January 8, 2009

Season in review: Running Backs



The 2008 season was a special one for the Texas Tech football team and head
coach Mike Leach. The Red Raiders capped off a record-best 11-1 regular season
with only the fourth Cotton Bowl invite in the program's history. Over the next
two weeks, RedRaiderSports.com will recap every position and talk about
what the future holds for each of them. Today we start our "season in review"
feature by recapping the running back position and strong years of Shannon Woods
and Baron Batch.












THE HIGH POINT: Woods, Batch rack up yardage and
points against OSU

While
Shannon Woods and Baron Batch each  had better individual
performances earlier in the season, they had no better combined effort
than against Oklahoma State in mid-November. Against the then-No. 9
Cowboys, in front of a national audience in primetime, Woods had 14
touches for 113 all-purpose yards and three touchdowns while Batch added
129 all-purpose yards on 16 touches. Both turned in early long-gainers
against the Pokes, with Batch busting a 38-yard run into OSU territory
on the Red Raiders' fifth play from scrimmage. Later in the first
quarter, Woods hauled in a short pass and
took it 21 yards to the four yard line, setting up
the team's second touchdown of the night. Interestingly enough, this
would be the last game of the 2008 season where Texas Tech would
register 100-plus rushing yards.
THE LOW POINT: Remarkably few touches in the Cotton
Bowl

After
an entire season of consistent production out of the running back
position, even against top rushing defenses like Texas, Woods and Batch
seemed like afterthoughts against Ole Miss in the Cotton Bowl. Combined,
the two registered only 15 touches, with Batch accounting for only four
of those. What makes this so strange is that the ground game was
extremely effective early on against the Rebels; the Red Raiders' first
four rush attempts that day in Dallas went for 8, 17, -1, and 26 yards.
But, for whatever reason, that aspect of the Air Raid was quickly
abandoned and Woods and Batch spent most of the rest of the game trying
to prevent Greg Hardy, Ashlee Palmer and the rest of
Tyrone Nix's unit
from getting to Graham Harrell. For a position that was so consistent
throughout the season, it was an unfortunate way to end the season.
MOST MEMORABLE MOMENT: Coming out party against SMU

Sure,
it was against an atrocious SMU defense that finished the
season ranked 116th (out of 119 teams) against the run and 118th
overall, but Woods' and Batch's performance against the Mustangs that
night in September was the duo's coming out party. Batch had,
statistically, the best game of his young career against the Ponies,
rushing for 98 yards and a touchdown on 10 carries to go along with five
receptions for 71 yards. Woods wasn't shabby either, adding 86 yards on
13 carries and 46 yards on only two catches. Statistically, it was their
best combined effort of the 2008 campaign and, even more than that, it
was the first time that fans and pundits alike had a real sense that
this running back tandem had the legitimate potential to be one of the
best in the Big 12 Conference, which they ended up being.
WHAT THE FUTURE HOLDS: Jeffers makes them 'ooh' and
'ahh'


As
ruthlessly effective as the 2008 tandem of
Woods and Batch was, next year's version might be even more so, thanks
in large part to addition of redshirt freshman Harrison Jeffers to the
equation. At the time of his recruitment, the Lawton, Oklahoma native
was the highest-ranked high school running back ever to sign with Texas
Tech in the Mike Leach era. Even as a true freshman, Jeffers was the
best running back on campus with the ball in his hands, but needed a
redshirt season to improve in pass protection. As the scout team running
back, and on Thursday Night Football, the former four-star prospect made
plays that had coaches and onlookers 'oohing' and 'ahhing.' The biggest
question mark about 2009 is how big will Woods' loss be felt from a
blitz pick-up and pass protection standpoint.






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