Tag:Dion Lewis
Posted on: November 9, 2010 2:25 pm
 

Maxwell semifinalists released; where are RBs?

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

There has been one good piece of news to come out over the past 24 hours for Cam Newton : the Maxwell Football Club named him one of 16 semifinalists for the Maxwell Award , the organization's honor for the best player in college football. And though Newton has accumulated the stats and highlight reels of an All-American running back this season, it's perhaps for the best for him he doesn't actually play the position. That's the way it looks from the complete list of semifinalists:

WR Justin Blackmon , Oklahoma State, So.
WR Ryan Broyles, Oklahoma, Jr.
QB Andy Dalton , TCU, Sr.
QB Robert Griffin III , Baylor, So.
RB Kendall Hunter , Oklahoma State, Sr.
RB LaMichael James , Oregon, So.
QB Colin Kaepernick , Nevada, Sr.
QB Andrew Luck , Stanford, So.
QB Ryan Mallett , Arkansas, Jr.
QB Taylor Martinez , Nebraska, Fr.
QB Kellen Moore , Boise State, Jr.
QB Cam Newton , Auburn, Jr.
QB Terrelle Pryor , Ohio State, Jr.
QB Denard Robinson , Michigan, So.
QB Ricky Stanzi , Iowa, Sr.
QB Tyrod Taylor , Virginia Tech, Sr.

All right, so it's also a little odd that none of the top 16 players in the nation by the Maxwell's estimation happen to play defense. But it's nothing unusual for defenders to get snubbed in the national Player of the Year talk, and since the Maxwell Club also hands out the Bednarik Award to the nation's best defensive player, the Maxwell itself appears to be a de facto offensive players-only honor; even the great Ndamokung Suh didn't crack the semifinalists list last season .

So the much bigger surprise is that among a list of the nation's top 16 offensive players, only two running backs, Hunter and James, make the cut next to two wide receivers and a whopping 12 quarterbacks. Since when has the the second-most high-profile position on the football field been this devoid of stars?

Since 2010, apparently. Last year's Maxwell semifinalist list included seven tailbacks, including a pair of Heisman finalists in Toby Gerhart and Mark Ingram and several who returned to college football for this 2010 season: Ingram, Noel Devine , Jacquizz Rodgers , Dion Lewis . Unfortunately for those four players, the season hasn't played out as expected for any of them; not one currently ranks among even the top 30 rushers in the nation at present, with Rodgers' 803 yards (good for 33rd) the best year to-date of the bunch.

Why the sudden downturn in the fortunes of the nation's top tailbacks? Some of it is probably a simple fluke. But some of it is the continuing rise of the spread offense, which revolves around the all-purpose quarterback at the expense of pounding along with the traditional bruising tailback. Auburn , Nevada , Michigan , TCU , Baylor -- these are all some of the most explosive offenses in the country, and all five begin with a mobile QB. It's no wonder all five placed their quarterbacks on the list above despite the presence of top rushers like Nevada's Vai Taua , Baylor's Jay Finley , and TCU's Ed Wesley . This year's top pro-style attacks, meanwhile, are all quarterback-dominated as well: Stanford and Luck, Arkansas and Mallett, Boise and Moore. Offenses like the 2009 Cardinal and Tide attacks that turned Gerhart and Ingram into superstars just aren't out there this year.

They'll probably be back next year. But that doesn't mean they'll be back in the same numbers we've seen in the past; as long as the spread remains as in vogue as it is today, the kind of bludgeoning workhorse tailback that makes award lists is going to stay an increasingly endangered species.
Posted on: October 30, 2010 9:32 pm
 

What I learned from the Big East (Oct. 30)

Posted by Chip Patterson

1. West Virginia has been giving away their season, one turnover at a time - Just three weeks ago, West Virginia was "leading" the Big East. They toted a 5-1 record and a national ranking, as well as a top ranked defensive unit that was holding opponents to less than two touchdowns per game. But while the season was at a midpoint, the conference schedule was just getting started. But in the last two games, turnovers have almost cost the Mountaineers their shot at a BCS bowl berth. The eye test said that the Mountaineers were cruising on easy street down to Miami, until they decided they were tired of taking care of the ball. Against Syracuse West Virginia turned the ball over three times, all of which were turned into points for the Orange. Saturday's matchup with Connecticut was more of the same from the Mountaineer offense. West Virginia racked up 414 yards of total offense, but four lost fumbles prevented them from scoring more than 13 points on the Huskies defense.  If the Mountaineers avoid coughing the ball up, they could be 3-0 in conference play and looking down the road to a potential BCS bowl game.  But instead of the Mountaineers, it is the Pittsburgh Panthers.  Speaking of...

2. Lewis has reclaimed the favor of the Pittsburgh coaching staff - Earlier in the season, Pittsburgh running back Dion Lewis was struggling to get his season going.  His yards per carry were down from his 2009 Rookie of the Year campaign, and he was sharing many of his carries with backup Ray Graham.  Now that conference play has begun, Lewis has emerged as the clear-cut but first stringer in the Panther backfield.  After a phenomenal performance last week against Rutgers that included 17 rushes for 130 yards and a touchdown, Lewis appeared to have regained the starting job despite Graham continuing to lead the team in rushing by a convincing margin.  In the win over Louisville, Lewis carried the ball 18 times compared to Graham's nine attempts.  Earlier in the season, that was much more of a 50-50 divide between the two backs.  Now Lewis must make the most of his increased opportunities in order to hold that spot. 

3. Syracuse's tenacious second half defense is a key to their success - In five of the Orange's six victories, the defense has shut out the opponent in the second half.  Syracuse's offense has relied on a dominant running game led by Delone Carter and Antwon Bailey.  The smash mouth brand of football under second year head coach Doug Marrone has turned last season's 1-6 conference record around to 3-1 at the midpoint of the conference schedule.  Syracuse has only been to a bowl game twice since since 2000 and not at all since 2004, but the 2010 Orange are already bowl eligible at 6-2.  A conference championship may be out of reach after the loss to Pittsburgh, but anything is an upgrade from the way things have been at Syracuse.
Posted on: September 23, 2010 11:12 pm
Edited on: September 24, 2010 10:53 am
 

Miami knocks off Pitt 31-3

Posted by Tom Fornelli

As I said during the halftime update, this game was not very pretty, but in the end the Miami Hurricanes left Heinz Field with a 31-3 victory over Pitt.   The difference in this one was that while Miami cleaned up its act a bit in the second half, the Panthers most certainly did not.

Jacory Harris rebounded from his poor performance in the first half to throw touchdowns over the final two quarters, putting the game out of reach when he found Leonard Hankerson for a 19-yard touchdown early in the third quarter that made the score 17-0 'Canes.  Harris and the Hurricanes did suffer a bit of a scare in the fourth quarter when Harris had to leave the game after being sacked.  He would return on the next series and finish the night with 248 yards passing.

For Pitt, the best thing I can say is that at least the game is over and that it wasn't a conference loss, so hopes of a Big East title still remain, though at this point winning the Big East is like proclaiming yourself the smartest person on the cast of Jersey Shore.   Plus, there's no way this Pitt team can win the Big East -- even if it is horrible -- playing the way it did on Thursday night.

Dion Lewis struggled again, though a large part of it could be blamed on an offensive line that couldn't block a sled.  Lewis finished the game with 27 yards on 10 carries.  Ray Graham, on the other hand, had another strong night, tallying 100 yards on 10 carries -- though 42 of those yards came on one run in garbage time -- and also picked up 41 yards receiving so it's possible that Graham may see more touches than Lewis in the future.

After all, Graham was running behind the same offensive line as Lewis, yet he still found a way to move the ball.  If only there were any other members of the Pitt offense who could do the same.




Posted on: September 23, 2010 6:35 pm
 

Dion Lewis needs to show up tonight

Posted by Tom Fornelli

Last year Dion Lewis lit the Big East on fire, spending his freshman season running away from tacklers to the tune of 1,799 yards and 17 touchdowns en route to winning the Big East Offensive Player of the Year Award.  He entered 2010 as somebody to keep an eye on as far as the Heisman Trophy was concerned, but through Pitt's first two games the Lewis that was so electrifying last season is yet to show up.

Through Pitt's first two games Lewis has 102 yards.  Now, at first glance, that isn't horrible.  It's not good, but at least he's averaging 50 yards a game, right? 

Yes, but too bad it's taking him nearly 25 carries to get there as he's averaging only 2.9 yards a carry. 

Lewis' lack of production is a big reason why the Panthers enter tonight's game against Miami -- a pivotal game for both teams -- with a record of 1-1.  Lewis played well enough in the Panthers' opener against Utah, rushing for 75 yards, but how does a player so good wind up with only 27 yards on ten carries against New Hampshire ?

Lewis' play has been so lackluster that he's even in danger of losing his job, something which seemed impossible only three weeks ago.  Ray Graham didn't have nearly the same troubles as Lewis did against New Hampshire, rushing for 115 yards and two scores.  Now, going into tonight's game, Dave Wannstedt has called his two backs "interchangeable" and said there's no set plan on splitting carries between the two.

"We’ll go in this week knowing that they’re both going to play," said The Wannstache during this week's press conference .  "But with no specific plan that Dion (Lewis) will get so many carries, and Ray (Graham) will get so many carries. If we get a hot hand, we’ll play the hot hand."

In other words, if Lewis struggles against a Canes defense that has allowed 116.5 yards a game on the ground -- 181 against Ohio State -- he could find himself on the sidelines watching Graham tonight.  Which is definitely not something Dave Wannstedt wants to see.  If Pitt is going to live up to the preseason hype in 2010 and have a shot at winning the Big East and get to a BCS bowl, then Dion Lewis is going to have to return to his 2009 form.

Tonight is just as good a night as any to get started.
 
 
 
 
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