On paper UB's running backs should have had a solid year. By average carry they were third in the MAC and the teams Leading Rusher, Anthone Taylor, put up more than 1400 yard in 11 games.
But just like the passing offense UB's ground game never found it's footing in 2015. The Bulls yards per carry dropped from 4.4 yards per carry to 3.5.
Some have blamed team speed for UB's problems but Anthone Taylor was not physically a half yard slower this year than he was last season.
But a half yard is what Taylor lost. He and junior half back Jordan Johnson were to be UB's one two punch but on the whole the duo was unable to break the long runs which Buffalo had relied on during the Jeff Quinn era. Part of that might be the scheme, or the line.
Another part might be the coaching staffs sometimes curios change for the sake of change attitude which pulled a hot hand out of the game in favor of the other back.
In games when Taylor ran the ball more than 13 times he averaged 4.7 yards per carry. When he ran the ball 13 or fewer times he averaged only 3.1 yards per carry.
Johnson was a bit harder to pin down. If I slide the high end of "low" from 13 carries per game to 12 per game and remove UB's lone FCS game than Johnson is averaging 4.7 yards in high carry games and 4.3 yards in low carry games.
None of this is to say a committee backfield is a bad thing. Two sets of legs early in the year means less fatigue later in the season. But again, to me, it seemed like often on back would be having a stronger game and perhaps was changed out for the other back too soon.
The only other thought I had regarding this season revolves around Jordan Hawkins.
The true freshman has been described by Matt Simon as the type of Back he's wanted to coach his whole career. He did not have to play this season but UB burned his red shirt early against Albany. He then saw limited action against Central Michigan and Ohio. Also played some special teams this season.
If we were going to burn his redshirt I wish that perhaps he had gotten more reps. Though it seems UB only had three laughters this season (Albany, CMU, and Ohio).
What we are losing:
Coming into the season Anthone Taylor looked like he might end up as a very late round draft pick or perhaps an early free agent. Similar to Branden Oliver who now plays for the San Diego Chargers. 2014 saw him put up 1400 yards, five yards per carry, and 12 touchdowns.
This season the split time and offenseive troubles cut his production to 829 yards and 4.5 yards per carry. He will have to produce big on UB's pro day if he wants to catch the eyes of NFL scouts.
Taylor is a big loss. When he was used right he could shape a game.
Whats coming back:
The "one two punch" for next season will likely be Jordan Johnson and Johnathan Hawkins.
Johnson is a big back who came to Buffalo from Sweet Home high school. This was the first year where Johnson got a lot of carried and the junior took the ball over the goal line 12 times. He was also only 18 yards off UB rushing leader Anthone Taylor.
Hawkins is a very promising back who will be a sophomore next season. In limited action this year the true freshman carried the ball 15 times for 53 yards.
Johnson and Hawkins are certainly capable of providing a solid ground attack. If this years offensive struggles were related to a new system then UB does have the returning tools needed to once again be a better MAC running team.