Less than a month until Iowa football and we’re finally getting the chance to feature one of my favorite players from last season — Toren Young.
After a bit of action as a sophomore, Young’s role last year became much, much more critical. There’s a bunch of backs this year. We’ll see how it shakes out.
Toren Young — junior
Madison, Wisconsin (Monona Grove)
5-foot-11, 223 pounds
2019 project: 125+ carry running back
There are a lot of solid running backs on the Iowa roster this season. For long-time followers of the Hawkeyes, you’ll recognize that this something of an aberration — though, to be fair, not nearly as much lately — for Iowa.
But with Young, Ivory Kelly-Martin, Mekhi Sargent and quite possibly Henry Geil there is a loaded running back room in Iowa City. Many of those guys, if not all, will see action at significant moments for Iowa this year.
There’s just too much talent and Young is certainly one of those players.
So what, after two seasons, can we glean from the Wisconsinite? For starters, he’s a hard-headed runner who fell forward more than once for a few extra yards last season. He’s not a speedster and despite averaging a fairly robust 4.68 yards per carry, his longest run of the season was this 40-yarder against Northern Illinois:
In those couple seconds, you’ll see just about all the qualities that make Young a useful back. He’s not fast, so he can’t waste movements, but he is strong — look at simply push through the defender at the line of scrimmage and continue on his merry way.
There’s good vision there, if not overly creative. He is going to find a path and stick to it. I don’t mind that in a running back and not everyone can be as shifty as Akrum Wadley.
With that in mind, let’s talk about Young’s actual usage for a brief minute. Of his 136 carries last season, 76 were on first down and 46 were on second. If you’ve watched more than a 10 minutes of the Iowa offense over the past 20 years, those numbers should not really surprise you.
Where it gets interesting is on third down. Of Iowa’s 63 rushing attempts on third last year, just 14 went to Young. They accounted for just three (!!!) first downs as well as two touchdowns. One of those touchdowns, however, was one of my favorite play designs from last year:
Now Iowa did pass a lot on third last year (helps to have two first-round draft picks at tight end) and went to its full backs in super-short yardage situations.
In fact, Young was give the ball just four times on 3rd down with 1-3 yards to go. Those were where all three of his first downs on third down came from.
In 2019 Young has to be better in short-yardage situations. He’s a bruiser of a back and with a bit of help from the offensive line, will get you a couple yards on first down and even break one for 10-20+ on occasion. That’s useful.
More useful? Being the go-to guy on third and short. That’s a money down and a place where Iowa will need to find different answers with T.J. Hockenson and Noah Fant now in the NFL. Figure that out and Young instantly becomes a much more valuable player.