I grew up in Louisiana, near Texas. So everybody wears cowboy hats. And a ten-gallon’s a big hat. I was smart back then, so they called me Ten-Gallon Head.

– Will Smith, Pursuit of Happyness (2006)


In the heartland of America, where the Mississippi weaves its tales, and the piney woods whisper their ancient secrets, lies one of the country’s most underrated football hotbeds.

Northern Louisiana is a place where the river bends, and magnolias bloom, where the chubby Louisianan embodies the essence of abundance. And, as the old CFF wiseman tale says, “In the land where the pig grows plump, the corn is sweet, and the gravy rich, the spirit of CFF thrives.” 

Some say it’s the fried seafood, others— something in the water. Whatever the case may be, Northern Louisiana’s tendency to produce abnormally large human beings is always something I’ve appreciated about the area.

For those that missed it, former New Mexico OC Bryan Vincent took over as the head coach of the Louisiana Monroe (ULM) Warhawks this offseason, and he brings with him a very strong pattern at the RB position. Some of you might have even rostered his RB1 in 2023: Jacory Merritt, who cleared 1,100 yards and scored 17 TDs on less than 200 carries.

But that’s just the tip of the iceberg, so let’s get into this thing.


Coaching & System

Prior to taking on the OC role at NM, Vincent served as the interim HC at UAB in 2022 and the OC from 2018-2021. 

During the 2022 season, he had a mega producer at RB in DeWayne McBride. McBride finished the year with 233 carries for 1,713 yards and 19 TDs. The RB2— Jermaine Brown Jr. almost cleared 1,000 yards himself, with 948 on 166 carries. That’s a lot of running of the football for one team.

UAB 2022 leading rushers. Source: ESPN

The previous year it was the tandem of McBride and Brown once again, combining for 327 carries and over 1900 yards.

UAB 2021 leading rushers. Source: ESPN

He would have had another 1,000-yard rusher in 2020 if not for a shortened season. UAB’s Spencer Brown took 186 carries for 889 yards and 10 TDs in only eight games that season. That’s an average of 18.6 carries, 111 yards, and 1.25 TDs per game (averages to about 18.6 PPG). It’s almost like there’s some sort of link between carries and PPG average for RBs… who have thought, right? 

In 2019, Brown was injured halfway through the year, resulting in varying levels of touch volume when he played. He finished the year averaging 13.9 touches per game and failed to clear 1,000 yards.

Brown’s 2018 season was a big one, however. He took 272 carries for 1,227 yards and 16 TDs in essentially 13 games on the year (he left one game on the first carry due to injury). He would have averaged around 17 PPG in 1PPR formats that season.

Curiously, in the three seasons prior to joining UAB, Vincent’s RB1s at South Alabama (2015-2017) each failed to clear 1,000 yards, and there were no notable Pigs under his watch. Xavier Johnson came the closest in 2015 with 956 yards, but even then, he only received 145 carries. No RB saw 200 or more carries during this time.

The year prior (2014), when he was the OC at UAB for the first time, Vincent had his largest volume pig to date. Jordan Howard carried the rock 305 times for 1,587 yards and 13 TDs in 12 games. Those numbers work out to an average of 25 carries, 132 yards, and just over one TD per game (~19.2 PPG average).

And, of course, I’d be remiss not to mention Jacory Merritt’s 2023 season under Vincent. The New Mexico RB1 finished the season with 189 carries, 1,190 yards, and 17 rushing TDs.

According to CFBWinningEdge’s database, the Warhawks returned around 30% of snaps on the OL this year, which is not ideal but is not the be-all-end-all datapoint either. In fact, it could very well be a good thing, given that ULM finished 86th in the FBS last season in rushing, with 133 yards per game.


Some Names To Watch

It’s early days in the offseason still, so there isn’t much to go off of in terms of differentiating between players in the room. Specifically, there is not an obvious name that comes to mind as a ‘must-draft’ type of player. However, some intriguing names at the moment include:

  • Hunter Smith (5’11″, 181) — The rising junior out of Arkansas completed a solid sophomore season with the Warhawks in 2023. He started the season off with back-to-back 100+ yard games vs. Army (16.3 points) and FCS program Lamar (17.4 points). He also scored a TD in each of those games. Unfortunately, he would fail to score more than ten points in a game for the rest of the season. However, that is in part because his carry volume fluctuated heavily. Overall, he finished 2023 with 94 rushes, 507 yards, and three rushing scores in 12 games (7 PPG). He also caught eight passes on 14 targets for 71 yards.
  • Bennett Galloway (5’11″, 201) — The redshirt freshman Galloway had a pretty forgettable year under the previous regime. He finished 2023 with 44 carries for 287 yards in 10 games (3.3 PPG). I mention him only because he had a notable game towards the end of the year, where he rushed 16 times for 87 yards vs. ULLaF (8.7 points).
  • Taven Curry (6’1″, 205) — Curry announced that he’d be transferring from UAB to ULM in early January. Like the above two names, the rising junior has done next to nothing in his career so far. But, given that he decided to transfer over, there must be an opportunity here. He’s also bigger than the above RBs and was a four-star recruit in high school.

Closing

As we’ve seen so many times before, whenever there is staff turnover there can be an adjustment period—even when the system is elite. While the track record of Vincent is certainly exciting, I wouldn’t bank on there definitely being a pig in the backfield in year one. But, there could be. For that reason, I would suggest monitoring this program in the spring and summer to see if a name emerges. 

This is an idea where you could potentially take a swing in one of the last rounds of your draft. It’s a low risk, but high reward opportunity.


You can find more articles like this over here: VolumePigs.

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