The running back situation will undoubtedly be a bit uncertain for next year. With Bigelow heading to the NFL, it will likely be between Muhammad and Lasco to split carries, with a few other backs getting some spot work here and there.
So far the coaching staff has been going after QB and WR recruits much more aggressively than running backs. This may as well be a strong indication as to where our offensive priorities lie. Regardless, let's take a look at whose on the table for us in 2014 and break down some RB tape.
Traveon Samuel, Phenix City, Alabama.
Samuel is officially listed as an all purpose back, and is even listed as a receiver on some sites. He's fairly undersized, standing only at around 5'7 or 5'8, and probably not weighing anything over 180. Despite being only listed as an ESPN 3 star, Samuel has picked up offers from some local powerhouses, including the likes of Alabama, Auburn, Clemson, Florida State, and LSU. That's a pretty impressive list, and makes me wonder what the coaches are seeing in this guy that ESPN and other recruiting services are not. Cal is reportedly interested in Samuel, although we're yet to offer the guy. I think we're waiting to see if he has any real interest in coming out West; the other PAC-12 schools are also biding their time offering him (except UW) and are likely thinking the same thing.
I think his size will prevent him from becoming a true every down back at the next level, especially if he decides to play in SEC country. That being said, his athleticism is phenomenal. His combination of speed and agility is truly rare, and that's why I think you see so many big name schools offering him this early. To be honest, his moves remind me a lot of my holy namesake, Mr. Jahvid Best himself. Samuel also clearly has good hands, and is not a bad route runner either. On our team, I could see him excelling on special teams, especially on kick off return. He would also be a valuable jack-of-all-trades offensive weapon; someone we could really line up all over the field in order to create mismatches. I think the PAC-12 style offenses would fit his skill set better than those in the SEC, and I am not surprised that Oregon is also expressing interest in this dynamic play maker.
Jacques Patrick, Orlando, FL.
We offered Jacques almost a year ago; March 2013 to be exact. Unfortunately, as we sit now, we look to be simply one of dozens of offers that he's already gotten. The Florida native will likely head to one of the premier Florida schools, my money being on the reigning champs FSU. Anyways, it's still fun to see what some of the best talent in the country is capable of.
Jacques is a more prototypical runner; he stands at 6'1, and weighs in at around 215. Highly recruited, Jacques has been rated as the 138th overall player by ESPN.
I feel like I'm watching tape of a young Adrian Peterson. Patrick has a phenomenal combination of size, speed, and strength. Barring any severe injuries and other setbacks, this guy has NFL written all over him. My favorite run begins at 1:17. A complete showcase of his physical dominance over the other team, he simply runs through tackle after tackle. He's also an intelligent, patient runner. Throughout the highlight tape he reads the hole correctly, but he does so particularly well at 4:37, where he allows his blocks to remain in front of him, effectively clearing the way to the end zone.
Unfortunately, I don't see us getting much attention from him anytime soon. He'll likely be looking to go to a school that will give him the best shot at getting drafted high without too much risk of injury during his seasons there. FSU would be ideal in that he would go against ACC defenses (which are good, but nothing like SEC, in my opinion), and they like to run out of the I formation, as well as single back sets, which is what his high school runs. 5 years ago I would say that Cal would be a great option for a pro-bound back, but to be honest I'm not sure if that's the case anymore--as much as it hurts me to say it.
KeShawn Vaughn, Nashville, TN.
Although not quite as heralded as the other two previous recruits in this post, I really like Vaughn's game, and think he could be a dynamic pick up for us. 5'10, roughly 210 lbs, but has good solid speed, and hardly gets caught from behind. Vaughn has flown a bit under the radar in terms of his recruitment so far, and has only two offers: one from us, and one from Austin Peay. That bodes extremely well for us as I anticipate his recruitment picking up as the months progress. Making a strong impact now can go along way with a recruit.
Here's Vaughn's Hudle highlights.
Nick-named the "Red Mamba," Vaughn is a dominant force in the running game. What's most encouraging about the film is that all of Vaughn's running plays are coming out of the shotgun look, and looks to be read-option, or read-option fakes. That's exactly what we do; transitioning into our offense should be a piece of cake for him. My favorite run comes at 1:26, where Vaughn beats the safety for a TD by outrunning his pursuit angle. That's some good speed for a back that weighs over 200 lbs. 1:53 is also a nasty run finished off with a Marshawn-esque stiff arm. That's what I like to see.
I also really like the idea of getting more bulk into our backfield. Outside of Lasco, who is a real power runner, we rely on a lot of speed guys back there. Vaughn would help bolster things, and if anything, would give Goff a viable pass-blocker who could take on blitzing LBs and also effectively chip DEs.
Dedrick Young, Peoria, AZ.
Very intriguing recruit who can really play either side of the ball. He's a great RB, but also a great MLB, a unique combination (most RBs are outside LBs when they play on the other side of the ball). At 6'0, 195, Young could stand to grow into his frame a bit more, and he will. Athleticism, aggressiveness, and physicality are all his strong suits. He's also a hard hitter who can set the tone for a team.
Centennial junior LB/RB Dedrick Young has offers from ASU, UA, Cal, Washington and Colorado. Big time 2015 recruit— Richard Obert (@azc_obert) February 21, 2014
Fortunately for us, Young's recruitment has not picked up yet, and he still only has a handful of offers on the table. We're one of them, which is good, but there's sure to be more as time goes on. I'm confident that this kid will end up a PAC-12 commit, the real challenge for us will be pulling him away from the Arizona schools, especially U of A. U of A all of a sudden has become one of the premier RB schools in the country with the success of Ka'deem Carey in the last few seasons.
Here are Young's Hudle highlights.
His tape looks great on all accounts, and I'm sure he'll end up being a pretty big prospect by fall of next year. However, what I like most about him is his attitude. He seems open to playing on either side of the ball, and has a "whatever the team needs from me" kind of attitude. As displayed in the above video, he's a humble dude who has a lot of character. Players with that kind of attitude are what's needed to turn an 1-11 team around.