The Rice football offense is going to look a bit different under Mike Bloomgren in 2018, starting with the emergence of one lead back. Could that be Nashon Ellerbe?
Mike Bloomgren is no stranger to the workhorse running back. During his time with Stanford he coached both Christian McCaffrey and Bryce Love. Those are two generational backs, but his trend of relying on one man in the backfield started before even those two superstars. Remound Wright carried the load prior to McCaffrey, who eventually gave way to Love.
Here’s how Bloomgren’s No. 1 tailback fared during his four years as the offensive coordinator at Stanford:
|Year||Lead Back||LB Carries||LB Rushing TD||% Total Carries||% Total Rushing TD|
Just once did Bloomgren’s lead back account for fewer than 40 percent of the total carries. The same was true when it came to touchdowns, which makes sense — more touches lead to more scoring opportunities. Last year’s No. 2 back, Cameron Scarlet, tallied 389 yards. No. 3? 142. In comparison, Rice’s third-best leading rusher ran for 308 yards, just a touch below Ellerbe’s 429.
Beyond putting his trust in one workhorse back, Bloomgren predominately employs a run-first offense. The Cardinal ran 60.4 percent of the time under his four years as the OC.
All of those pieces put together suggest Bloomgren will have to find someone on the current roster to take charge of the offense at Rice in 2018. Whereas there are a host of options at quarterback, the running back position should already have a clear-cut leader: Nahshon Ellerbe.
A redshirt junior, Ellerbe led the team in carries, rushing yards and rushing touchdowns last season. His 85 carries represented a mere 17.7 percent of the team total, putting him in line for a massive uptick in work under Bloomgren in 2018. A workload closer to 180 carries would put him on track to reach the 1,000-yard mark, something that hasn’t happened at Rice since Charles Ross reached 1,280 yards in 2013.
Ellerbe is going to get the first shot at earning the workhorse role. If he’s slow out of the gate, players like Aston Walter, Collin Whitaker and Emmanuel Esukpa will all have a chance to throw their hat into the proverbial ring. However, by the time the Owls return home in October they should have one man poised to carry them the rest of the way.
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