Change of Pace: USC Rushing Yards & Featured Backs, 2001 – 2009

I don’t know about you, dear readers,  but I’ve had just about as much as I care to read about epochal shifts, historic beatdowns, and the like.

Shit, it’s so bad Plaschke almost wrote a couple of paragraphs with more than two sentences yesterday. That’s baaaaaaaaaaaad.

So. As we’ve been hashing over the offensive lacunae of this season, there’s been some speculation that part of the problem is the “Running Back by Committee” approach to life. I decided to put together the stats for 2001 – 2009 (to date), to see if they told us anything. The graph is after the jump…

The challenge was trying to figure out how to display this – so what I did was to pick the backs per a given year that had combined to gain roughly around 60% of the net positive rushing yards and break out their contribution relative to the rest of the team. Generally that means we’re specifying 2 – 3 backs per season:

Usc_rushing_trends_2001_-_2009_medium

(click to see this in a larger size)

What I took away from this was the following:

  1. It’s almost pointless to draw conclusions because 2004 and more so 2005 are such outlier seasons
  2. Having more than two featured backs isn’t an issue if you’re breaking in new backs
  3. The real issue season-to-season is continuity – generally when you see a back run for another season, with the exception of LenDale White taking one for Reggie Bush’s Heisman chances, he increases his yardage
  4. However, the last several seasons don’t show a lot of continuity except for Joe McKnight
  5. The last couple of years do show an emphasis on two or three backs, but not consistently the same ones were producing from year to year
  6. Consequently, year to year the lack of continuity is not working for the team for overall production number, whereas the distributions don’t bear out a view at the season-level of personnel rotation making that big a difference beyond prior years
  7. While that doesn’t mean that running back by committee is actually working in-game, that’s a different kettle of fish to prepare and represent.

Thoughts and reactions?



Kyle Bunch

Partnerships for R/GA Ventures. Raised in California, adopted by Texas. Opinions expressed here are mine and they are fantastic.

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