Combine a unique running style with great leg drive and what do you get? The Big 10's best tailback in a conference fond of great running games. Evan Royster's solid presence was a tremendous boon to the Spread HD last year. Let's take a look at this talented, high IQ runner to see where his success comes from.
Evan Royster (Penn State)
Backfield Technique (A): Backfield technique is especially important in the Spread HD because of the subtle fakes and play actions required - Royster does them all admirably. He doesn't get to the handoff too quickly or rush his motion out of the pivot. Keeps his head up and doesn't force Clark to reach out too far to hand the ball off. Doesn't waste motion in the backfield either. Carries out fakes well, crouching his body to give the impression of a running play. Better blocker than Shonn Greene, comfortable hitting people on QB draws or cutting LB's on passing plays.
- Hitting the Hole (A-): The second best attribute for Royster is his patience. On designed traps or misdirections, he refuses to run up the backs of his blockers or bounce around ala Barry Sanders. The touchdown against Michigan is a great example of what moving your feet constantly gets you. Has great shiftiness too (ah so cliched)...Will lean into a hole and then naturally shift out, ensuring a couple more yards as the defender recalibrates the angle of attack.
Taking on Tacklers (A+): Not a huge fan of running over tacklers. Gets hit and does an effective shiver that either 1) makes the tackler slide off him or 2) allows an avoidance of a big hit, instead diving forward for 2-3 extra yards. This shiver shows tremendous maturity - not only does he lessen the impact of constant hits, but he avoids negative yardage.
In the Open Field (B): You know, I spent the entire 2008 season thinking Royster was 5'9'' and 180 lbs....And now I've been alerted to the fact that he is actually 6'1''' and 215 lbs. My mistake was perpetuated by the bending and weaving he does when running, instead of a more straight up style ala Adrian Peterson. Royster is not an overly flashy runner, patiently waiting for blockers during screen passes and rarely slowing momentum to juke defensive backs. Does not try spectacular cuts in the open field or try to jump over DB's. Does not have breakaway speed, sprinter speed like Marcus Thigpen of Indiana from last year.
Big Ten Report Card
Dan Herron (A-) Evan Royster (A)