Following the news of Jeremy Larkin’s medical retirement this morning due to cervical stenosis, the Wildcats running back position is suddenly inexperienced. The position returns four players and brings in two newcomers as well. Here’s a break down of presumptive running back replacements for Northwestern:
John Moten IV
John Moten IV — listed as the starter on the depth chart this week — is the most experienced of Northwestern’s available running backs. The redshirt junior was rated the number 11 recruit in Missouri by Scout, and has been the Wildcats backup for Justin Jackson and Jeremy Larkin. Moten was typically used in short yardage situations, appearing in nearly every game in 2016, six games in 2017, and every game so far in 2018. Moten struggled with injury in 2017 after an impressive freshman campaign in 2016. This season, Moten has averaged 1.8 yards per carry on 15 carries with one touchdown. Moten is very patient in the backfield, similar to Larkin and Justin Jackson. He is very good at seeing the field, waiting for gaps to open and following blocks as shown in this clip from the Wildcats 2016 game against Purdue.
Similarly, in the play below against Illinois in 2016, Moten IV initially attempts to get the corner, yet quickly realizes he can’t because of the Illinois lineman. He adapts, seeing an open space left of the center, where he breaks into the secondary, sheds a tackle and takes it in for a touchdown. Moten IV is effective at seeing gaps, and is a strong back who is not taken down easily.
While Moten is not quite at the caliber of Larkin and Justin Jackson, he is a solid running back, but I would expect Northwestern to make use of a running back platoon. Moten has exceptional speed; he just needs to stay healthy and consistent.
Another three-star recruit, Brown has had less playing time than Moten, but has looked good in garbage time. He had two touchdowns on nine carries last season and averaged 7.1 yards per carry. As a sophomore, Brown has less experience than Moten IV but has flashed potential while he played last season. He did not get significant playing time, but should receive a lot more now.
An early enrollee in the Class of 2022 at Northwestern, Bowser is a highly touted first-year for the Wildcats. Early reports about Bowser were very positive, as Wildcat coaches seemed thrilled about the potential of the Ohio native. He is yet to receive any carries for the Wildcats, but he ran for 2695 and received another 320 with 32 total touchdowns his senior season in high school. Listed as the backup on the depth chart, he’ll get reps.