2013-04-24 08:00:00

How realistic are Baylor RB Lache Seastrunk's Heisman hopes?

 By Greg Tepper
 DCTF Associate Editor

You have to give Baylor running back Lache Seastrunk one thing: he is most certainly confident in his abilities.

Seastrunk, the former Temple standout who transferred to Baylor after an uneventful stint at Oregon, made headlines in December by proclaiming to Steve Greenberg of The Sporting News…well, here, you read it:

“I'm going to win the Heisman. I'm going to win it in 2013. If I don't, I'm going to get very close. I'm shooting for that goal. I will gladly say it."

Bold words, to be sure. But Seastrunk’s first year playing for Baylor was a promising one – his role on the team increased as the season wore on, and he finished with 1,012 yards and 7 TDs on 131 rushes. And hype is running hot for Seastrunk entering the 2013 season, as the Baylor faithful have started a “LacHeisman” campaign.

Anyone who saw Seastrunk in high school knows the kind of talent he possesses, and we got to see a glimpse of that last season. But to me, the Lache Seastrunk Heisman campaign has one big inherent obstacle:

He’s Baylor’s running back.

Allow me to explain.

It’s no secret that Baylor coach Art Briles’ bread-and-butter is the passing game. It’s what made Robert Griffin III a Heisman Trophy winner, and it’s what helped Nick Florence lead the nation in passing last season. That’s not to say that there isn’t room for a running game – heck, Baylor actually ranked 15th in the country in rushing attempts last season, mainly because they ranked 5th in total plays per game last year – but the star of the show is the passing game.

What’s more, in Art Briles’ offense, the ball is spread out so much that very rarely does a single running back get an enormous bulk of the carries – or even a majority of them.

Here are the attempt numbers for the leading running back on Art Briles-coached Baylor teams (stretching back to 2008):

Season Leading RB Att. Att./Gm % of Total Carries
2012 Glasco Martin 179 13.8 30.0%
2011 Terrance Ganaway 250 19.2 43.4%
2010 Jay Finley 195 15.0 41.7%
2009 Jay Finley 79 6.6 22.8%
2008 Jay Finley 149 12.4 31.0%
  AVERAGE 170.4 13.4 33.8%

The most striking thing? Art Briles has never – never – had a running back that got more than 45% of the team’s total carries. That speaks to his ability to spread the ball out to so many different weapons. Even in the season when Baylor had its most singular running back – 2011, with Terrance Ganaway – he only logged 43.4% of the team’s carries.

And that’s the biggest challenge facing Lache Seastrunk’s self-declared Heisman campaign: getting the ball in his hands enough.

As a means of comparison, I looked up every running back who has finished in the top three of the Heisman voting over the past decade. First of all, only two running backs have won it in the last ten years – and one of them, Reggie Bush, had it vacated.

Here are their attempt numbers:

Year Player School Finish Att A/G % of Total Carries
2011 Trent Richardson Alabama 3rd 283 21.8 55.7%
2010 LaMichael James Oregon 3rd 294 22.6 46.7%
2009 Mark Ingram Alabama 1st 271 19.4 45.1%
2009 Toby Gerhart Stanford 2nd 343 26.4 63.9%
2007 Darren McFadden Arkansas 2nd 325 25.0 52.0%
2006 Darren McFadden Arkansas 2nd 284 20.3 53.3%
2005 Reggie Bush USC 1st 200 15.4 38.6%
2004 Adrian Peterson OU 2nd 339 26.1 60.8%
      AVERAGE 292.4 22.1 52.0%

As you can see, the Heisman voting tends to favor running backs who are the bread-and-butter, go-to guys in their respective offenses, with five of the eight finalists logging more than half of their team’s total carries. And in the case of those players who didn’t log the bulk of their team’s carries, they still averaged more carries than even the most singular Baylor running back of the Briles era (Ganaway).

The lone exception here: Reggie Bush. The now-disgraced USC running back managed to win the Heisman despite averaging just 15.4 carries per game and hauling the rock in just 38.6% of his team’s rushing attempts. Those numbers, it appears, are much more in line with what Art Briles running backs have done, and that appears to be the path – however narrow – that Seastrunk must walk in order to join these guys.

(Of course, Bush was also the most dynamic player on the undefeated Trojans, which helped his Heisman stock.)

Lache Seastrunk is a potentially dominant running back. Anyone who saw him in high school knows what he’s capable of, and he showed flashes of brilliance last season for the Bears. But his self-declared Heisman hopes appear to be a longshot through no fault of his own, simply because Baylor’s offense is not predicated on a single running back being the go-to weapon.

Greg Tepper is the associate editor of Dave Campbell's Texas Football and

He can be reached via e-mail, via Twitter (@Tepper) and via the DCTF Facebook page.

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