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Colossus Rhodes

Trivia: What stands six feet tall, weighs 215 pounds, and is pictured to the right?

Answer: The most potent weapon in the Big East Conference.

It is finally time for Damien Rhodes to shine. For three years, Rhodes has had to sit behind Walter Reyes and patiently wait his turn. Rhodes has always had all the tools necessary to dominate the game except for one: seniority.

Well, Rhodes now has within his grasp the one attribute he was lacking. Given Damien's prominent arsenal of talents, it seems as if the only way to stop Rhodes is to let Rhodes stop himself.

Unfortunately for the other members of the Big East, there doesn't appear to be a self-destruct button on this missile.

There are no real good ways to easily quantify runningback production. Since backs touch the ball in so many different ways (option pitch, straight carry, receptions out of the backfield, etc.) generating an efficiency standard akin to passer rating (which I am not sold on as an adequate method) or pass receiver rating is almost impossible.

So the obvious question is how does an analysis proceed and can a meaningful analysis proceed.

Well, the answers are as follows: "We'll see" and "hopefully."

In an effort to keep my sanity, I will be limiting my data to only a few individuals: perceived national leaders at the running back position for 2004 and a select few Big East backs who were considered "quality" backfield athletes. By using this small sample size as individuals to set the benchmark for "star quality," at least a reasonable analysis can be made as to where Rhodes matched up to the nation as a back in 2004. This can then be used a predictive model for Rhodes' contribution to the Orange in 2005.

As for the data generated, I eschewed statistics pertaining to "per game" output. Such data is often skewed toward backs who are able to generate a lot of meaningless yards generated in blowouts and other associated game situations. By focusing on "per touch" statistics, a clearer potrait of a back's value can be determined because they are more indicative of an athletes contribution to an offense on a per play basis.

For example, if a back generates a 1,500 yard season but fails to score, what is the value of that back? More specifically, what are the value of those yards?

Essentially, it's a question of the efficiency of the carries a back receives and what the yards generated by those carries means to a team's total point production. Since, the object of a football game is to win (which inherently means that a team must outscore its opponent), each play an offense runs must generate points. So, a fortiori, every carry a back receives should generate points and those backs that generate the most points per touch are the most valuable to a team's offense.

Without further ado, here is the accumulated data.

There are three types of data sets below:
1. Career statistics for Damien Rhodes;
2. Perceived national studs for 2004; and
3. Perceived Big East studs for 2004.

As noted before, I have not included guys like Carnell Williams, Reggie Brown, Cedric Benson, or Mike Hart. This isn't because I don't think they are/were great collegiate backs, it's just a matter of not wanting to go blind on numbers and having to go through the arduous task of writing the code so these numbers could be visible on the web.

This essay was never intended to place Rhodes in a dogmatic ranking of 2004's best running backs. The purpose was simply to compare Rhodes to some "great" backs to determine if he could be considered in the same breath as these runners. Since the data below was enough for a reasonable analysis to take place for the issue presented, I have accordingly limited it.

So, if you have any questions or comments regarding the accumulated data (or the associated analysis), direct them to the comment field below the essay.

Y/RA = Yards per Rushing Attempt
P/RA = Points per Rushing Attempt
Y/Rec = Yards per Reception
P/Rec = Points per Reception
PRt = Pass Receiver Rating

Statistics for Damien Rhodes
Damien Rhodes - Career

Damien Rhodes - 2004 Season

Damien Rhodes - 2003 Season

Damien Rhodes - 2002 Season

2004 National Studs
Reggie Bush (USC) - 2004 Season

Adrian Peterson (OU) - 2004 Season

J.J. Arrington (Cal) - 2004 Season

2004 Big East Studs
Cornell Brockington (UCONN) - 2004 Season

Brian Leonard (Rutgers) - 2004 Season

Kay-Jay Harris (WVU) - 2004 Season

First, Damien Rhodes has had a very nice career. Even with the abysmal 2003 season where he was injured and hobbling around, Rhodes has very respectable "per touch" numbers. While his overall statistics are not overwhelming, generating above five yards and almost a third of a point per carry places Rhodes right with the national elite. This of course leads to a secondary point - where would Rhodes be had he had a complete 2003 season.

The only reasonable answer is "I don't know." With Coach P still running his system, it's impossible to know for certain whether Rhodes could have bolstered his numbers enough in 2003 to significantly impact his overall career production values.

Secondly, Rhodes was a stud in 2004.

There, I said it. And I'm not taking it back.

With the exception of Reggie Bush (Aside: After looking at his production numbers, there is no question that he should've won the Heisman.), Rhodes was every bit the back that national studs were, if not more.

The numbers here don't lie.

Rhodes did not have the per rush average of Peterson or Arrington, but Rhodes made more of his carries count. With a points per rush average approaching .4, Rhodes was contributing more efficiently to the Syracuse offense than another of the other listed backs, including Reggie Bush. All three listed back may have had better per rush averages and scored more rushing touchdowns, but Rhodes got more value out of his rushes, and that's what ultimately matters.

Look at it this way. Each time Rhodes rushed the football, he was more valuable to Syracuse than the other three Heisman candidates were to their teams. Had Rhodes generated the number of carries Peterson or Arrington did, there's no question that Rhodes would have been mentioned before these runners as the nation's most elite. It's that simple.

From a receiving standpoint, Bush stands heads and shoulders above Rhodes, but Rhodes stands light years above Peterson and Arrington. Granted, this may be attributable to the style of offense run by a particular club. Certain offenses, naturally, are more conducive to putting backs into a position to score points or generate useful yardage. However, in an analysis like this which attempts to determine how complete a back is and how much he can contribute to his team's offense, the ability to receive the ball is paramount. Rhodes, unlike Peterson or Arrington, brought to the field a more complete skill set.

Comparing Rhodes to his Big East brethern is almost pointless. Understanding that Rhodes was amongst the nation's elite already throws him to toward the head of the pack in the Big East. However, there are a few comments to be made.

How about Kay-Jay Harris?
Where was his kudos?

He wasn't quite Reggie Bush in 2004, but he was damn close. Those in Morgantown knew of his value, but it's a real shame he did not generate the kind of national publicity he deserved. It takes a special kind of back to generate over a third of a point per carry and almost a full point per reception. To make this less, abstract, here are some more understandable was to think of Harris' impact in 2004.

If Harris got 20 carries a game (probably not all that possible in Rodriguez's offense), he'd generate over a touchdown a game.

If Harris got two receptions a game (very probable), he'd be contributing to West Virginia almost another 2 points.

With this in mind, and all the yardage and time of possession generated by Harris' contributions, Harris would, each game, be worth about 10 points a game.

10 points! A game!

That kind of output is generally only seen from quarterbacks and exceptional receivers like Larry Fitzgerald. It's really mind boggling.

As for the other two runners listed, they don't hold a candle to Rhodes' ability. Cornell Brockington is a one-dimensional back unable to match Rhodes' rushing production numbers, which is Brockington's forte. So much for UConn tagging Brockington as Big East's best back in 2004. Brian Leonard caught a ton of passes last season, but they were worth the lint in your pocket. Once again, Rhodes' production outpaces his Big East counterpart.

When you think studly Big East runners in 2004, the list has to start and end with Damien Rhodes.

Without question, Damien Rhodes was one of the nation's most productive backs last season and should be considered amongst the nation's elite. The number of points Rhodes can produce each time he touches the ball is as good, if not better, than most of those running backs considered stars in the collegiate game.

In a more abstract sense, Rhodes appears poised to have a monstrous season. With the west coast offense being implemented this season, there's no reason to believe that Rhodes' contributions will diminish. The only reasonable belief is that his production to the Orange could skyrocket because of, not in spite of, Robinson's new offensive methodology. With a system that utilizes all of the talents a back like Rhodes brings to the table, there is no question that Damien could put up a Bush-esque season. Accordingly, there is a very good chance Orange Nation could be looking at one of the greatest backs ever produced on The Hill, and that's saying a lot.

The biggest hurdle for Damien is getting the national pundits to genearte some hype for Damien's ability to generate offense. He's already among the nation's elite, it's just a matter of overcoming name recognition and the pitiful record Syracuse will amass this season.

1 Responses to “Colossus Rhodes”

  1. # Anonymous Anonymous

    I think, that you commit an error. I can defend the position. Write to me in PM, we will talk.  

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