At a basic level, football’s most important stat is points scored. Stats like sacks, completion percentage and interceptions are telling and obviously impact the game, but they all serve a higher purpose: putting points on the board.
In the last two seasons, no skill position player has scored more often than Mike Boone. As a true freshman he found the end zone nine times and he matched that total last season. His nose for pay dirt is one of his enduring strengths as a running back.
Boone wasn’t always a running back, however. He was two-star wide receiver prospect out of high school and caught 57 passes for 1,068 yards and 18 touchdowns as a senior at Baker County High School in Florida. At UC, he has still managed to pile up the yards and touchdowns, just in a different way.
His diverse skill set and explosiveness allowed him to step in right away and be a major contributor out of the backfield as a freshman. Although it appeared he would redshirt in 2014, Boone ended up being thrust into the fire as Tion Green, Hosey Williams and Ralph David Abernathy IV all missed most of the season with injuries. Boone made the most of his chance, racking up a team-high 650 yards (and those nine scores) despite ranking second in rushing attempts (101) behind senior Rod Moore (143) and not receiving a single carry in the first four games of the season. He made the most damage against USF and Houston, rushing for 212 yards and a scores on 19 carries against the Bulls while closing out the regular season with 85 yards and three touchdowns against the Cougars. He also had 49 yards and a touchdown in UC’s 33-17 Military Bowl loss to Virginia Tech, ending his freshman campaign with a streak of eight-straight games with a touchdown.
Even with Williams and Green back to health in 2015, Boone still improved on his production from the previous season. He was third in line when it came to getting carries, as Green (151) and Williams (138) each had more, but he eclipsed his own total from the previous season (104) and finished second in yards (749) and first in yards per carry (7.2). Oh, plus those nine touchdowns. His streak of games with a touchdown ended after the opener, as he had only 16 yards in UC’s loss to Temple, but he scored in six games overall and reached the 100-yard mark three times during the season, highlighted by his brutalization of Tulsa (137 yards, 3 TDs).
UC’s coaching staff found an additional way to get Boone the ball in 2015, giving him a try as a punt returner. He ended up accumulating 279 yards on 17 returns (16.4 YPR), with a season-long of 37 yards. He will likely maintain that role this season.
In two seasons, Boone has been nothing but spectacular, even if he has been used in relatively limited doses compared to the rest of the running backs around him. Green will still get a healthy share of the work this season, but UC would be smart to find as many ways to get Boone the ball as possible so he can find as many ways to get it into the end zone.