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Senior Moments: Running Backs Edition

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I think we all can agree that running back is a pretty high profile position in football. The Chargers also seem to be in the market for a running back or two. This year at the Senior Bowl, there's a good mix of future NFL talent and interesting story lines. The Senior Bowl is a chance for some Seniors to solidify their status after a good final year in college. For others it's a chance to show they are capable of more than they showed at their school. And, for others its an opportunity to get back on the field after incidents in their final collegiate season. Here's the rosters for the two clubs (I'll go in depth about each guy after the jump):

Prospect College Height Weight
Joique Bell Wayne State 5'10 223
LaGarrette Blount Oregon 6'0 245
Chris Brown Oklahoma        
5'11 202
Lonyae Miller        
Fresno State      
5'11 220


Prospect College Height Weight
Anthony Dixon Mississippi State 6'0 245
Stafon Johnson    
USC 6'0 214
Ben Tate Auburn 5'10 214
Roy Upchurch Alabama 5'11 210

Joique Bell, Wayne State, 5th-7th round

Senior Bowl Notes: Here's your fast riser of the Senior Bowl. He looked ticketed for UDFA until he started turning scouts' heads. Here's some of the comments I've seen about the Wayne State Warrior: "Wayne State RB Joique Bell scored a touchdown in 11-on-11's"
"running back Joique Bell from Wayne State struggled a bit in this (getting under punts) department"
"Wayne State running back #25 Joique Bell hit the hole with authority and had several long gains. Bell is raising his profile."
"The running back who has really jumped out at me this week is Wayne State standout Joique Bell. Bell showcases a good feel between the tackles with the lateral quickness and power to create for himself inside and accelerate into the second level. He's shown extremely well for himself and looks like one of the nation's top senior running backs."
"Missouri OLB Sean Weatherspoon and Wayne State (Mich.) RB Joique Bell battled during pass-rush drills. Weatherspoon dominated with power early but Bell did not back down, a good sign for the small-school prospect."
"Wayne State RB Joique Bell flashed with balance, vision and pass catching skills."

Scouting Notes (Scouts, Inc): Durability is a non-factor as he has yet to miss game action due to injury. Has experience lining up at quarterback and receiver as well as running back. Can run the 'Wildcat' offense. Runs hard and lowers shoulders into defenders. Flashes a strong stiff arm. Makes too many cuts behind the line of scrimmage for a back his size. However, has good balance and can bounce off arm tackles and flashes the ability to pick up yards after contact. Quick enough to turn the corner but lacks elite explosiveness and doesn't show a second gear when turning upfield. Not going to make many defenders miss when he gets into space.

College Stats:

Year G Att RuYds RuTDs Rec ReYds ReTDs
2009 11 326 2084 29 23 293 3
2008 11 218 1152 12 20 226 1
2007 11 289 1427 25 22 230 3
2006 11 348 2065 22 14 169 1


LaGarrette Blount, Oregon, 4th-7th round

Senior Bowl Notes:Probably the most intriguing prospect at the Senior Bowl since he missed most of his Senior season due to suspension. He came into 2009 as a top RB prospect. Here's what's being said about him: "He weighed in at 245 pounds but carried the weight well and looked to be in good shape."
"He struggled a bit catching the ball but looked fluid turning upfield when he made the catch and did not seem to be affected when linebackers tried to bump him out of routes. Blount ran a bit high, though, and we're interested to see whether he gets pinballed inside during team run periods the remainder of the week."
"Blount looked good when he was decisive with his cuts and got downhill quickly. He is still running a bit high and needs to get his pad level down but he did a good job getting his knees up and stepping out of arm tackles.",
"Blount still has work to do in the passing game, dropping some balls and showing poor technique as a pass blocker, but he is giving good effort and carrying himself well, which is important for a player who comes in with significant character concerns."
"Blount showed natural hands today, reaching out and catching the ball away from his frame, but he cannot adjust his body on poor throws and he did not show savvy as a route-runner."
"He is still running high as well, and while he is powerful and has speed for his size he needs to show more willingness to lower his pads and run behind them in order to be an effective change-of-pace back at the next level."
"Worst of all, some of the character concerns plaguing Blount resurfaced today. He ended up in a pile after a carry and after some pushing and shoving around him was baited into shoving a defender himself. It's a minor thing on its own but for a guy with Blount's issues it raises a bit of a red flag."
"It is becoming clear that Oregon's LeGarrette Blount is the best running back in Mobile. Once again Blount proved what a strong, tough, powerful runner he is while also showing the ability to catch the ball out of the backfield."

Scouting Notes (Scouts, Inc): Very good straight-line speed for his size. Big frame but needs to keep weight down. At his best when his playing weight is in the low 230-pound range. Noticeably out of shape heading into 2009 spring practice and was suspended for missing conditioning drills, as well as failing to live up to academic obligations. Suspended indefinitely for punching Boise State DE Byron Hout during postgame activities following the 2009 season opener. Was reinstated for final three games of the season (played in final two games). NFL teams have major concerns regarding his intelligence, discipline and character. Aggressive runner who keeps his feet moving after contact. Rarely goes down with the first hit and finishes runs well. A shifty open-field runner who will break most arm tackles but going to have a tougher time turning the corner in the NFL. Aggressive, strong and tough as a pass blocker but angles and awareness are only decent. An unpolished route-runner who struggles to separate from man coverage. Limited experience as a receiver, and while his hands appear to be adequate he will struggle to catch the ball away from his frame.

College Stats:

Year G Att RuYds RuTDs Rec ReYds ReTDs
2009 3 22 82 2 2 2 0
2008 10 137 1002 17 2 13 0


Chris Brown, Oklahoma, 5th-7th round

Senior Bowl Notes: Nothing to see here. There hasn't been much chatter about the Sooner.

Scouting Notes (Scouts, Inc): Has handled his role as a career backup well. Shows versatility and a willingness to do everything asked of him. A true team player. High-effort guy who will do little things to help his team succeed. As a runner he's not the type to churn out yards after contact but he hits the hole hard and more often than not finishes runs strong. Shows good instincts as an inside runner. Can make the sharp cut. Good initial quickness to the line of scrimmage but does not have an elite second gear to bounce inside runs to the outside. Shows good instincts as an inside runner. Can make the sharp cut. Good initial quickness to the line of scrimmage but does not have an elite second gear to bounce inside runs to the outside.

College Stats:

Year G Att RuYds RuTDs Rec ReYds ReTDs
2009 13 182 749 7 19 131 1
2008 13 217 1220 20 15 109 1
2007 13 158 611 9 10 83 1
2006 4 70 343 6 0 0 0


Lonyae Miller, Fresno State, 5th-7th round

Senior Bowl Notes: Has a lot to prove since he was a backup beyond another top RB in Ryan Matthews. I like his size, it's LT-esque. Here's some chatter from the Senior Bowl watchers: "I enjoyed watching his burst and lateral cuts in the open field to seams in the flat after catching short passes. Without improved technique as a blocker, NFL fans won't get to enjoy what I saw today when he got the ball."
"Fresno State running back #10 Lonyae Miller showed the speed to turn the corner on toss plays and was elusive once through the first level."
"Fresno State RB Lonyae Miller was able to get outside and turn the corner."

Scouting Notes (Scouts, Inc): Unfortunately, this wasn't available.

College Stats:

Year G Att RuYds RuTDs Rec ReYds ReTDs
2009 13 54 287 4 9 38 0
2008 12 232 609 7 0 0 0
2007 10 120 812 7 2 23 0
2006 10
54 354 2 3 30 0


Anthony Dixon, Mississippi State, 2nd-4th round

Senior Bowl Notes: He didn't get to play in a bowl game for the Bulldogs, so this his last big chance to show what he can do against top competition. Here's what people are saying: "In 11-on-11 drills, he showed a quick lateral cut to avoid the DT's penetration into the backfield to gain four yards from a potential five-yard loss."
"Although he didn't consistently make catches, many of the throws were a little wide of target and forced him to make significant adjustments to just get a hand on the football. In earlier drills without coverage, he demonstrated the skill to adjust to the ball downfield and soft hands to catch it."
"To Dixon's credit, he was an aggressive, and willing blocker today. He cut down an LB off LG as the lead blocker on an I formation run in 11-on-11 drills, getting low enough to nail the defender in the chest with a crack that could be heard from the top of the end zone seats."
"The best way to describe Mississippi State RB Anthony Dixon is "A Bruiser"."

Scouting Notes (Scouts, Inc): Lacks good top-end speed and still can improve physique, but he is tall, thickly-built and athletic for his size. Discipline and weight issues will come into question. No off-the-field issues to our knowledge. Earned one of the team's top GPAs (3.25) during spring semester. Displays adequate-to-good vision. Has a solid feel for cutback lanes. Could do a better job of working off of lead blocks. Seems more comfortable in one-back set. Is quicker than fast. Good initial quickness for his size and shows burst through the hole when used as a downhill runner. Under utilized as a pass catcher in MSU offense. Is quicker than expected. Runs crisp routes and shows good burst out of his breaks for his size. Hands are solid but not outstanding. Struggles a bit to catch ball thrown away from his frame. Good instincts in the passing game, though. Is thickly-built and shows adequate core strength. Gives solid effort as a blocker but needs to use better leverage and learn how to sustain.

College Stats:

Year G Att RuYds RuTDs Rec ReYds ReTDs
2009 11 257 1391
2008 12 197
7 20
2007 13 287
2006 12


Stafon Johnson, USC, 4th-7th round

Senior Bowl Notes: Stafon Johnson is starting his on-the-field comeback at the Senior Bowl. For those not familiar with the story he sustained a life threatening neck injury in the weight room this season. It's a testament to his will and determination that he's come back this fast. The chatter on him is mainly how impressed they are with that aforementioned will and determination.

Scouting Notes (Scouts, Inc): Average height, well built and good top-end speed. Runs with a sense of urgency. Has the balance and strength to pick up tough yards after contact. Finishes runs falling forward more often than not. However, could do a better job of securing the ball, especially in close quarters. Patient runner that gives his blockers time to get into position. Sees and hits cutback lanes extremely well but can also make one too many cuts in the backfield. Possesses the burst necessary to hit the corner at the NFL level and can make defenders miss when gets into the open field. However, does not appear to have breakaway speed. Physical and shows excellent technique in pass protection. While a raw route runner at this point, has the burst to separate from man coverage and improve in this area. Hands are adequate.

College Stats: 

Year G Att RuYds RuTDs Rec ReYds ReTDs
2009 4 32
2008 13 138
2007 11 98
2006 1
0 0


Ben Tate, Auburn, 2nd-5th round

Senior Bowl Notes: He and Dixon are probably the most accomplished FBS level runners at this All Star Game. He doesn't have much to prove, but probably would like to solidify his status in the 2nd or 3rd rounds. Only one comment I could find this week: "Auburn running back #44 Ben Tate is a tough runner but has the speed to turn the corner."

Scouting Notes (Scouts, Inc): Possesses good bulk for adequately-sized frame. Also shows above-average top-end speed for size. A tough, physical runner who consistently lowers his shoulders and drives his legs at the end of carries. Shows very good competitiveness as a runner. Has had some trouble with ball security. No-nonsense runner. Hits the hole hard and rarely gets caught dancing. Shows a good feel for holes opening up backside. Has good experience as a receiver. Displays above-average ball skills for a bigger back. Does a fine job of getting open underneath and will run over some smaller DBs when he catches the ball in space. Shows good agility to make first defender miss but he's not very elusive and lacks the explosive burst up the field to be considered a home run threat. Displays adequate awareness in pass pro. Is thickly built and can anchor versus the blitzing linebacker but needs to improve consistency as a space blocker. Gets caught lunging too often and must do a better job of getting in position and set before contact.

College Stats:

Year G Att RuYds RuTDs Rec ReYds ReTDs
2009 13 202
2008 12 159
2007 13 202
2006 6
54 391 3


Roy Upchurch, Alabama, 6th-7th round

Senior Bowl Notes: This is a big opportunity for him since he was behind Heisman trophy winner Mark Ingram for the National Champion Crimson Tide. There's not a lot of chatter so far.

Scouting Notes (Scouts, Inc): Unfortunately, this wasn't available.

College Stats:

Year G Att RuYds RuTDs Rec ReYds ReTDs
2009 11 12  
299 2 12 72
2008 9
350 4 9
101 0
2007 10 50 237 1 7 51
2006 1
12 37 2 0 00 0