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Recruiting Reset: Is Marcus Carroll a Potential Schrader Replacement?

So you like overlooked players who run for 1,300+ yards in a season, huh?

A long time ago I pondered out loud, “does the Drinkwitz offense make NFL-caliber running backs out of anybody or is he just good at finding NFL-caliber running backs to fit in his offense?”.

After watching Rountree in ‘20 and Badie in ‘21, I was convinced it was scheme. After watching Schrader and Peat in ‘22, I thought it might be the player. After watching Schrader in ‘23... man I don’t even know anymore.

But I do know that another unheralded player coming of high school will get a crack at adding a data point to the “scheme vs. player” debate.

Say hello to Marcus Carroll!

The middling 2-star recruit out of Atlanta joined the hometown school of Georgia State and proceeded to do jack squat over his first two years. Now, granted, he was the third option on those Panther teams so not making the most of 40 carries over two years wasn’t the worst thing in the world. His usage picked up in ‘22 before bursting for 1,350 yards and 13 touchdowns on 274 carries in ‘23, a Drinkwitz-ian gap of 239 carries over the next-used running back on the roster who finished with 35.

He’s an inch taller and about 4 pounds lighter than our beloved Muscle Hamster at the moment, and shares a similar running style and ability to be “THE GUY” in a run-oriented offense. Seems like a good thing to add to this team!

Marcus Carroll, Jr. Stats

Where He Fits: As I say in most of these situations, you don’t transfer from your current school to a different one with the understanding that you’re going to be on the bench for the next season. That is especially true for a position group that has two guys that are currently some flavor of freshman who, combined, have 8 carries for 24 yards (here’s your reminder that the only carry Jamal Roberts has so far gone for -1 yards!).

Yes, Michael Cox is still currently on the team and has four years of experience but he hasn’t had a touch all year and only saw extended time in 2021. Carroll is here to be the guy, flat out. If he ends up sharing it with another transfer, a high schooler, or one of the returning guys who makes a leap, that’s cool too. But we all know that, once Drinkwitz picks a #1 runner, he runs that guy into the ground. Carroll, at the moment, seems to be that choice.

Where He’ll Play: Even if Missouri winds up portaling in Trevor Etienne, Carroll will be lining up in the backfield right next to Brady Cook in the first game of the year. He has the build and experience in doing exactly what Drink wants him to do, and barring an injury or other unforeseen circumstance, he’ll be getting the nod as primary running back for the ‘24 season.

The Stat Stuff: Now, if you’re like me, you do enjoy the concept of adding one of the most sought-after running backs in the portal to your team but you also want to know how this dude stacks up to the guy that did all the work for Mizzou this year.

Say no more!

Schrader ‘23 vs. Carroll ‘23

In terms of running, Schrader has this guy beat in almost every category. More yards on fewer rushes, better 1st down rate, way better running outside and against 7+ man boxes, more yards averaged before and after contact...Schrader was better, no doubt. However, Carroll was better in the passing game, for what it’s worth!

Now, if you’re saying “well, Carroll was running behind a Sun Belt-caliber offensive line, he’ll do better with Mizzou’s line”... good, I’m glad that’s where your mind went. Let’s compare the ‘23 lines, shall we?

Comparing ‘23 offensive lines

The game is about blocking and tackling, and in terms of making the blocks, Georgia State’s line was actually a little bit better than Mizzou. This meant they also allowed fewer runs to be hit at or behind the line, a 2% advantage over Missouri, to be exact. But Missouri’s line was better at opening 4-yard holes (opportunity rate), better in gotta-have-it short yardage situations (power success rate), and had their runners go for more yards per carry in both standard downs and passing downs. So, nothing conclusive, but interesting to compare anyway.

And for all you weirdos asking about Schrader/Carroll’s pass blocking acumen: Cody Schrader was in pass protection 75 times, allowed a 5.3% QB pressure rate and gave up a sack. Marcus Carroll was in pass protection 66 times and gave up a 0% pressure rate and 0 sacks.

What It All Means: Missouri’s running back room was squarely in the “Little Caesars Hot N’ Ready” territory; dinner needed to be made, there wasn’t much at home, and there really wasn’t any time to go get something, prep it, cook it, and serve it in time. Luckily, what they got was at the Hot N’ Ready convenience and timing, but just as good as the meals that they had been eating the week before (this analogy is going off the rails, isn’t it?).

Carroll tracks very similar to Schrader but, most importantly, is the type of runner that does well with the zone-blocking concepts that Missouri has been running under Drinkwtiz and Moore. Georgia State mixed in some triple option stuff which, obviously, Missouri doesn’t run, but what I’ll call their “set piece” running game is similar to Mizzou’s. Watching any of his film you see a guy who is decisive in his decision making, makes one cut, and then hits the hole quickly, something that Schrader excelled at and Peat struggled with.

Carroll is a fifth-year graduate student that never took a redshirt. What does that mean? Technically, he has two years to play one year. So, if for some reason he plays four games or fewer next year, he could use that as his redshirt year and then come back in ‘25. However, I don’t think that’s something that anybody wants so it’s best to view this as a one-year rental.

Still, it’s exactly what Mizzou needs. Assuming Jones and Roberts don’t transfer, Carroll provides the experience and endurance to shoulder the load this year while Jones/Roberts/whoever sprinkle in throughout the year, and are hopefully ready for prime time the following year.

I can’t wait to see what Carroll can do in this offense. And, even better, Mizzou for sure has its running back for next year.