It’s almost draft season. Although the NFL Playoffs are still to come, the college football season is in its final throes. Players are declaring left, right and centre, so I thought it might be time to take a look at two of the lesser known players within this excellent running backclass. Today we’re going to focus on Kareem Hunt of Toledo and Shock Lindwood of Baylor. The reason I’m putting these two players together is because they both have this wonderful ability to generate yards after contact despite not being the biggest or strongest backs. That, combined with their ability to accelerate and punish DBs for taking bad angles, creates two different but very interesting prospects to look at in relation to their NFL potential.
Weight: 225 lbs.
2014 All-MAC Team
2015 All-MAC Team
2016 Maxwell Award Watch List
2016 Doak Award Watch List
What The Tape Says:
Hunt was easily one of my favourite players to watch this year. He navigates the post-apocalyptic wasteland that is his backfield with unnatural grace. While Hunt’s tape is a wonder to watch, it also brings up the question of how much should you dock a player for the quality of their competition. You’ll notice in a few of the examples that I’ll bring up the tackling was less than satisfactory. How much of that can be put down to Hunt being the Frictionless Man? How much of that do you put down to the caliber of competition? We’ll talk about that more as we go forward, but first we’re going to take a look at Hunt’s elusiveness.
It’s first down in the first quarter of a 7-7 game in the 2014 GoDaddy Bowl in which Toledo played Arkansas State. Hunt is in the shotgun and is going to get the hand-off on a cutback where the open lane should be in between the left tackle and guard. The right tackle and center are blocking away from the play on the near side DT and DE. The right guard will sweep around on the pull and act as Hunt’s lead blocker. This all goes to crap.
The left tackle plays the right defensive end perfectly, allowing the end to run past the play. The DT next to him, however, is what causes the problem. He gets his hands inside the LG and drives into the running lane, all but closing the hole that should be there. The C fails to block the left side NT, leaving the RG just pulling out towards a hole that’s not there.
Hunt, seeing this rapidly deteriorating situation, cuts back towards the middle. The problem herein is that the right guard has pulled through towards the opposite side, leaving that middle linebacker completely unblocked in the hole that Hunt is going to cut back into. Here’s what happenes when the MLB steps up to meet Hunt in the hole.
He doesn’t so much juke the MLB as he teleports his lower half just out of reach of the linebacker’s diving tackle. It’s these kind of moments where Hunt is truly at his best. The play breaks down, and he has to improvise. He has to create space and yards while dealing with unblocked tacklers. This elusiveness is what makes Hunt so special. On those instances where he should only make two or three yards, he manages to pick up seven or eight because of his ability to maintain balance while quickly shifting his feet. Here’s another great example of Hunt showing cat-like reflexes to maintain balance and gain yards after the contact.
Here’s another angle from which to enjoy the sheer absurdity of Hunt:
This is the kind of thing that’s just really fun to watch. Hunt demonstrates good vision, good anticipation, and good balance moving through the tacklers. He keeps upright while moving forward to gain more yards. This, combined with his ability to quickly accelerate in short spaces, provide more instances of him creating quick yards. Just look at how quickly Hunt goes from his juke into his sprint here.
This is what gets me excited about Kareem Hunt—short area burst combined with the ability to make tacklers miss in the open field. He can get a bit overzealous when it comes to trying to get more yardage and can often end up doing more harm than good. Hunt also has some ways to go as a blocker, but he has too many offensive tools to not salivate over. You just wonder what he could become in a system with runs to the outside and match-ups in the passing game against linebackers.
Class: RS Senior
Weight: 200 lbs.
2013 Freshman All-American
2014 All Big-12 Team
2015 Doak Walker Award Semi-Finalist
2015 Campbell Tyler Rose Semi-Finalist
What The Tape Says:
While Linwood is a considerably smaller than Hunt, their games and skill-sets both revolve around lower body strength and balance to maneuver and create yardage. The schemes both of these guys were running in were both very similar. There were a lot of shotgun hand-offs with a pulling guard or TE leading the way either off tackle or between the tackle and guard. The difference between Linwood and Hunt is that while Hunt is more improvisational and free-flowing, Linwood is more crafty in how he sets up defenders and shows patience to allow his blocks to develop.
Here’s a simple shotgun hand-off in which Linwood is going to follow the TE as he seals off the LB. The center’s job is to pass off the NT to the guard and move up to engage the second LB on the second level.
As you can see, the TE has engaged the LB, but the Center still hasn’t reached the other LB. Linwood sees the space in front and stutters towards it, giving his center more time to engage the LB. Along with giving the center more time, Linwood also directs the attention of the defense back inwards. Specifically, the LB that the TE had engaged sees Linwood moving towards the inside. He attempts to fight back inside to close off the running lane. As soon as the LB fights back inside and the center engages the secondary LB, Linwood jumps quickly to the outside towards the wide open field.
In this play, we see patience, vision, and athleticism in one fell swoop. Patience to allow the blocking to form ahead of him. Vision to see the space outside the LBs. Athleticism to cut quickly to the outside and get up field. Linwood might have the control, but he can also go all Miles Davis and show off his open field improvisational skills to make tacklers look silly.
It’s this kind of high wire style that’s so fun to watch. It can often be difficult to translate that to a NFL setting. Do you say that these skills show an ability to make yards after a play breaks down, or are they a potential risk in the act of attempting to try and get back the yards that make the situation worse (this is something that I’ve seen with a good few RBs this season)? Linwood’s a better receiver than his numbers would indicate. Despite his size, he has the bulk and balance to operate between the tackles and run through the occasional arm tackle. He can punish DBs in the secondary who don’t fully commit to a tackle.
To me, both Linwood and Hunt’s development and scouting are going to be fascinating to watch. How will teams view Hunt’s competition level? How should that factor into his evaluation? For Linwood, the focus will probably centre around his size and the need for more consistency in his decision-making when it comes to bouncing it to the outside.
Both players show a skill that will always be valued which—the ability to make tacklers miss. Hunt does it through sheer athleticism and balance, while Linwood does it through his lateral quickness and anticipation. Both guys may not be high on many teams’ draft boards now, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t NFL skills or NFL talent amongst the two. Give either one of these guys a chance and you’ll be pleasantly surprised by what you might get.