Andy Staples explores the trend away from relying on a single tailback and how that’s starting to play on the recruiting trail.
The last 1,000-carry back chosen in the first round of the NFL draft was Cedric Benson in 2005. Benson toted the ball 1,112 times at Texas from 2001-04. Longhorns coach Mack Brown loves his workhorse backs — Ricky Williams carried 361 times in Brown’s first year in Austin — but even Brown has changed his philosophy. The Longhorns rushed for 2,229 yards in 2012, but they split carries among Johnathan Gray (149 carries), Joe Bergeron (127 carries) and Malcolm Brown (61 carries). At Georgia, Mark Richt divvied carries between freshmen Todd Gurley (222 carries) and Keith Marshall (117 carries) and came within a few yards of playing for the national title. With NFL teams counting every tick on the odometer, per-carry efficiency has become far more important than total yardage.
Saban said recruits have begun to comprehend the need to leave some tread on the tires for the next level, making the idea of sharing the spotlight easier to stomach. “A lot of these guys really realize that and understand,” Saban said. “We’ve had two or three guys in each year who have been productive for us, and it’s worked out well for us.”
Well, if Saban does it…