August 9, 2014

Wahooze Brews -- The 2014 Running Backs

Kendall: Okay, so Kevin Parks was able to find over 1,000 rushing yards running behind what was - at best - a shoddy offensive line in 2013, and with a passing game that never at any time prevented eight (and sometimes nine) in the box. I’m not sure how KP did it, but he did.

Actually, a game-by-game look at how he did it:

BYU -- 68 yards (1 TD)
Oregon -- 60 yards
VMI -- 137 yards (2 TDs)
Pitt -- 40 yards
Ball State -- 104 yards (2 TDs)
Maryland -- 119 yards (1 TD)
Duke -- 56 yards (2 TDs)
Georgia Tech -- 57 yards (1 TD)
Clemson -- 84 yards
UNC -- 100 yards (1 TD)
Miami -- 130 yards (1 TD)
Virginia Tech -- 110 yards

TOTAL -- 1,065 yards (11 TDs) on 227 carries (4.69 ypc)

It was a nice season for KP, especially given the context of just how bad the rest of the offense performed. And he ran REALLY well down the stretch, averaging 106 ypg in the last four games, against four defenses regularly putting players into the NFL. So Kevin Parks is a guy to be excited about in 2014… but the o-line… well, it could impose a mighty low glass ceiling on KP’s production.

Pierce: Hey remember how we spent most of the QB preview saying “well it depends on the o-line, which will probably be shoddy?” Get ready for some similarity!

Kendall: Well, yeah. I happen to think we have some really good running backs! But it won’t matter, not with this offensive line.

Mike: In that vein, all the offensive plays we saw on Wednesday night at the open practice (save one deep bomb that connected from David Watford that caused me to yell an obscenity or 10) were short screen passes and swings to the running backs out of the backfield. Clear sign the staff thinks (knows) the o-line is a mess.

Pierce: Sounds exhilarating. So what’s the logical booze metaphor here, Kendall?

Kendall: After a long hard day, nothing is better than an ice cold beer. The rest of the offense is the long hard day, and the backs are the beer.

Pierce: Beer is plentiful. Beer is accessible. Beer is dependable. The running backs are going to get the job done.

Kendall: In KP, you have the everyday staple, the lucky lager. Chug liberally. KP will grind it out for us, like the warrior bellcow he is. And America will drink deeply of the amber goodness. Parks isn’t the fastest runner, he doesn’t have the most wiggle, he isn’t the biggest or most powerful… but dammit, he gets the job done. He’s our lager. Smooth to drink, easy to enjoy.

Pierce: Does that mean Smoke (Taquan Mizzell) is an IPA? Everyone says they love him but I haven’t seen much evidence that he’s worth the hype, yet.

Mike: I fucking hate IPAs. Not a comment on Smoke, they just suck.

Pierce: I’d put my IPA enjoyment at about 20% of those that I have tried. But we digress…

Mike: That’s actually probably a good comparison for Smoke. Flashes of goodness, but also a ton of East-West dancing with minimal results. He needs to find the right balance of hops, or whatever.

Kendall: I’m certainly bitter about Smoke, so I’m following you guys on this metaphor. 5-star running back, my ass. To me, 5-star running backs look like Alex Collins (Arkansas). Like Dion Lewis in 2009. Like *gasp* Ryan Williams at Tech in 2009. I mean, I guess it can take some time to get going… but I expected more. Much more. So yeah, a bitter-ass IPA, I’m good with that.

Pierce: He was hurt last year, apparently - so a healthy and experienced Mizzell might produce a completely different result (flavor?) this season.

Mike: I’ll be willing to ask, why the hell he was playing then? One thing I would love to see from the new coach is an ability to actually redshirt someone even if they are a star.

Kendall: Smoke finished with 196 yards and one lonely touchdown on 45 carries (4.36 ypc) across 10 games. He was our 4th-most productive rusher, behind KP, Khalek Shepherd, and, ugh, David Watford. Smoke also added 29 catches for 129 yards and a touch. That line was good enough to be our 4th-best receiver, behind Jake McGee, Darius Jennings, and KP. [Chilling fact from the editor: no single player totaled more than 400 yards receiving in 2013. Awful.] I went on record a year ago, predicting somewhere around 1,000 total yards from scrimmage. Errrmmmm… that didn’t happen. Smoke didn’t look fast, at all. And while he had lots of shiftiness, like Mike said, he danced around East-West way too much. Add East-West dancing to a leaky o-line, and you have an ineffective running back with plenty of painful tiffles (TFLs, or tackles for loss).

Mike: To me, for most of the season Smoke looked uncomfortable running the ball. There was no point where I could see him really put his foot in the ground and run up field with any purpose. All this Mickeymouse dancing bullshit to me is a guy without a plan when he gets the ball. If I’m looking for anything this season, it’s Smoke having a plan which to me will demonstrate he is comfortable with the college game. Until that happens, I don’t think we can expect to see anything near the expectations some people have for him.

Kendall: Maybe it was a confidence problem, exacerbated by the injury? Anyway, expectations for Smoke are still high among Hoofans, but I’m personally trying to aim low with the kid until he shows us that he’s got the skill and mentality to produce at this level. (Kind of the same place I am with Greyson Lambert, really.) I'm hopeful for Smoke, but that's all it is -- hope.  By the way, I generally enjoy India Pale Ale.  Just as an FYI, I guess.  Pierce, who’s next?

Pierce: I declare Khalek Shepherd a Trappist Belgian Ale. Not what you want to drink every day - or even once a week - but sometimes it’s the absolute perfect choice. Flashes of brilliance but best used sparingly. Remember that time he scored against Oregon? 45 yd toss TD - which those of you in section 515 might remember I TOTALLY FREAKING CALLED.

Mike: Confirmed. Pierce will be forever known as the Oracle of 515. I love Shepherd as the change of pace back. I think given the opportunity to have a bigger role (which he should finally have this year) he has the potential to be very good.

Pierce: Totally agree. Shepherd has been really solid - and certainly suffers in playing time only because he’s had Parks (understandably) ahead of him his whole time here. It’ll be important to get Mizzell involved, but the same should be said for Shepherd.

Mike: Shepherd has earned that RB2 spot over his career. To me he is the clear guy there. In my opinion you use Smoke in a more Percy Harvin/Darren Sproles type role where you focus on getting him the ball in space. Shepherd is our second best pure running back.

Kendall: I agree with everything said above, but will add: I’ll probably never forgive Shepherd for that punt return doink off the facemask against Wake Forest in 2012. But anyway, it happened, I’m [not completely] over it, and I agree that Khalek is our best option at RB2. He’s fast. They say he has good hands, and we’ve seen glimpses of proof. He’s a home-run hitter out of the backfield, in ways that KP is not. So yeah, Shepherd should and will have a chance to improve upon his 51-315-1 line from a year ago.

Mike: I think we should also mention ├╝ber walk-on Daniel Hamm who returns this season following his “upper extremity” injury.

Kendall: Hamm was awesome against VMI last season, no doubt. And while being awesome against VMI isn’t really that big of a deal in general, there were so few awesome performances on offense that it’s important to remember and savor the ones we saw. in 2014, Hamm is just depth chart filler, like an interesting back-of-the-fridge wheat beer.

Kendall: One last back I want to mention is LaChaston Smith. We’ve got a workhorse grinder in KP, we’ve got a satellite (only works in space) back in Smoke, we’ve got a speed demon RB2 in Shepherd, and a cute curiosity in Hamm. But Smith… Smith is our only potential bruiser. He’s big, powerful, and yes, still very raw. But I think he’ll play this year, and I think he’ll taste like a nice thick stout. Goal-line carries, anyone? Short yardage hammer? These things are possible for the sophomore from South Iredell.

Pierce: Well there you have it. An assortment of beers make our stable of running backs an attractive option for this team. Will they be utilized effectively? Possibly. Parks could certainly repeat his 1,000 yard performance. A healthy Mizzell could bring the big play threat that this team sorely lacks. But the ever-present disaster in the making that is the o-line could really hold things back. We’ll see, but I think we all know this blog’s feelings on the ability of the coaching staff…

Best of luck this season, KP!  We're all behind you!


  1. OMG. You fellas really need to get a life. You probably think U R funny among yourselves, but I call BS. If you knew anything about what you are trying to talk about, then you would be doing it. And, why do you feel the need to invoke the F-word so much. Smart, real smart. Just saying. You must be real proud to be a Hokie.

    1. Hey, we clearly acknowledge we're not funny.