It doesn't feel like it, but GT is coming off the most prolific BB rushing season in CPJ's tenure. Don't spit up your food, or choke on your coffee. It is true. In spirit, we want to remember JD's long break away runs and amazing cuts, but we also forget the negative yardage plays and yards 1 thru 4 coming far less reliably. Consider this: The tandem of Sims and Laskey together produced the same total yardage as a typical JD year, all without the benefit of long runs. In fact, neither produced a run as long as 40 yards. How did they do it? Well, there are a lot of factors. First and foremost, lets give our beleaguered OL some credit. They were more physical at the point of attack than many seem willing to recognize. In 2008, if memory serves, JD had over 50 negative yards to his credit, where Sims and Laskey had essentially zero. Both Sims and Laskey were good at hitting the hole and handling the uncertainty of the MESH. Sims ran lower while Laskey hit the hole slightly quicker while having a higher pad level. An average run for BBs last season (including Snoddy and Connors) was in the neighborhood of 5.7 yards and the total production in excess of 1600 yards, eclipsing totals from any other season in the CPJ era. In 2009, JD's average was 5.9. In 2008 it was a blistering 7.0. Obviously, JD benefitted from his ability to finish runs at the second level. That is the ingredient that has been missing. It is hard to quantify what is more critical to the offense, the consistency and ability to move chains, or the ability to hit the big play. It can be argued either way, but obviously, we want both. Gone: is David Sims who made the transition to BB from QB during his sophomore campaign. He will be remembered by many as falling short of the standard set by the Diesel. Personally, I will remember David as a steady and productive back who hung on to the football and got the tough yards. He was a physical kid who kept his pads low, making him very hard to get off his feet. He made some runs on the interior that JD simply wouldn't have, but by the same token, once past the initial wave, he lacked the open field running skills to hit the home run. Returning with Playing Time: are Matt Connors, RSR, 6-0, 210, Zach Laskey, SR, 6-1, 215, Broderick Snoddy, RJR, 5-9, 190. Matt Connors has been a role player for GT during his tenure and it is hard to imagine that changing. Oddly enough, he produced the longest run of the season for the Jackets from the BB position at 55 yds. Zach Laskey has the inside track at the starting role. Despite lacking the physical strength or lower center of gravity, Zach has proven himself as an inspired runner of the football and a serviceable receiver. He hits the hole on the dive faster than any back yet, but the combination of high pad level and lack of size has limited his ability in the trash. He too, has yet to show an electric ability at the second level, demonstrating a straight ahead running style. Zach needs to improve his feel for the blocking game and once again make gains in the off season with regard to gaining some size and strength. Broderick has been a bit of an enigma so far. With the fan base desirous of a return to the JD breakout run days, he has been under the microscope a bit. His blazing track speed and surprisingly easy whipping of JT (the other 100m state champion) in a foot race only wetted the appetite of GT faithful even more. Broderick has improved as a runner, but has yet been unable to unseat the men in front of him despite the sizable speed advantage. He is a bit of a tweener who lacks the size for an ideal BB and the east-west, cutback running ability of the ideal AB. In the end, running the football is as much about football instincts as it is running speed. Broderick needs to develop the former. Waiting in the Wings: Travis Custis. I usually don't include incoming players in my analysis, but given his unusual circumstances with enrollment last year and his early enrollment this year, I will give it a go. Take it FWIW because I have never seen him carry the rock at this level. From his HS film, Travis appears to be a very instinctive runner of the football. That alone will change the flavor of the mix at the BB position in 2014. His ultimate top end speed is hard to determine, but my sense is that he is football fast more than track fast if that makes sense. The things I feel sure of are: that he will be surprisingly physical with a low pad level and center of gravity, he will use his eyes and they will get the message to his feet very efficiently, and we will see many more cuts and better open field running ability. The things I am less sure of are: his ability to stretch the field with pure speed, his ability as a receiver, and his willingness or ability to block. In Summary: I am optimistic about the prospects at the position. Replacing Sims will be difficult, but not nearly impossible. Laskey has already shown that there is no noticeable drop off when he enters the game. The big question about Laskey is, can he handle the workload of a feature back? He hasn't proven that yet. There is a chance that a missing ingredient will be replaced in the coming year, explosion plays. Snoddy has to speed to make it happen. With Sims gone he should have the chance to get more carries to make it happen. If he doesn't get the carries, it will mean that Custis has lived up to the billing and will provide it as well. The battle in the spring should be one of the more compelling of any of the position groups.