and finish runs. Ball security is very solid; only one fumble last year. Looks pretty comfortable in blitz pickup, but would like to see more physicality. One of the most frequently-targeted receiving backs in the class; also lined up in the slot to get the ball into his hands.

RB Zamir White, Georgia* (6’0’, 214, 4.40)

Well-built runner, albeit a little bit leggy. Was part of a rotation which also included James Cook, but has the type of frame to potentially be more of a workhorse at the pro level. Tools-based developmental back who did a lot of his work between the tackles with some more pro-style duties than other backs in this year’s class. Still developing his vision; can seem hesitant and run into the backs of his linemen at times. However, plays the game with violence and explosiveness, getting up to speed quickly and barreling through defenders. Shows good footwork in the backfield to slide into lanes or let them develop. Pinballs through congestion and does a good job of finishing runs by falling forward. Demonstrates pretty good contact balance to work his way through arm tackles. Has the speed to hit home runs when he gets a lane. Anticipation/positioning in pass protection could be a little bit better, but shows good competitive toughness and engages from his feet. Was rarely used as a route-runner during the games reviewed and will probably come off the field on third-downs.

RB Kyren Williams, Notre Dame** (5’9”, 194, 4.65)

Highly-productive team captain who’s on the smaller side and will likely be more of a change-of-pace/third-down back at the next level. Typically got his carries out of shotgun sets. Shows good footwork and patience and pretty solid vision, especially for a redshirt sophomore. Runs with toughness and a low center of gravity, playing bigger than his size; some ability to escape when it seems like the play is dead. Willing to lower his shoulder and try to grind out tough yardage between the tackles. Contact balance is very good. Quicker than he is fast, and ran slow enough to make teams wonder whether he’ll be able to outrun defenders to the edge at the next level. When he does get into space, shows impressive elusiveness. Ball security has been an issue at times in college. The most versatile of the top backs in this year’s class, with more varied alignments/responsibilities in the passing game than other prospects; shifts/motions into the slot, etc. Willing as a blocker but doesn’t have a ton of sand in his pants, so can lapse into throwing his body around; needs to engage with his arms more consistently. Has additional experience as a punt returner.

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