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Just The Sports: 2010-08-15

Just The Sports

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Mark Ingram Is Superior to Trent Richardson

A popular sentiment those talking about Alabama's two stud running backs, Mark Ingram and Trent Richardson, have espoused whenever discussing the two players is that Richardson might be the better runner of the two despite Mark Ingram winning the Heisman Trophy. If Richardson is really the better running back, he certainly has a funny way of showing it since this past season he was clearly the inferior runner on the field.

As I have done recently in my two posts about the three first-round running backs of the 2010 NFL draft and Reggie Bush, I am using the standard success rate devised by Football Outsiders where successful runs are 40% of first down yardage, 60% of second down yardage, and 100% of third and fourth down yardages. Although, when a team goes for it on fourth down, I only ask that the runner gain 80% of third down yardage in order to classify it as a successful run.

Using this success rate alone, Ingram and Richardson were virtually identical in efficiency. Ingram was successful on 54.6% of his 271 runs while Richardson was successful on 54.5% of his 145 runs.

However, success rate for running backs has some of the same flaws that batting average has for baseball players. Just like batting average doesn't tell you the nature of a player's hits, success rate alone does not tell you the nature of a running back's runs.

That is why I also take into consideration how many extra yards per successful run and how many yards needed per unsuccessful runs a running back has. It is not extremely advanced, but it does the job.

It is in average extra yards per successful run and average yards needed per unsuccessful run where Ingram distances himself from Richardson. On Ingram's successful runs, he surpassed the minimum yardage by an average of 6.7 yards. Richardson's 5.0 extra yards per successful run looks pretty pedestrian by comparison. Richardson simply lacked Ingram's ability to break long runs on a consistent basis last year.

Ingram also did not fail by as much when he did fail. He came up short by an average of only 2.7 yards per unsuccessful run, which is a very good mark and much better than Richardson who came up short by an average of 3.6 yards per unsuccessful run. For a supposedly elite running back, Richardson comes up short by far too much.

Unless Richardson improves this upcoming college football season, Ingram will continue to be more productive and deserving of the nine extra carries he gets per game.

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