Melvin Gordon, Joel Stave

Quarterbacks rule, but running backs are still important

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For the second straight season, no running back was drafted by an NFL team in the first round. The emphasis on evolving passing offenses is one of the reasons fewer NFL teams seem to want to invest big money on a running back, but so is the expected lifespan of a running back’s career. This most recent NFL Draft saw the longest wait before a running back was taken off the board, with Washington’s Bishop Sankey being the first running back selected with the 54th overall pick by the Tennessee Titans. Given the trends in how the game is played and the most recent draft results, could we start to see less of an emphasis on the running back in the college game as a result?

Running backs are still important to any football team, college or pro. Some teams in the college game will rely very little on running the football but the ability to pound the football and pick up a few yards on the ground is something that helps separate the great teams from the good or average teams. Take a look at Florida State, the reigning national champions. The Seminoles ranked third in the ACC in rushing offense in 2013, trailing only a Georgia Tech team that operates almost entirely on the run and a Boston College team that featured a Heisman finalist in Andre Williams rushing for over 2,000 yards. Florida State had a Heisman Trophy quarterback in Jameis Winston, but the supporting cast in the running game was not to be overlooked. Would Florida State have been able to succeed at the level it did in 2013 if not for a dependable running game? Probably, but it may not have been as dominant.

And look at the team Florida State faced in the BCS National Championship Game, Auburn. The Tigers ran away with the SEC championship, somewhat figuratively and literally. The strength of the running game allowed Auburn to wear down opponents and make-up for an average passing attack.

And do not let the 2014 NFL Draft fool you. There were 19 running backs drafted. There were even three fullbacks picked up by NFL teams through the draft, leaving a glimmer of hope for some that the days of the fullback are not extinct just yet.

A successful football formula has always included having a star quarterback behind a dependable offensive line. A top-flight running back may not be the ultimate difference — see Barry Sanders and the Detroit Lions — but it can still be a vital part of an offense.

Baylor to add counselors following criticism of handling sex assault cases

WACO, TX - AUGUST 31:  A general view of play between the Southern Methodist Mustangs and the Baylor Bears at McLane Stadium on August 31, 2014 in Waco, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
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Baylor announced late Friday plans to add counselors and add additional training for faculty and staff in an effort to improve the school’s response to sexual assault incidents.

The school has come under criticism of late after reports from the Texas Monthly and ESPN’s Outside the Lines detailed Baylor’s response to sexual assaults committed by Bears football players Sam Ukwuachu and Tevin Elliott, respectively. Ukwuachu was sentenced in August to 180 days in jail and 10 years of probation for raping a Baylor women’s soccer in 2013, while Elliott is currently serving a 20 year prison sentence after a conviction on two counts of sexual assault. ESPN’s report alleged that Baylor failed to act to three students’ complaints of assault by Elliott, while Texas Monthly wrote that the unnamed women’s soccer player eventually transferred after having her scholarship reduced.

“We know we can and must do a better job to confront interpersonal violence in our campus community,” Baylor president Ken Starr said in the statement.

The devil, as always, is in the details in these cases, and the statement did not specify how many counselors it would add or what type of and how much training its employees would receive.

Still, one of the leaders behind an online pledge that acquired more than 1,700 signatures approved the move.

“I think it showed that the Baylor leadership heard the concerns of the Baylor family, and that they recognized the need for immediate change,” said Colby College assistant professor and Baylor alum Laura Seay, via the Dallas Morning News. “They need to ensure follow-through that these things do happen and they happen as quickly as possible.”

Texas brings back former ‘Horn to coach running backs

MORGANTOWN, WV - NOVEMBER 14:  D'Onta Foreman #33 of the Texas Longhorns rushes against Jarrod Harper #22 of the West Virginia Mountaineers in the second half during the game on November 14, 2015 at Mountaineer Field in Morgantown, West Virginia.  (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
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From 2001-05, Anthony Johnson played running back at Texas. And by that, we mean he mostly stood and watched as Cedric Benson and Jamaal Charles played running back for the Longhorns.

Now his job is to recruit and develop the next Cedric Benson and Jamaal Charles.

Johnson was announced as Texas’ new running backs coach on Saturday, making this his third stint with the burnt orange and white following a run a quality control assistant from 2007-09. Johnson replaces Tommie Robinson, who returned to a role with USC last month.

“Our entire staff thought that Anthony was a perfect fit to coach our running backs,” head coach Charlie Strong said in a statement. “He’s a tremendous young coach with great energy and enthusiasm. Anthony played high school ball in Texas, played and coached at Texas and really knows the pride and tradition of our place and our state well. He’s a guy that has played running back at a high level, who also has gained a great deal of experience coaching the position and just has so much passion for the game and drive as a coach. You could really see that during our visits, and I know Sterlin (Gilbert) and the offensive staff really hit it off with him, too. He’ll be a super addition to our staff, and we’re looking forward to getting him here.”

Johnson arrives from Toledo, where he was recently promoted to co-offensive coordinator. He served as the Rockets’ running backs coach for the previous two seasons, seasons in which the northeastern UT led the MAC in rushing. Kareem Hunt was the league’s leading per-game rusher in both seasons, averaging 163.1 yards in 2015 and 108.1 in ’14.

Prior to Toledo, Johnson spent four seasons as Sam Houston State’s running backs coach. His star pupil in Huntsville was running back Timothy Flanders, who earned three nods as an FCS All-American, was named as a finalist for the Walter Payton Award (FCS’s answer to the Heisman), and twice won the Southland Conference Player of the Year honor.

“I’ve obviously been watching the program from afar for years, and I have great admiration for Coach Strong,” Johnson said. “After spending some time in Austin with him and his staff recently, you can really feel the energy of what’s going on at Texas. Coach Strong is a great football coach and a man of integrity who has so much passion for the kids and the program. There’s just a special feeling around him and the program right now. I know there are big things in the future for Texas football, and I can’t wait to get down there and be a part of it.

“I spent a lot of time with Sterlin (Gilbert), Matt (Mattox) and Jeff (Traylor), and I feel like I really connected with them. They’re all tremendous football coaches with a great vision for what they want to accomplish. I love what they’re bringing offensively, and I’ve been fortunate enough to coach in a very similar style of offense for years. I’m really looking forward to getting in that room with all of the talented running backs at Texas and playing my role to help get the offense going.”

Texas ranked 17th nationally in rushing last season despite limping to a 5-7 record. The ‘Horns return leading rusher D'Onta Foreman (681 yards on 7.17 yards per carry, five touchdowns), a junior, sophomore Chris Warren (470 yards on 6.62 yards per carry, four touchdowns), sophomore Kirk Johnson (eight carries for 44 yards) and incoming freshman Kyle Porter.

 

PHOTO: Jim Harbaugh hanging with Kenny G and Larry the Cable Guy at Pebble Beach

during the college football game at Michigan Stadium on October 17, 2015 in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
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Jim Harbaugh‘s life is more interesting than yours and mine. That point has been well established by now. At this point he’s just running up the score.

Michigan’s head coach took some time between Signing Day and the beginning of spring practices to participate in the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am festivities and sprinkled his always-entertaining Twitter feed with some star gazing.

So when Kenny G plays Michigan’s Signing Day event next year and Larry the Cable Guy does his routine during the Wolverines’ spring break tip to California, don’t say you weren’t warned.

“I actually am thinking about a few things. There are a few things percolating,” Harbaugh told USA Today before teeing off in the Million Dollar Hole-in-One for Charity challenge alongside the likes of Mark WahlbergClint EastwoodWayne Gretzky and Bill Murray — which he lost horribly. “But for the most part I forget about football when I’m out here. Too much too look at, too many shots to take.”

Brady Hoke addresses how defensive goals have changed in college football

New Oregon defensive coordinator Brady Hoke meets with members of the media at the Hatfield-Dowling Complex near Autzen Stadium in Eugene, Ore., Thursday, Feb. 11, 2016. Hoke is a former head coach at Michigan. (Andy Nelson/The Register-Guard via AP)
Andy Nelson/The Register-Guard via AP
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Brady Hoke is looking forward to getting back in coaching this season as Oregon’s defensive coordinator. A year away from the game from the coaching point of view after being let go by Michigan, Hoke is taking on a big task with revamping Oregon’s defense. With the offenses Hoke will see in the Pac-12, he knows the defensive goals that have been regular staples for decades in the past will no longer be what he believes to be a realistic goal.

It used to be the goal was 13 points or less. That was the standard everybody had,” Hoke said this week as he met with the Oregon media for the first time since being hired. “The style of offenses have changed. You can also see defenses evolving for the style of offense. If you’re going to play Stanford, your team goals for that week may be a little different, defensively, because of the style of offense.

“When you’re going to play Arizona, your points per possession become more important than holding [Stanford running back and Heisman Trophy finalist] Christian McCaffrey under 100 yards rushing. You have to be realistic for your players.”

It seems as though Hoke is prepared to give in on a few defensive goals he has lived by for years in hopes of achieving a larger vision with Oregon’s defense. Considering how much Oregon’s defense needs to improve. The Ducks ranked 117th in total defense in 2015. The lowlight of the season had to be the Alamo Bowl meltdown that saw a 31-point lead against TCU end up with a loss to the Horned Frogs. The question is what will be the goal for the Oregon defense in 2016, and how realistic will it be?

“If you set unrealistic goals — we want challenging goals, but unrealistic goals, that’s not fair to those kids,” Hoke said.

Helmet sticker to CoachingSearch.com.