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Keeping It Real: Can The JUCO Running Backs Carry The Line

Where do the Bearcats go from here? There is a legacy in place, a great offensive line to build on, and a wealth of talent, but no obvious solutions. The position is wide open, can the incoming JUCO's provide some answers?

Paul Frederiksen-US PRESSWIRE

Jeff Gentil: With the departure of workhorse George Winn, there are a lot of carries up for grabs. Ralph David Abernathy IV and Tion Green are the early favorites for the job, but in all likelihood they will be used in tandem until one of them takes the full time gig.

The Bearcats have had several departures in Jameel Poteat and highly touted Akise Teague the season before, so the running back corps isn't as deep or proven as it has been in the past. This will potentially allow some of the younger kids like sophomore Deionte Buckley and redshirt freshman EJ Junior to open some eyes.

But the question is: will junior college running backs Hosey Williams or Rod Moore come in and steal the job from Green and/or Abernathy IV? Moore is the former number one junior college running back in the country (247sports) and has been touted by offensive coordinator Eddie Gran as a true home run threat. And if the new running backs are as solid as we've been sold, does EJ Junior go back to his former position at linebacker to perhaps see the field quicker?

Matt Opper: I think that there is a place in the offense for RDA4, but it isn't really at running back. Much of the talk surrounding the running backs heading into summer has been that Quattro is the guy at the position. Personally, I think using him as a feature back would be a mistake for this staff. It has nothing to do with his size either, Jaquizz Rodgers, Dion Lewis, Garrett Wolfe etc. have all been productive feature backs at a similar size. But RDA4 is a unique weapon, and should be deployed as such. He is wasted having him just play RB.

JG: I'll go with Quattro starting the Purdue game because he won't be banged up, the weather should be nice, and hopefully the brand spanking new Nippert Stadium turf will be perfect for a quicker running back. Now, once the weather turns colder, the fields become slick and perhaps covered with rain or snow then I might just change my mind in hopes of seeing a more powerful back who can run between the tackles.

We've seen Brian Kelly and Butch Jones both employ a quicker, faster pace to their offensive game plans. We know Tommy Tuberville offenses put up a lot of points. But will it be garnered more toward the run as he is said to favor? Or is he going to continue the current Bearcat trend of airing it out, leaving fewer carries and ultimately less time to see what all these backs can do?

MO: Kelly certainly operated at a faster pace, but its a myth that Butch Jones did. On his first day he said that he ran an "up tempo" offense, but I never saw it. I fully expect this staff to run at a faster pace. Just looking at the offensive staff's previous stops and how many snaps those offenses got off is a startling comparison to Jones. FSU (Gran) ran 67 snaps a game*, Tennessee (Rolin and Hinshaw) ran 74, Nevada (Hiller) got off 83 a game, and UAB (Tyson Helton) averaged 75 offensive snaps per game. In three years Jones and Bajakian never topped 70 snaps a game. Granted plays per game is a rather simple statistic, and doesn't account for how frequently a team snaps the ball, but it does sketch out the situation, even if in rough form. I actually expect UC to play faster this year than last.

* That average is suppressed by the Savana St. game when FSU needed just 44 plays to hang a double nickel. In games against FBS opposition FSU averaged 70 plays a game.

I would guess that UC gets off something in the neighborhood of 900 snaps this year, a figure that hasn't been topped since 2008. In which case there are a lot of carries to go around. With the exception of the Texas Tech years, and a couple of Jason Campbell seasons Tubs teams have always started with the running game and built the passing game on top of that. That is more or less what I expect Gran to do. I would be shocked to see UC throw the ball a ton this year, not with this offensive line and as much talent as they have at running back, even if it is unproven. This line is good enough to have somebody rush for 1,000 yards again, I just don't know who that will be. So I guess we are right back where we started on this topic then.

Which brings us to the question at hand; Can Ti'on Green hold of Williams and/or Moore? In the long term it would be best if Green can hold off the challenges from the JUCO's and establish himself. Green is the total package physically at 6'0" and damn near 220 with plenty of speed to go with that power. But he did not have a great spring. Part of that is the offense which will ask him to do more in terms of reading fronts and understanding the blocking schemes than the old Bajakian offense did. The increased depth of the play book showed up in his play, as well as the offensive front's. But there is no denying that the door is open for Moore or Williams to make a run at the starting job. Moore in particular is a tantalizing option. Gun to your head, who starts the Purdue game? and why?