Going into last season, no position on the Baylor roster seemed more a sure thing than that of the running backs. With senior Glasco Martin and junior Lache Seastrunk coming back for another campaign together after their amazing 2012 season, we knew if that we could count on anything from the entire roster, it would be those chosen to carry the sacred football the most.
Ironically, through injuries that sidelined those two for various stretches of last season, we enter 2014 in largely the same boat. With the experience he received last year, Shock Linwood is the heir presumptive to the #1 back role. Beside him stands a former 2* recruit in Chafin, an intriguing blend of size and game-breaking speed all his own.
|33||Iain Hunter||RS-FR||6-0/215||Running Back|
|22||Terence Williams||FR||6-2/225||Running Back|
Let's get right to it. The hierarchy of running backs here seems pretty clear with Linwood and Chafin likely entrenched as the starters, Jefferson as the primary backup, and Nacita looking to receive the carries late in games that last year went to Anthony Webb, who is out this season with an injury. I'd add Webb to this list since he's just a junior this season, but I'm not sure if he'll ever return to play football at this point in time. If he does, he'll be in next year's chart. This year's is designed to see what we have available to us now.
At this point, it seems safe to project that Williams will redshirt this coming season. Sure, that leaves us with just 3 scholarship RBs to make it through 2014, but I really don't think they want to burn that year of eligibility for Williams unless/until it becomes absolutely necessary or he forces the issue with his play.
Silas Nacita -- JR -- #33 -- 5-11, 185 pounds
Everyone's favorite walk-on RB last year for his amazing name, Silas is back this season as the elder statesman in a very young group of Baylor RBs. As I said above, my guess is that with Webb's injury, the late-game carries that last year went to him will now go to Silas, if they aren't gobbled up by redshirt freshman Johnny Jefferson. That's not an insignificant amount, either: Webb rushed 27 times for 150 yards last year, for an impressive 5.6 yards per carry. Sure, it was garbage time and the defenses were already tired from getting run over for 3+ quarters, but it's impressive, nonetheless.
Rashodrick "Shock" Linwood -- SO -- #32 -- 5-9, 200 pounds
Last year's surprising redshirt freshman is this year's incumbent starter. Linwood went from virtual unknown as a running back to the #6 rusher in the entire Big 12, and #2 Bear, over the course of 2013, taking good advantage of the opportunities presented to him. It wasn't just mop-up time, either; Baylor leaned hard on Linwood in both the OU and Texas Tech games, and he responded extremely well. His game-by-game stats:
That's an impressive year for almost anyone -- he had 2+ yards per carry more than both of Texas' pair of 5* recruits, Johnathan Gray and Malcolm Brown -- made all the more impressive by the fact that virtually no one saw it coming. We didn't even do a Community Projection for him last year at all, and he ended up second on the team in rushing yards. We'll be getting to him tomorrow, for sure.
This year, the path is set for Linwood to receive a starter's load. The 278 carries split by Glasco and Lache last season will have to go somewhere, and I expect Shock to get the majority of those divvied out. Still, they'll want to keep him fresh throughout the season, so I'd expect something along the lines of 15-16 carries per game, or about what Lache did last year. If he can keep his average per carry close to what he did this season, that means something in the neighborhood of 1100 yards on the season. Baylor should have a 1,000 yard rusher yet again.
Devin Chafin -- SO -- #28 -- 6-0, 225 pounds
The other major beneficiary of the departures of Glasco and Lache will be Shock's fellow sophomore, Devin Chafin. Baylor's fourth-leading rusher last season, Chafin didn't see nearly so much use as Linwood through the bulk of the season before having a coming out party of sorts with 100 yards and 2 TDs on 11 rushers against Texas Tech (man, we just obliterated Tech on the ground in that game). His game-by-game stats:
If Linwood was an unknown going into last season, Chafin might as well not have existed in most people's minds. I cautioned in last year's Position Preview not to expect too much from him with Glasco healthy but also added that should that health become a question, you might get to see more of him. I turned out to be mostly right; Chafin played relatively sparingly until we found ourselves with both Lache and Glasco, but he played well, regardless. We got a couple of chances through the season to see the breakaway speed Devin was rumored to possess, just enough to make us want more. We should get it in 2014, when Chafin will assume the mantle of "Utility Back", which typically means "big back", in Briles' offense. Expect his carries to rise considerably, from 50 (~4 a game last year) to more like Glasco's 120 (~10 a game). The math is easy because the roles are so similar; Chafin should step right into that spot and do well with it. He has a powerful build that lends itself well to short-yardage situations, especially around the goal line. Can you imagine Chafin coming at you behind LaQuan McGowan?
Johnny Jefferson -- RS-FR -- #2 -- 5-10, 200 pounds
To put it bluntly, though Linwood and Chafin are the ones everyone outside the program will expect to see, inside, Johnny Jefferson just might be the man. This past spring, it seemed like we heard about Jefferson every single day. He was "the natural", to borrow a phrase from the baseball book, the guy that made everything look so easy.
I don't know what to expect from Jefferson this season. If he slides into Linwood's role from last year, a prediction that seems eminently reasonable on its face, he'll probably run the ball about 10 times a game in relief of the starter, now Linwood. But if he pushes Shock for the starting spot, as many believe he might, that throws things into a right mess. Does he become the feature back in his first year (post-redshirt)? Could he handle the job, even if he shows himself worthy by talent? I honestly don't know, but I'm ready to find out. The battle between Linwood and Jefferson for the #1 back role could be a war worth watching.
Iain Hunter -- RS-FR -- #33 -- 6-0, 215 pounds
Every now and then, we get to a player on the roster that I couldn't tell apart from Adam, whose name I'd never seen before opening up the latest roster. Iain Hunter, with no disrespect intended, is one of those guys. He has a HUDL profile from his time at Cinco Ranch HS, which is good. In the videos on it, however, he's wearing #57 and is playing left tackle. That's ... interesting, to say the least. If more information becomes available about our tackle-turned-walkon RB, I'll be sure to let you know.
Terence Williams -- FR -- #22 -- 6-2, 225 pounds
You read that right: the freshman RB from Ennis, Texas is already 6-2, 225 and might not be done growing yet. As I said above, Baylor would probably really like to be able to redshirt Williams this year and preserve his eligibility for the future, so don't expect to see much of him barring injury. Still, he's the kind of talent that tends to find its way to the field, and we may be talking big things from Williams a year from now when he's been in Kaz' program to see the calendar turn over. How he and Chafin work things out between them in spring 2015 will be a storyline, in and of itself.
You probably haven't watched Williams' HUDL videos in a while. Do it now, and allow yourself to dream of the future.
Looking at the position as a whole, 2014 looks like another year where RB should be a clear strength for Baylor's offense. If things work out as predicted, we have one of the best RBs in the conference leading the way in Linwood. He'll be flanked by Chafin, who has tremendous size and speed, and backed up by Jefferson, a bundle of talent waiting to be unleashed. If they don't (work out as predicted), maybe Jefferson (or Chafin) seizes the reins for himself. Either way, we have a trio of talented backs that should strike fear into the hearts of our foes. We just need them to stay a trio, or else things might get interesting with somewhat questionable depth behind them, unless we burn Williams' redshirt at some point.