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CFF Discussion - Taking a look at one of the most polarizing players in CFF
I'm bringing the summer madness on this one as we take a look at a twitter darling at the RB position
You’re— you’re too online, okay? You’ve lost context
- Kendall, Succession
I have to say I’m generally satisfied with the way the show Succession ended on Crave. I won’t give away any spoilers here to the VP readers in case some of you are still waiting to watch it, however, I will say that one of my favourite lines from Kendall is in the second last episode about being “too online”.
The reason I like it is it immediately drew a parallel to CFF for me (doesn’t everything VP?). It’s easy to become accustomed to the echo chamber that is the CFF space on social media like Twitter, and lose context on the average CFF player. Sometimes there is a topic or a player I am thinking of discussing on VP, but fear it is too meta and thus the informational delta to the reader would not be worth it. It’s important to take a step back sometimes and understand when we’ve lost context.
Today I am featuring a player that I think is pretty polarizing in terms of valuation by the CFF community. I think Twitter and my fellow CFF content creators value Syracuse RB LeQuint Allen quite highly, but I wonder if the average CFF player is even familiar with him. With Allen, those that believe in him are generally willing to take him in the mid-range rounds, those that don’t probably are simply not getting any shares of him in drafts.
For those unfamiliar, Allen broke out in Syracuse’s bowl game last season vs. Minnesota in Sean Tucker’s absence; Allen had a good day on the ground (15-94-0) but it was his receiving usage that caught everyone by surprise (11 receptions for 60 yards). If a runner is going to get 15 carries and 10+ receptions a game then that is certainly noteworthy. Some of you out there may remember Washington State’s Max Borghi, who was a CFF darling when Mike Leech was still the coach there. We know Sean Tucker was a workhorse for this team the last two seasons, so is this a strong CFF system for RBs? Let’s take a look.
Coaching & System
Head coach Dino Babers has been with the Orange since 2016, which he joined immediately as head coach. Prior to that he was the head coach for two seasons at Bowling Green (2014-2015) and Eastern Illinois (2012-2013). He coached at Baylor in various offensive coaching capacities between the years 2008 and 2011, and did the same thing at UCLA 2004-2007.
In 2006 and 2007, Babers (a former RB himself) served as the RBs coach for the Bruins. His two seasons are a mixed bag from a CFF angle. In 2006, his RB1 carried the football 227 times for 1107 yards and 2 TDs, while also catching 35 passes for 261 yards. The next closest runner carried the rock 60 times. That’s a pretty clear bellcow approach. In 2007, Babers’ RBs were in a timeshare: with the top two RBs carrying the pig 142 and 176 times. The 2007 year is even more significant considering Babers was promoted to assistant head coach (AHC) for that season, suggesting he was probably more involved with the offensive philosophy than in 06.
At Baylor he was the WRs and STs coach, so I don’t think the RB track record is all that relevant.
In 2013, Babers’ Eastern Illinois squad had two RBs split carries with the exact same number (217). One rushed for over 1500 yards, the other around 990.
In his first season with BGSU, the Falcons had three RBs go over 100 carries. The lead RB — Travis Carlton Green, got 180 carries, rushing for 949 yards and 12 TDs, while also catching 27 passes for 175 yards and another score. I would classify this as a committee, but the RB1 still had solid numbers.
The following season BGSU’s Green saw 223 carries for 1299 yards and 15 TDs while adding 27 receptions for 234 yards and 2 more scores. The RB2 was still heavily involved, carrying the rock 145 times for 825 yards and 5 scores, but was not used as much in the passing game (9 receptions for 75 yards).
Although both seasons were a variation of a committee, the team ran the ball often enough and effectively enough to the point that the RB1 was still quite valuable. This changed when Babers got to Syracuse.
In his first four seasons with the Orange (prior to Sean Tucker) Babers’ RB1 averaged 157.5 carries, 719 yards and 6.25 TDs per season. These RBs were not only in committees with other RBs but also shared rushing volume with the QB, who finished some seasons scoring 15 rushing TDs. That’s relevant because the current Orange QB — Garrett Shrader, is a run-first QB also.
With Sean Tucker the Orange got out of character, deploying a more volume pig approach to the offence. Tucker’s first season in 2020 saw him carry the rock 137 times for 626 yards and 4 TDs as a freshman. In 2021 he elevated to volume pig status, carrying the pig 246 times for 1496 yards and 12 TDs. What’s remarkable was that he managed to do this while Shrader was on the roster (173-781-14 rushing).
The Orange made some changes to the staff in 2022, bringing in Robert Anae from Virginia (UVA), who is famous for his dual usage of his QBs and RB committees. Anae has now left for North Carolina State to recreate his magic with Brennan Armstrong, so where does that leave us with Syracuse?
New OC Jason Back is a familiar face with the Orange, as he was the QBs coach in 2022. He followed Anae from UVA to Syracuse last offseason, after spending the previous five seasons (2016-2021) with the Cavaliers. At UVA, Beck served as the QBs coach. It’s probably reasonable to assume he is an Anae disciple, and will likely bring a similar approach to the offence. My overall thoughts are that this is not ideal for the RB position.
With regards to Babers, we’ve seen that he is willing to lean on RBs in the right circumstances, though his tendency appears to be towards committees.
With regards to Allen, his usage in the bowl game was so unusual, that it’s hard to get a read on what to expect next season. He might not be a 200+ carry guy the way Tucker was, but if he’s going to be used in the passing game the way he was vs. Minnesota, then it doesn’t matter. Something to note is that Anae was hired by NC State in early December last year, so the bowl game play calling might have been more a function of Beck than him.
LeQuint Allen — 6’0, 195
Originally a three star RB out of New Jersey, Allen is entering his true sophomore season in 2023 with the Orange. The former New Jersey Gatorade Player of the Year finished his first season behind Tucker averaging 5.7 FPG, in which he rushed 41 times for 274 yards and 1 TD, plus catching 17 passes (21 targets) for 117 yards and another score.
As mentioned, the headliner for this hype this offseason is the bowl game vs. Minnesota. Some of the highlights of his performance that game are provided below:
What’s odd is that in the games Allen played outside of the bowl game, his season high was only 2 receptions in a game. By the sounds of it, however, it appears Allen’s massive pass-game usage from the bowl game could be a mainstay of this offence in 2023. When asked about the offence this spring, Allen had this to say:
Not only just running the ball, but catching the ball out of the backfield too. I wanna break a record for a RB receiving…
That’s extremely encouraging. As far as the spring game, here is an excerpt form a local beat report on the Orange:
Offensive coordinator Jason Beck told ACC Network in a pregame interview that the plan to replace Sean Tucker’s production revolved around sharing the ball with “everyone.” But Friday, Lamson’s (Syracuse QB) main targets were, unsurprisingly, Oronde Gadsden II and LeQuint Allen. Gadsden — a first-team All-ACC selection last year after hauling in 61 passes for 969 yards — recorded four catches for 46 yards, and Allen received 11 touches for 30 total yards.
When asked about the RB room, head coach Babers said this:
I thought Juwaun Price (former New Mexico RB transfer) looked good, I thought he did some things. But outside of that, that is probably as far as I will go.
Again, this is hard to read for me. Allen saw the most touches out of the RBs (11), Price carried the ball 5 times for 34 yards. That quote from Beck would typically be a death knell to any potential CFF asset, but his usage in the spring game suggested that Allen will be the lead guy in this backfield.
Recall that Babers has had some RB1A/B type systems in his career, and that might be the case with Allen and Price. If Allen is seeing only 150-200 carries, but breaking receiving records for a RB, then he will still likely be a potent CFF asset. Also keep in mind that Shrader did not play in the spring game, and so the pass-game usage in this offence is still somewhat of a question mark.
Not a staff with a track record for leaning on bellcows in the backfield. Looks more like a RB1A/B type situation to me. That doesn’t necessarily mean there isn’t value, though.
RB room is looking more competitive with the addition of JuCo standout RB Deston Hawkins. Hawkins ran for 1164 yards and 18(!) TDs on 137 carries in 10 games last fall.
Will Garrett Shrader be effective enough as a passer to unlock Allen’s receiving upside? From what I’ve seen, Allen is a tremendous pass-catcher. If he’s used the way it sounds like he’ll be used, he might be finishing with more receptions than carries more often than not in games, even with solid run-game usage.
Overall, I’d love to come to a clean and decisive conclusion on Allen, but the information currently available to me doesn’t provide enough ammo to go one way or the other. I’m not as high as others are, but I see the value and the upside. His long strides do remind of one Breece Hall, which I will take to be a good omen. There are also not as many RBs that I like going into CFF drafts this year than usual, so Allen could be a guy I take a chance on in the mid-to-late rounds.
We’ve reached the conclusion of this article and as summer has come into full effect up here in Toronto (and probably where you live too), I will leave the reader with the concluding message: don’t be too online this summer. For some inspiration I’ve provided a video below that I took last summer while in a small beach town off the northern coast of the Dominican Republic — with Kool & the Gang’s Summer Madness audio overlaid, of course.
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