As we head into the final few weeks of the regular season, our underrated/overrated segment takes another new twist. Last week, I used this space to highlight a few teams that seemed to either be a disappointment based on their pre-season hype or have been a pleasant surprise and have perhaps overachieved based on what was expected this year.
This week I want to tackle (no pun intended!) a more difficult topic and look at individual players across the country that have underperformed or overperformed based on what pre-season hype had indicated. Certainly this is very subjective and many players will be left off the list in both categories, but I thought it might be fun to see who may or may not have met expectations.
Logan Thomas – QB Virginia Tech:
The Hokies were supposed to contend for the ACC title and possibly even a national title. Those hopes went out the window early this season, and the once formidable Hokies are playing for their post-season lives. Part of the reason they have struggled to win games this year is the lack-luster play of their junior signal caller Logan Thomas.
Thomas was expected to be one the ACC’s leading passers, and while he 7th in the league in passing yards per game, he has been too inconsistent, especially in the bigger games. Even more shocking is his inability to lead his team back when they are trailing.
On the season Thomas has thrown for 2,407 yards but his completion percentage is a mere 53.6% (171/319). He has thrown 14 TDs, but he has also thrown for 14 INTs. A 1:1 TD-to-INT ratio is not going to get it done for a team that should have at least won the ACC’s Coastal Division.
While much of the season has passed, Thomas can still prove that 2012 is not a harbinger of things to come. His team needs to win its final two games to make it to a bowl. The games are winnable (Boston College and Virginia), but to do so, Thomas will have to be the leader that head coach Frank Beamer and the rest of the Hokies know that they have in their midst.
Silas Redd – RB USC:
Many that read this article will assume that I’m placing Redd on this list simply out of spite, seeing he spurned the Nittany Lions after their sanctions to go to the seemingly lavish lifestyle of the USC Trojans and a shot at the national title. Well, I can tell you that is not the case!
If we compare stats from this year to his stats from last year at Penn State, you will find in most statistical categories his numbers have receded from where they were at one year ago. In 2011 for Penn State, Redd rushed 244 times for 1,241 yards. He averaged 5.1 yards per carry and scored 7 TDs. This year for USC, Redd has carries the ball only 135 times for 732 yards. His average per carry is slightly better at 5.4 ypc, and his number of rushing TDs are modestly up (9). At neither Penn State nor USC has Redd been used as a pass-catching back.
Some of the disparity in the numbers is the type of offense that Penn State and USC run and the personnel that each teams possesses, but in the end, Redd has not turned out to be the dynamic running back that Lane Kiffin can give the ball to and ride for an entire game. This year alone Redd has only had two games where he has carried the ball 20 times or more. in 2011 at Penn State, he had 5 games where he toted the rock 20 times or more. In fact he carried the ball 30 times against Illinois.
Redd has begun ceding carries to senior Curtis McNeal. In the Trojans’ last game against Arizona State, Redd was unable to play due to injury. McNeal rushed 31 times for 163 yards and 2 scores. Redd is questionable this week against rival UCLA. What isn’t questionable is Redd’s lack of game-changing bursts. To be sure, Redd is a fine running back that nearly every team in the country would love to have on their roster. However, he is not the difference-maker that USC thought they were getting when he agreed to transfer in August.
Fitzgerald Toussaint – RB Michigan
Fitzgerald Toussaint was supposed to be the next workhorse back for the Wolverines, taking some of the pressure to run ball from Denard Robinson. One problem – someone forgot to tell Fitzy that he was supposed to do that. Toussaint has been virtually invisible in most of Michigan’s games this year. He has not amassed a 100-yard rushing game in any one of his contests this year, though he was close this past Saturday against Northwestern (95 yards), and he has a little over half of the rushing scores (5) that he had all of last year (9).
Toussaint started off 2012 on suspension from an off-season off the field arrest. He therefore missed the Alabama game, but he has played in every game since. His number of rushes should be about the same as they were last year, but his offensive output will be well below what he did last season. Last year he was a 1,000 yard back, but this year he will likely be lucky to get to 700 yards rushing. He has done a tad more in the passing game than last year, but the numbers are fairly comparable.
To me it doesn’t look like Toussaint is running downhill as much as he was last year. Last season he could get to the second level by punishing defensive lineman and linebackers on his way to big gains. This year, those linemen are able to corral him at or near the line of scrimmage. His longest run of 2012 was a 50-yard gainer and that was last week. The explosiveness just doesn’t seem to be there this year, and that has really hurt Michigan.
The Wolverines are still one of the better team in the Big Ten because of Denard Robinson and the much-improved play of their defense, but most teams are not scared of Michigan because they are so one-dimensional. Michigan will likely step up in class come bowl season and play a team that will be better than they are. How Michigan can involve Toussaint in the gameplan and his effectiveness will go a long way in determining how Michigan fares.