As fall camp is underway, this series explores 11 topics and themes related to the 2011 Boston College Eagles football season. Previously in this series we covered The Maturation of Chase Rettig, Consistency in the Secondary and Starting the Season Strong.
"I've seen a different aura about him. It's back to where it was before he got injured. He looks like the old Montel: enthusiastic like he's always been, working hard like he's always been, making cuts like he's always made." - Coach Frank Spaziani at BC Media Day
Montel Harris is on pace to become one of the most prolific runners not only in the history of Boston College but also the ACC. As we all know, he is on track to break not one but two major records this season -- total rushing yards at Boston College and in the ACC. But could years of over-reliance of Montel have left him battered and bruised, lead to a disappointing senior season? Or even worse injured? This is a key question going into the Eagles 2011 campaign.
BC's dependence on Montel over the past two seasons has been mind boggling. Harris carried the ball 304 times in 2009 and 268 times in 2010. He would have easily surpassed his 2009 numbers if the knee injury didn't keep him out of the last two games. That is almost 600 carries in two years. Looking at some of the ACC's recent running backs and its hard time find a running back that racked up that amount of carries in two seasons. In a two season span, North Carolina's Shaughn Draughn only carried it 300 times, Clemson's C.J Spiller only carried the ball 350 times in his last two seasons and Georgia Tech's Jonathan Dwyer only 450 times. It's no wonder Harris was dinged up and eventually injured in 2010.
Could Harris carry the ball 300 times without another season ending injury? Of course he could. However, removing some of the load from Harris and redistributing it throughout the team would be beneficial for everybody. Near the end of last season Harris was carrying the ball an average of nearly 30 times a game, while Chase Rettig was only throwing the ball an average of around 20 times a game. Even with safeties cheating in and stacking the box, Harris was still able to be successful in his final games of 2010.
This year needs to be different. Instead of carrying the ball 30 times a game, Harris needs to see decreased carries in order to perserve his legs for later in the season. It appears that we will see more of Chase Rettig and the passing game, which will alleviate some of the workload from Harris. Instead of calling a run play 60% of the time like last season, we might actually see more of a reliance on the passing game.
Instead of running out of necessity, BC should be able to utilize it more effectively to complement the passing game. This will keep Harris's carries down, his yard per carry up, and keep him healthier later in the season. Spaz should aim to save Harris's heavier workloads for games like Virginia Tech and Florida State, when Rettig might hit bumps and need the assistance of the running game.
If BC jumps to some early big leads, sit Harris, especially in games against Duke, Wake Forest and UMass. BC has two very capable backups in Andre Williams and Rolandan Finch who can carry the ball as well to control the clock. It makes no sense to waste his talent that early in the season and not have him available when BC faces the murderer's row of opponents later in the season.
Montel Harris is a dynamic back, and easily BC's best offensive weapon. But Frank Spaziani needs to use caution this year, and utilize Harris more effectively this season. 30 carries a game is probably not in the best interest in the team and could lead to more missed time like last season. Lessen the workload just a little, and we could all be witnessing a historical season not one that ends in disappointment.