The Texas A&M Aggies had one of the best ground attacks in college football a year ago, finishing 11th in the nation in rushing.
Yes, quarterback Johnny Manziel was a big reason for this, running for a team-high 1,410 yards. But the running backs played a big role in the Aggies’ success on the ground as well – they just failed to get the credit.
Running backs Christine Michael and Ben Malena were both terrific in 2012, combining for 1,225 yards and 20 touchdowns. The pair operated in Maziel’s shadow, but were effective nonetheless.
Now Michael is bound for the NFL draft, leaving the starting role for Malena. Malena will be a senior next season, and could be alone in the backfield for the first time in his college career. Will Malena be able to handle the extra workload and develop into an elite feature back?
We do know that Malena can handle a solid workload. He gained 808 yards on 138 carries last year, scoring eight times for the Aggies. At just 5-foot-8, 195 pounds, Malena’s durability will be questioned. Malena must stay in top physical condition to try and avoid injury should his workload increase.
Where A&M may struggle this year is in short-yardage situations. The Aggies really don’t have a big, bruising running back who they can rely on to pick up a yard or two on fourth-and-short. Malena may be called upon to pick up these tough yards in 2013.
I’m a believer in Malena. He is very talented and proved last season that he can carry the ball often and effectively. If the coaching staff gives him the nod as the team’s lead back, I see no reason why Malena won’t run for 1,200 yards and 12 touchdowns in 2013.
Follow me on twitter @ScottPeceny