2012 RB: Superman and The Legion of Superheroes

Perry Jones and his backups look to run rampant on opposing defenses this year.
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In 2011, the Hoos had 3 running backs split carries, with starter Perry Jones (Superman) and two main backups (the Legion). The primary backup was Kevin Parks, and he actually took nearly a third of the total carries. Both Jones and Parks were very productive, combining for 1624 yards on 336 carries, for an average of over 4.8 yards per carry. Perhaps even more impressive was true freshman RB Clifton Richardson, who saw less playing time, but still finished with 366 yards on 72 carries, for an average of over 5 yards per carry. The trio combined for 16 TDs and over 150 yards per game. That is a very productive running game.

This year, all 3 superheroes return, so we should expect a similarly productive ground game, right? Let's take a look.

There is a reason why Perry Jones is nicknamed Superman. There is pretty much nothing he can't do. He is a very good runner, despite being a bit on the small side. He is a very good receiver out of the backfield. He is also a very good pass blocker, again despite his stature. And just for good measure, Perry was also 1-1 passing last year for a 37 yard TD. Perry is also a two-time team captain and he will be the starting TB this year.

With the talented stable of RBs we've got, Perry's versatility is even more valuable. The Hoos will show a lot of two back sets, with Jones and either Parks or Richardson in the backfield. We will also see Perry split out wide from time to time. That look, in particular, is an exciting one for the Hoos. Perry provides quite the mismatch. He's too good for most LBs and safeties to cover him, which likely means putting a CB on him. But CBs are going to have a heck of a time getting him on the ground once he gets the ball in his hands, such as on a creen. And the best part is, with Perry split out wide, you still have a great RB in the backfield. For a glimpse at just how devastating Perry can be split out wide, take a look at last year's Miami highlights (cue to the 2:55 mark).

Parks and Richardson each provide different looks from Perry Jones. Parks, while similar in stature to Jones, is a much different runner. He runs with a bit more power, but also uses balance and vision to find yards that others might not get. He also has a nose for the endzone, as he led the team with 9 rushing TDs last season. Richardson, on the other hand, is a power back. At 6' and well over 200 pounds, Richardson has the size to bowl over smaller defenders. He also has speed and quickness, making him possibly the best pure runner of the bunch. Richardson was impressive last year, even though he was just learning how to play college football.

There is also a wildcard in the bunch, Khalek Shepherd. Shepherd made his mark last year as a kick returner, and will be featured in that role again this year. However, I expect Shepherd to see more time on offense as well. Like Perry Jones, Shepherd is a very good receiver out of the backfield, and is even capable of splitting out wide as a WR. He is also a very explosive runner, capable of making big plays happen, as we saw in the spring game (4:13 mark). (Shepherd, for those who care about such things, has changed his number from 38 to 23).

Running back is one position where you can never have too much talent. Playing RB is a tough, dangerous job, and injuries happen. So having dependable backups and substitutes is a necessity. Keeping your RBs fresh is a good way to keep them from getting hurt. We have 4 talented backs, any of whom could be in the game on any given play.

We'll take a look at the OL a little later this week, but with the talent and depth we've got in the backfield, the sky is the limit for the Hoos ground game in 2012.

Previous UVA Football
Position Breakdowns
* Quarterbacks
Previous UVA Football
Position Breakdowns
* Quarterbacks
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