March 23, 2008

2007 Unit Ranking #1: RB

Duck Sports Authority continues its Spring Camp preparation with a final evaluation and ranking of the 2007 position units. Coming in at #1 in the unit rankings is Running Back.

Season Unit Analysis: Running Back The Ducks entered 2007 with huge assets in place at the running back position. The top two in the depth chart returned including Jonathan Stewart and Jeremiah Johnson who together accounted for 1625 yards and 20 TD's rushing and 244 yards and a TD receiving in 2006.

Summary Opinion: A- Keeping in mind DSA does not give out A+'s, A- is a superior grade for a season. The running game led by Jonathan Stewart and Jeremiah "Stiffy" Johnson consistently performed at a high level throughout the season, despite Johnson missing seven games due to injury. Sophomore Andre Crenshaw played a key role backing up Stewart when Johnson was out.

Key Players: As Coach Bellotti called them "1" and "1A", Stewart and Johnson were the best one-two punch in college football for 2007 when together and healthy. People aren't going to be forgetting Jonathan Stewart anytime soon, but Jeremiah Johnson is an excellent running back in his own right and will be the premier back in 2008. The Ducks generally employed a two-man rotation, and the snaps were fairly evenly distributed between Stewart and Johnson. Without Johnson, the rotation was still two-man but the percentage of carries by Stewart when Crenshaw was the backup was markedly higher.

Jonathan Stewart JR - 280-1722, 11 TD rushing, 22-145, TD receiving, 13 games - Chose the NFL instead of his senior season but will spend time recovering from toe surgery before playing again.

Jeremiah Johnson JR - 54-344, 4 TD rushing, 7-98, TD receiving, 6 games - Led the team in yards per carry at 6.4.

Andre Crenshaw - SO - 82-445, 4 TD rushing, 4-17 receiving, 13 games - Proved he has the skills to excel at the D-1 level.

Remene Alston - FR - 25-66, TD rushing, 7 games - Played like a freshman in limited action but that was the tip of his iceberg of potential.

Andiel Brown - SR - 2-2 rushing, 11 games - Provided outstanding leadership his senior season.

Key Statistics: The running game was extremely productive in 2007, and the productivity trend has been increasing since implementing the spread in 2006. The Ducks held on to the ball fairly well with 14 fumbles lost in 13 games. The Ducks rushed the ball 144 more times in 2006 than 2007.

Average per rush 2007: 5.3 yards
Average per rush 2006: 5.0 yards
Average per rush 2005: 3.8 yards
TD rushing 2007: 32
TD rushing 2006: 26
TD rushing 2005: 16

Season Improvement Rating: Steady (+0.00) The running backs started and finished the season strong, with hardly a glitch in between. The group graded in the 'A' range in ten out of the 13 games, and even their worst game would be considered above average. Gary Campbell has quietly become one of the most successful position coaches around in many respects, and had another fine stable of well-coached talent again in 2007.

Best 2007 Game: Washington This game was the first the team played without Jeremiah Johnson, and the unit played inspired football. Jonathan Stewart bowled over a hapless Husky defense with 251 yards and two TD's, while Andre Crenshaw added another 113 yards and two more TD's. Remene Alston poured more salt on the wounds with a touchdown on his only carry.

Unit MVP: Jonathan Stewart The NFL is getting a premier stallion that they need to keep healthy in Jonathan Stewart. His performance for the entirety of 2007 was amongst the top few in the nation, even without a lead blocker. Certainly the spread offense as implemented by Chip Kelly proved to be a boon to his yards per carry statistic, as advertised but doubted. Stewart's transition back to a pro-set should be like riding a bike; it's what the huddled masses thought best for him all along.

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