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How the hell do we only have one running back on roster?

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Let’s work together to figure it all out

NCAA Football: Texas Bowl-Oklahoma State vs Texas A&M Thomas Shea-USA TODAY Sports

I really like the depth chart. And it’s because of my love of the depth chart that I enjoy recruiting. You fill the depth chart with talented players, and let competition take care of the rest. Plain and simple.

When it goes well, it works great (as evidenced by our defensive tackles over the past few years). When it goes well then everything is great and you don’t have to worry about that position, as evidenced by our DTs over the past few years. When it goes poorly then you end up with gigantic holes in your roster that might take years to make up for.

Right now we’re seeing the effects of it going poorly at the RB position, culminating with Isaiah Spiller being the only true running back on roster going into the Spring (although Aianias Smith performed admirably there in the bowl game). Let’s break down how and why we got here.

For you tl,dr folks below are a couple of bullet points:

  • Kevin Sumlin’s inability to make up players lost with players of equal talent, and instead settling on guys who probably weren't starter quality to fill spots
  • Bad luck
  • Mismanagement of the 2019 recruiting cycle.

Let’s assume that the ideal number on roster is five, which includes a good combination of guys redshirting, depth guys, and no-brainer starters:

2015

On Roster

Tra Carson (senior)
Keith Ford (transfer from OU-redshirting)
James White (sophmore)
Kendall Bussey (freshman)
Jay Bradford (freshman)

You start seeing cracks in this year. We moved Brandon Williams to CB, and Trey Williams leaves for the NFL.

Carson is hugely underappreciated for his time at A&M, as evidenced by his time as an NFL journeyman. James White is underachieving. We needed to take a no brainer back in this class, and we had Rodney Anderson committed, but he flips to OU. Jay Bradford has to medically retire, and we take Kendall Bussey who is a solid but unspectacular player.

2016

James White (junior)
Keith Ford (redshirt junior)
Kwame Etwi (former walk on)
Kendal Bussey (RS freshman)
Trayveon Williams (Freshman)
Rakeem Boyd (Freshman)

This was a good year recruiting. We took a surefire guy in Trayveon, and a guy fully capable of being a solid #2 and maybe even push Tray for that #1 spot in Rakeem Boyd. The future seemed to be in a good enough place.

We could afford the loss of 1 RB in this group because we had two really solid guys in Keith Ford and Trayveon. James White transferring shouldnt have been a big deal, but it was when Rakeem Boyd went academically ineligible and ended up at Last Chance U

2017

Keith Ford (senior)
Kwame Etwi (junior)
Trayveon Williams (Sophomore)
Kendall Bussey (Sophomore)
Jacob Kibodi (Freshman)

This is the year that hurts. Bad. We desperately need another top tier RB—the depth chart was inviting enough to make it happen, and we could have set ourselves up well moving into the future. It seemed to be going well when we had Travis Etienne committed, but then he flips to Clemson and we end up with another solid, unspectacular RB in Jacob Kibodi.

You cant build a roster with just solid, unspectacular guys. You need quality depth otherwise people get lost in the shuffle and people end up transferring. Too many solid, unspectacular guys and not enough starter quality depth.

2018

Kwame Etwi (senior)
Trayveon Williams (junior)
Jacob Kibodi (Sophomore)
Vernon Jackson (Freshman)
Jashuan Corbin (Freshman)
Deneric Prince (Freshman)
Charles Strong (Freshman)

Jimbo comes in and sees that we have all of 1 talented RB on roster in Trayveon, and then another solid, unspectacular guy in Kibodi, with only 3 star committed in Deneric Prince. This is not good at all. So naturally he tries to replenish the roster, and truth be told it should work. Taking 4 isnt ideal, but youve got a talented guy in Corbin, and a couple of projects in Strong and Jackson, and some depth in Prince. You can redshirt a couple, play a couple and see where it goes.

Then you add a guy like Cordarrian Richardson, who you know needs to redshirt—but that takes the pressure off of 2019 because at least then you have at least 3 guys ready to go. You’re set up for depth and talent.

This is where the bad luck comes in. We lose Vernon Jackson to a career ending injury. We end up losing Jashuan Corbin to another significant injury. Charles Strong wants to head back home. Trayveon understandably heads to the pros after a good year.

2019

Cordarrian Richardson (Sophomore)
Jashuan Corbin (Sophomore)
Deneric Prince (Sophomore)
Isaiah Spiller (Freshman)

Woo buddy. Even at the very start this is bad. You come into the year with one relatively proven guy, but three guys in the same class is not ideal. Then you lose Jackson before the season starts. We needed to take 1 more RB in the 2019 recruiting class but how exactly do you do that after taking 5 the year before?

All is well as long as no one gets injured, but naturally that doesnt happen. Corbin goes down game 2 of the year. Cordarrian Richardson struggles to see the field which is a terrible thing for a kid far from home on his second school. Spiller performs admirably and is obviously your #1, and Richardson is left out. He needed to play, but he cant play if he cant do what he needs to do to see the field, so naturally he wants out.

This should be the year where we have junior Travis Etienne taking over for the departing Trayveon Williams...but we dont. And we didn’t make up for that loss. Recruiting matters in a big way.

2020

Spiller (Junior)
Devon Achane (True Freshman)
Deondre Jackson (True Freshman)
UPDATE: Earnest Crownover III (JUCO)

There was a bumper crop of talented RBs in the state. You’ve got Evans, McGowan, and McClellan. Not to mention EJ Smith and Daniyel Ngata. We had our eyes set on Zach Evans from the very start. Ideally in this class you take a surefire no brainer starter, and then you have some wiggle room. Achane was a true bonus. And we got that wiggle room in Deondre Jackson who could develop into a solid RB.

But we needed that true surefire no brainer starter quality guy. A guy who could play game 1 for us. We wanted Zach, and I guess there’s still a chance we land him—and it’s wide dang open for him to come in and perform. The depth chart is so damn friendly for him right now.

Overall

Like I said. Three things got us to where we are. Depth is fine but you need starter quality depth at all positions. You need guys who could start at any other school in the conference competing for time, and if they leave, that’s ok because you’re bringing in more starter quality guys. We didn't do that so well under Sumlin. And then we had some really bad luck, and then the 2019 cycle hit.

And that’s how we ended up (right now) with Isaiah Spiller being the only back on roster.