Rocky’s V: Freshmen, Lattimore, Florida and more

10/17/2012

I. 2012: The Year of the Freshman Running Back

In years past, incoming freshmen were for the most part either red-shirted or delegated to special teams duties.  But this year, all around the country, freshmen, especially at the running back position, are all the rage. Alabama’s T.J. Yeldon has been a big part of the Tide’s offense since day one, totaling 436 yards and 4 TDs on the year. Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall, aka “Gurshall”, are Georgia freshmen running backs who have combined for 1,040 rushing yards and 14 TDs. Then, just last Saturday, LSU freshman running back Jeremy Hill imposed his 6’2”, 235-pound will upon the South Carolina Gamecocks, carrying the ball 17 times for 124 yards and 2 TDs. So why are so many young guys having success so early these days? Well, for one, credit the development of the high school football program. Virtually every high school in the country now has an almost year-round weightlifting program and most schools have a full-time strength training coach on staff. Couple that with all the exposure offered in our internet, social media-driven world and 18-year-old kids are coming to college already equipped with the ability to deal with high expectations both physically and mentally.

II. Marcus Lattimore should NOT be a top-10 pick next year

I have to admit when I showed up on the Bayou last week for the showdown between South Carolina and LSU, I was excited to watch first-hand the talented and Heisman-hyped Marcus Lattimore. But by the game’s end, I walked away largely disappointed in a player that many had deemed the best running back in college football. Not only did he manage only a measly 35 yards on 13 carries (versus an LSU defense that got carved up by the Florida Gators on the ground a week earlier for 180 yards), he also didn’t pass the eye test for me. Lattimore is listed at 6’0″, 218, but he looks and plays much smaller than that. And for a guy who is not that physically big, he doesn’t make up for it with incredible quickness and breakaway speed in the way someone like Oregon’s DeAnthony Thomas does. Maybe last week was an aberration, but I don’t see him leaving early next year and becoming an NFL team’s franchise running back come April.

III. Alabama Knee-ds McCarron to be be healthy

In Week 5 of Rocky’s V, I wrote about how the injury bug was starting to bite the Alabama Crimson Tide. I am also on record telling an anonymous cab driver in Baton Rouge that the only thing that could derail Alabama is an injury at a key position. Well, later that day, Tide quarterback A.J. McCarron suffered a knee injury that has ‘Bama fans holding their breath this week. Nick Saban said on Monday that McCarron “will be fine in a day or two” after bruising his knee and they can only hope that it is just a bruise. McCarron doesn’t put up spectacular numbers, but he is extremely efficient and hasn’t thrown an interception in 227 passes. Let’s hope that the bulky knee brace that McCarron will wear next week doesn’t make him a sitting duck in the pocket, making him susceptible to further injury.

IV. First BCS rankings released, one big surprise

The SEC owns the top two spots in the first rendition of the BCS poll, with Alabama unquestioned at #1. But Florida at #2? That has the Oregon Ducks scratching their heads. Apparently the computers are not impressed with wins over only two ranked opponents in Arizona and Washington and many folks think Florida got too much credit for their win over LSU. I, however, feel Florida’s ranking is justified after recently taking down some good opponents in Tennessee and LSU, both in convincing fashion. If there’s any argument though, the Gators can put it to rest with a big win over South Carolina this weekend.

V. Still a huge game in “The Swamp” this weekend.

Although it’s not the top-five matchup college football fans were hoping for after South Carolina got stopped in Death Valley, this week’s Gamecocks (7) vs. Gators (2) game is a big one, particularly for Florida. The Gators escaped from Vanderbilt with a 24-17 win that was too close for comfort. But how about the job that Will Muschamp has done this year? After under-achieving last year, Muschamp has shown he is a worthy replacement for the legendary Urban Meyer, leading Florida to a so-far undefeated 2012 and a place as one of the few teams that can be mentioned in the same sentence as Alabama. They will face a very angry South Carolina team who got punched in the mouth last week against LSU, but is talented from top to bottom. A big win over the Gamecocks would make a big statement to the college football world.

- Rocky Boiman

Rocky Boiman is an analyst for Westwood One’s coverage of NCAA Football. Each week in “Rocky’s V,” the former Notre Dame captain and Super Bowl champion writes about five topics that have captured his interest from around college football. You can also follow Rocky on Twitter.

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