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2017 Season Preview: Running Backs

It’s Phillip Lindsay and everyone else.

Returning: Phillip Lindsay, Kyle Evans, Michael Adkins, Beau Bisharat, Donovan Lee

Departing: Tony Lewis (WO)

Newbies: Alex Fontenot

Well, there are a bunch of names to go through here, but really only one that matters. Before last year, I said that Donovan Lee would be a great fit for the new offense and Phillip Linsday would work best as a Danny Woodhead-type 3rd down back.

Whoops.

Phillip Lindsay is a fantastic 3rd down back. The problem with my prediction is that he’s also a great 1st and 2nd down back. So, my bad, guys. Phillip Lindsay is really good. He led the PAC-12 in rushing touchdowns last year, but his prowess doesn’t end with toting the rock. He’s a better leader than I thought possible, he’s the best blocking back in the country (pound for pound, at least), and he’s one of the best YAC (yards after catch) receivers in conference, period. He was an absolute workhorse in 2016. At 244 attempts (high in the NFL), he averaged five per rush. But he had 297 total touches in 2016, which /does the math real quick/ means he also had 53 catches. Even at that ridiculous usage rate as a receiving running back, he was averaging almost a first down a catch. His numbers just boggle the mind. The best players in any sport combine a huge usage rate with good effeciency per play. Lindsay does just that and more. His style of play is best described as relentless and physical, much like an actual buffalo. He will never be the biggest, strongest, or fastest back, but no one will fight harder and more consistently. I’ll take him on my team eleven out of ten times.

We haven’t even touched his best aspect as a football player. Lindsay’s leadership is absolutely crucial to the team’s success this year. He is a fiery competitor and demands that same fire from those around him. Every time he speaks, he makes you want to run through a wall. And then we have stuff like this:

How could you not give 110% for this guy? How could you not put your heart on the field every play? Phillip Lindsay will not let this offense falter.

Lindsay should have an even bigger year in 2017. He stands to be the first CU rusher in history with back-to-back 1,000-yard rushing seasons, and it’s a good bet that he’ll grab the all-purpose yardage record as well. (That record belongs to Rodney Stewart, which feels fitting for Lindsay to succeed him.) He remains the number one option, and no backups are endangering his job. Kyle Evans is nursing a dislocated hip, and his steady play works best as a 2nd option. Michael Adkins has to prove he can stay healthy, and both Beau Bisharat and Donovan Lee will most likely be used in specific packages only. Essentially, the lion’s share falls to Lindsay once again. In an offense with a bunch of really good receivers, he will be the focal point. That’s an achievement in itself.

Going through the depth chart, you find a bunch of complimentary running backs. MacIntyre did a good job, either by coincidence or conscious effort, stacking the backfield with plenty of different styles. Michael Adkins is a traditional three-down back, with a little more heft and speed than Lindsay. He will be the first guy off the bench. If anyone remembers, I have a huge crush on Adkins’ game. I don’t think he’s missing anything except the ability to stay on the field. Beau Bisharat is an even bigger upsize from Lindsay. He has a good four inches on Phil, and probably 20 pounds, too. Bisharat has great hands out of the backfield and his size and speed make him an attractive option in short yardage situations. Kyle Evans, when he is healthy, will probably take the No. 2 role back. He is as consistent as they come, with good wiggle along the edges and the ability to squirt through any hole. For as short as he is, he is also extremely strong and will run through your tackle if you’re not careful. Donovan Lee has good hands as well, and when paired with his shiftiness, he makes a great receiving threat. He is not quite big enough to shoulder a full game’s load, but he never will have to barring extreme injury. Basically, the four backs behind Lindsay combine to cover all of his amazing skills. Alex Fontenot will hopefully redshirt, which will be a good adjustment period for him. Physically, he is ready to contribute, but any time you can give a freshman a redshirt, you do so. This unit is deep and talented as it is.