- How will the carries be split among the running back corps?
It seems like this is a question every year, or at least every other year, and it’s definitely not a bad one to have. First it was Wali Lundy and Alvin Pearman and now it’s Mikell Simpson and Cedric Peerman. With more talent buried on the roster and several running back commitments from the high school class of 2009 already, this is no doubt a position of strength for Al Groh’s program.
Groh is fond of quoting Bill Parcells on this issue, saying who gets the carries is “their problem, not my problem.” He has shown the tendency to ride the hot hand and go with whomever is the most productive at the time (see Jason Snelling in ’06, Simpson at the end of ‘07), often banishing others to the sideline for months (see Michael Johnson, although his fumbling did not help). Last year was a bit unique in the fact that Simpson may not have even burst on the scene had Cedric Peerman not gone down in the Middle Tennessee game. Interestingly enough, both Peerman and Simpson had exactly 113 carries last season for 585 and 570 yards, respectively. The latter obviously provides a pass-catching dynamic (team-leading 43 receptions to Peerman’s 12) that may makes him additionally valuable in a Lalich-led offense. The former, well, he’s hard to argue with when the tough yards are needed. Would have loved to have seen him on that 3rd-and-1 against Tech when Simpson was on the sideline battling cramps. Simpson’s heroics at Maryland are now legendary, but it was Peerman who racked up 130+ yards in three straight wins early last year.
Barring the unforeseen, it’s hard to imagine many carries available for over-hyped Keith Payne or Gator Bowl-starter Rashawn Jackson, at least at tailback. To the ignorant fan, Jackson seems like he would be quite a weapon at fullback, catching passes out of the backfield and getting an occasional carry a la Snelling in ’05. Not to mention providing an additional blocker between the tackles for both running and passing plays. Andrew Pearman is gone, but for all his hype he only produced one game of more than 50 offensive yards – subbing for Peerman on the road in Murfreesboro last season – and shouldn’t be missed much.
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