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Under the Hood: Ryan McCants in the Sun Bowl

This post may seem pointless, but I wanted to take a closer look at Ryan McCants' performance in the Sun Bowl. I'd like to hear your thoughts on the subject in the comment thread... we'll be talking more about this as the postseason rolls on. --Jake

Ryan McCants entered the Sun Bowl as the starting running back, but only received six carries and got 23 yards. Jeremy Francis, on the other hand, received 16 carries. Here's an in-depth look at McCants' six rushes. 

1st Quarter, 14:28: 1st and 10 from the OSU 38

McCants is alone in the backfield, Gabe Miller goes in motion to the left and eventually takes Pitt's outside linebacker out of the play. McCants runs between guard and tackle on the left side, and picks up five easy yards. He is met by McKillop and Dom DeCicco, picks up about three yards after the initial contact, and fumbles the ball just before he hits the ground. Pitt recovers the ball in prime field position. 

Without the fumble this is a nice run, but it was mostly due to great blocking by H-back Gabe Miller,  LT Andy Levitre, and LT Adam Speer. McCants delivered a good blow to McKillop, but coudn't hang on to the ball. If McCants could do this consistently next year as a supplement to Quizz, he would be awesome. 

1st Quarter, 13:26: 2nd and 6 from the OSU 41

Oregon State goes with an almost identical formation as McCants' first carry, except the H-Back goes into the backfield in front of McCants. It's a draw play, and McCants gains 9 yards.

The OSU offensive line took the Pitt defensive line completely out of the play.  LB's McKillop and Williams miss, but Austin Ransom is able to catch up to McCants after Ryan runs into WR Chris Johnson. Nice nine yard gain, but if he can make another cut to his left, he gains 10-20 more yards easily. Here's an example of where a good run could have become a great run.


1st Quarter, 13:05: 1st and 10 from the 50

Oregon State goes with the same formation as above, and McCants gets the ball headed straight up the middle. There seems to be daylight to McCants' left, but he goes right, and is gobbled up at the line of scrimmage. There wasn't much of a hole to Ryan's right, but that's the way he went. Looked like he could have picked up 5-6 had he gone left. It looked like he first picked the wrong whole, then couldn't make a quick change of direction to get extra yards. 

1st Quarter, 7:23: 1st and 10 from the OSU 40

After Lyle Moevao completed a nice pass to Sammie Stroughter for a 24 yard gain out of shotgun, Moevao goes back under center with McCants and Howard Croom in the backfield, and Stroughter and Morales split out to the right.  McCants has nothing up the middle, but tries to cut out to the right and is met by Scott McKillop. McKillop makes a nice read on the play, but after the play broke down on the left side, there looked to be room on the outside. McCants couldn't get there before McKillop wrapped him up... result: gain of 1



2nd Quarter, 12:06: 2nd and 10 from OSU 40

From the same formation the Beavers had been running McCants out of, the Beavers run a draw play to the left. McCants has some room to run, but is met quickly by a host of Panthers including S Aaron Berry and LB Austin Ransom. 

2nd Quarter, 3:57: 2nd and 10 from OSU 34

Same formation... McCants goes up the middle and runs into some of his own blockers, and MLB Scott McKillop for a gain of 4. Again, McCants tries to go straight up the middle

These would be McCants' only six runs of the game.... 

Final Thoughts: It seems like once McCants runs into a defender, he's done. It doesn't seem to me like he has the ability to make guys miss or "shake and bake" like Quizz sometimes does. It seems like he would be most effective trying to just run over people, which would work best in short yardage situations.

All in all, it's tough to judge a guy on six carries. We've seen Ryan sporadically throughout the season, but ultimately, I just think he needs time and experience. Yvenson didn't seem that great his freshman year, but by his senior year, he was a go-to back. Quizz has spoiled his with his "hit the ground running" freshman year. 

Ryan's best games were games when Quizz was healthy and running the ball well.... especially down the stretch. I expect Ryan to be a great offset back for Quizz if he sticks with the program. When he's expected to be the go-to back though,  he's struggled, because the expectations are so high for a Pac-10 running back. 

The thing is, Quizz is just as good in short yardage situations. In most occasions, it doesn't make sense to go to Ryan on 3rd and 2 or 4th and 1 because Quizz can find the holes just as well as McCants could take out a linebacker.

We talked earlier in the season about what Ryan would/could be like on defense, but really, we need him on offense. Francis isn't a lock for returning next year, and if Quizz goes down again (knock on wood) , McCants would be our most experienced back. Another off season to get faster and be coached up should help Ryan.


--Jake (