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Jarred Evans Gives The Bearcats Running Game A Spark

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Here is an unsettling thought about the Bearcats offense. The best running back on the roster right now might just be the back up quarterback. Eddie Gran has always been a big proponent of keeping a deep backfield rotation. But for all the guys who have been given a shot running the ball in 2014 the best and most consistent running back might just be Jarred Evans.

Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

The Bearcats are at this point now for a couple of different reasons. One is circumstantial, the other is about Evans himself. The circumstances are that the Bearcats have had massive attrition due to injuries at the running back position (and everywhere but receiver on offense). Tion Green is out of the year, Hosey Williams is out for at least the next two or three weeks. That leaves all of two healthy scholarship running backs on the roster, Rod Moore and Mike Boone.

I like the way that both of them have looked in small samples, but the running game still has not clicked like it should with a passing game that is this good. Running lanes are there, they will always been there when the defense has to commit two safeties to deep defense (and they must against UC). For whatever reason the Bearcats haven't been able to find them. The decimation of the offensive line is a big factor in this, but that group has started to get it together health wise, which will help make the running game more effective, regardless of who is running the ball.

Evans was a major boon to the Bearcats running game in the Ohio State game and was arguably the most effective runner of the football against both SMU and Miami.* In most cases I don't like switching quarterbacks in games for all the reasons that announcers hate when that happens. It takes the main guy out of rhythm, it telegraphs the intentions of the offense and can be predictable. All that considered the Bearcats have been more effective as a running team with Evans playing quarterback. We are obviously talking about a very small sample size, maybe 40 snaps out of 400, but I think Evans has shown enough to warrant a bigger role in the offense.

* Thats not to say that he was good, just merely better than the rest.

The dirty little secret of this offense has been the Bearcats inability to run the ball. That has really harmed the Bearcats ability to grind out 8, 9, 10 play drives. This year the Bearcats drives have called to mind a teenager who has just discovered sex. The outcome of any one drive is sort of irrelevant, it could end in a monumental success or a spectacular failure. The only thing the successes or the failures have in common is that they are over very quickly.

Part of the problem is that the Bearcats have been unwilling to use Gunner Kiel as a running threat at all. That stems from a desire to keep Gunner clean, upright and (relatively) healthy. That's understandable, commendable even, but it has really hampered the Bearcats ability to run the football. If the defense knows that Gunner is not a threat to run, and that the option to read the backside end has been taken away from him the numbers against the run are in their favor. They can commit just six guys to shut down the run* and at the same time keep both safeties deep to take away the deep routes. That is exactly what Memphis did to great effect in the first half of that game.

* Remember the bearcats base personnel is 10, meaning one back and four receivers giving them six defenders to beat five blockers.

Eddie Gran and his staff have slowly come to the realization that they need to get some production from the quarterback position to free up their running backs a bit. The value of protecting Gunner by having him absent to the running game isn't as high as it was perhaps initially perceived to be. Gunner ran the ball 6 times for 50 yards against the Ponies, and several of those came on designed plays. They went to Jarred Evan's package on a couple different occasions in pre garbage time.

As the season progresses Evan's role is going to grow because the Bearcats are so much more effective running the ball with him in the game. The numbers game is a part of that, but Evans is just so dynamic with the ball in his hands that he needs more touches. The success of Evans running the football opens up even more options for Eddie Gran and his staff to consider. That's stuff we know is in the Bearcats playbook, Evans hit Chris Moore on that selfsame play against Ohio State for a touchdown that was incorrectly called back.

Most fans have been conditioned to despise anything resembling the wildcat, and not without reason. But there is a lot of validity to the way the Bearcats work that look into a game plan. Its not a situational thing where it is the defacto short yardage package. Gran has shown a willingness to hand the offense to Evans for a drive here or there and Evans has been successful in that role. The Bearcats have a complete package for Evans with the counter lead as the base with a couple wrinkles built off that.

As much as Tuberville would like the running game to be the identity of his team that is just not going to be the case as long as Gunner Kiel is the man under center. He is too good, and these receivers are too dangerous for the passing game not to be the identity of the team. But they simply must find a way to be more successful running the ball for that offense to really reach it's potential. Having Gunner run a bit more is going to be part of that, but keeping Jarred Evans as an active part of the game plan has to be part of that as well. Every minute that opposing coaching staff's have to spend preparing their athlete's for that one section of the Bearcats attack is a minute that they can't spend prepping for the Bearcats passing game.