Who Should Be the Primary Back, Draughn or Houston?

For all the complaint about UNC's poor performance on the offensive side of the ball, you don't see that much sunday morning quarterbacking about what the Heels should be doing. In part, that's because most of the problems can be traced to the line, where there just isn't anyone waiting in the wings to save the day. Same at quarterback, if you're unhappy with T.J. Yates. So the biggest complaint I've heard in talking to folks is that Ryan Houston should be getting more carries than Shaun Draughn.

It's not an unreasonable suggestion, looking at the stats. Neither has been impressive – it's no surprise that the Heels are pulling in folks from other positions to back the two players up – but Houston has the better numbers, averaging 4.4 yards per carry on 49 touches, compared to Draughn's 4.0 ypc in 89 attempts. Houston doesn't get stopped for a loss like Draughn occasionally does either, and he has seven touchdowns to Draughn's one, primarily based on his strengths as a goal line back. 

The thing is, I think Draughn is the better overall back, just with a style that requires more from his offensive line. Hence against weaker opponents ECU and the two D1-AA schools, Draughn has outgained Houston in the yards per carry metric, even in games when they get a similar number of carries. Of course, against Georgia Tech's strong front line, both backs were equally ineffective, which leaves two games where Houston excelled, Connecticut and Virginia.

UConn, of course, was UNC's first matchup against a team with a decent defense, so it's not horribly surprising it took the Heels awhile to realize it. Most of Houston's yardage came in the fourth quarter, where the Heels abandoned the running style that wasn't working and alternated pounding it through Houston and a successful passing game. As for Virginia, well, no one expected them to be anything short of awful – this was a team that had given up 30+ points in its previous two games. Were the coaches slow to adjust, especially after Connecticut? Almost certainly, although the bigger back hadn't worked the week before against Tech, and in the end no running game could save the poor offensive performance. But his Houston necessarily the guy you want to give all your snaps to? I don't know.

An adequate block can allow Draughn to get up to speed to get more yardage than the stronger, slower Houston does. To put it simply, Houston breaks tackles; Draughn breaks ankles. I think there's more upside there, and Draughn should the first back defenses see. The coaches may want to be quicker to try other options, though.

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