Sep 22, 2012; College Station, TX, USA; Marshall Thundering Herd running back Steward Butler (20) runs the ball against the Rice Owls in the second quarter at Rice Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

Depth Perception: Marshall's Running Backs

Just a week ago Marshall coach Chris Barclay was talking about the depth at the running backs, but one arrest later, the discussion has taken a different turn.

With Kevin Grooms dismissal from the team the Herd will have to replace workhorse Essray Taliaferro‘s solid production at 5.2 yards per a carry with Steward Butler and Remi Watson. The good news is Butler saw plenty of action last season with 87 touches for 8.8 yards a carry. Grooms would have been a nice addition for an offense that was 23rd in the nation in rushing last season, but he’s gone, no use wondering about it.

2013  Rushing Receiving Scrimmage
Rk Player Att Yds ▾ Avg TD Rec Yds Avg TD Plays Yds Avg TD
1 Essray Taliaferro 221 1140 5.2 10 12 128 10.7 1 233 1268 5.4 11
2 Steward Butler 87 765 8.8 8 3 23 7.7 0 90 788 8.8 8
3 Kevin Grooms 91 503 5.5 6 9 80 8.9 1 100 583 5.8 7
4 Rakeem Cato 99 294 3.0 6 99 294 3.0 6
5 Remi Watson 30 120 4.0 0 2 1 0.5 0 32 121 3.8 0

Not seen here, and what may be a concern, is Marshall was ranked 107th in fumbles lost last season with 13, with three came from Butler and Watson. It may not be apparent, but that was a higher rate than Taliaferro. Both need to improve ball handling this year to avoid turnovers for the Herd.

It looks Brandon Byrd and Tony Pittman will back up the two returning players.  Both were red shirted last season as freshmen, so there isn’t much to go off of numbers wise but let’s take a look at what Marshall said when they recruited them.

Brandon Byrd

RB, 6-0, 198

East Bay HS

Gibsonton, Fla.

Finished his senior season with 470 yards and nine touchdowns on 85 carries and 191 yards and two scores on 11 catches for East Bay… He also returned six kickoffs for 114 yards and five punts for 163 yards, including a 69-yard touchdown… As a junior, Byrd totaled 768 yards, six touchdowns, 2 two-point conversions and 10 tackles as a defensive back…He also averaged nearly 31 yards per punt return…Recruited by Bill Legg.

Tony Pittman

RB, 5-11, 200

Phoebus HS

Hampton, Va.

Decided on Marshall over offers from Cincinnati, Miami, Ole Miss, Northern Illinois, Old Dominion, Purdue and Syracuse … Gained 1,761 yards and scored 22 touchdowns in 241 carries during his 2012 senior season, as Phoebus went 12-1 and reached the Class AAA, Division 5 regional finals round of the Virginia high school playoffs … All-Eastern Region second team pick by … Ran for 1,577 yards and 17 touchdowns as a junior, earning All-Peninsula District honors in talent-rich Tidewater area…Recruited by Gerad Parker.

Bird is the speed and Pittman is the hammer of the two according to Barclay, but both will now most likely see more carries than previously expected with Grooms out of the picture.

This is Barclay’s first year as Marshall’s running backs coach after Thomas Brown left to join the Wisconsin Badgers staff. Last year the Herd ran almost as many times with Taliaferro as the rest of the running backs but the work load will be different this year. The Herd’s 23rd ranked rushing attack from last season still has plenty of depth and it will be needed as Barclay plans on doing this year’s rushing attack by committee.

“I think the way game is evolving, I think you have to at least be a two-back guy,” Barclay said. “Unless you have a 215-pound kid that can probably take a lot of hits and play a lot of downs, I think you’ve got to be a ‘by-committee’ guy.

Either way Barclay’s job will be a bit more difficult.

Tags: Chris Barclay Marshall Thundering Herd Remi Watson Steward Butler

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