Saturday, October 6, 2007

Rashard Mendenhall Needs More Carries

Rashard Mendenhall is the most underrated player in the Big 10, maybe even the entire nation. He's rushed for 839 yards on 129 carries through 7 games, but gets no Heisman hype, no future NFL star hype, nothing. A mention here or there as a good player, but nothing more. Why? Because Mike Hart? The Mike Hart who averages over 1 yard less per carry. Mendenhall averages the 7th highest per game rushing total amongst the BCS conference level teams. However, it's more because he's hamstrung by a coach who doesn't give him enough carries. Mendenhall averages a gaudy 6.5 ypc, which ranks better than the 5 of the 6 guys ahead of him: Hart, McFadden, Rice, Forsett, and Choice. Javon Ringer of Michigan State averages 7.1 ypc. Mike Hart has 1,078 yards on 200 carries. Give Mendenhall 200 carries to this point, and he has 1,300 yards.

Mendenhall also leads 5 of the 6 guys ahead of him in receiving yards with 200, behind only Ringer (again). Maybe I should do another article on Ringer, and he and Mendenhall are clearly the best running backs in the Big 10. Sure, Mike Hart can carry the ball 40 yards a game, but is that truly an asset? I think I'd rather have a Mendenhall who can get over 120 yards on 20 carries, combined with a fresh set of legs of a back-up, ala Felix Jones in Arkansas. The 1 running back approach is rare, mostly due to workload problems. For every game Mike Hart rushed 30+ times, it's another game he's taking away from his possible NFL career.

Mendenhall has been hit with the typical "non-preseason hype" bug, which happens to teams and players every year. For instance, Erik Ainge is the #1 statistical QB in the SEC, but he rarely gets pub. Mendenhall is in the same boat. Because pundits (most of them) didn't tag him as a star in July and August, he gets overlooked. However, if someone had a gun to my head, forcing me to choose a running back in the Big 10 to start for my squad, Rashard Mendenhall is the guy.

Below, I have put together a table that shows Mendenhall's ypc versus the 6 D-1A opponents he's faced, and compares his ypc to the average allowed by those defenses in their other games. I think it speaks for itself, and ends this piece very well.

DateOpponentOpp. YPCaRashard YPCChange
9/29Penn State1.74.2+2.5


Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

How about his 85 yard performance against Michigan? Michigan's third string back had more yards and about the same average in that game...