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We Hardly Knew Ye: Jamaal Charles

Jamaal Charles is the first player of note nationally to bail a year early for the NFL Draft (we're still waiting for official word on certain goners Kenny Phillips and Darren McFadden, among others), and a surprising one: Charles showed enormous potential as a blazing, allegedly sub-4.3-running freshman, averaging 7.4 per carry as part of a crowded rotation alongside Vince Young in the Longhorns' mythical championship season, in which he most notably delivered the back-breaking blow to Oklahoma on a tackle-breaking, 80-yard touchdown run in the second quarter of the Shootout. He demonstrated nothing like this in an injury-plagued sophomore season, though, when his ony run over 30 yards was a 46-yarder against Rice and he finished with fewer than 15 carries in six of eight Big 12 games. This was Charles' breakout season in every sense, beginning with his stunning, 200-plus-yard fourth quarter against the wretched, burnt-out husks of Nebraska's defense, and followed by 180 and 174-yard efforts in back-to-back shootout wins over Oklahoma State and Texas Tech that put his season totals well above the threshold of 'impressive':

Jamaal Charles, This is Your College Career
Att. Yards Yds./Att. TD Rec. Yds./Rec. Rec. TD Texas Record
2005 119 878 7.4 11 14 11.2 2 13-0, Big 12/Rose Bowl/BCS Champs
2006 156 831 5.3 7 18 10.2 1 10-3, 2nd B12 South, Alamo Bowl
2007 258 1,619 6.3 18 17 11.7 0 10-3, 2nd B12 South, Holiday Bowl
Total 533 3,328 6.1 36 49 11.0 3 33-6, 1 Big 12, 1 BCS Title

By the end of this season, Charles had unquestionably established himself as an every-down back in Texas' misdirection-based read option system and probably the most lethal one-and-done, big play threat in any backfield this side of Arkansas'. He can fly. But he also racked up his numbers and accolades against a conference that collectively decided to forego defense in 2007, and especially against some of the most willing members of the historic no-tackling accord. He is widely considered an injury risk and too slight to be anything but a role player in the NFL, where starting running backs are rarely within ten pounds of Charles' reported 205 frame. Another year as a feature back in an offense that knew what it had sooner rather later (Texas, remember, was largely considered a passing team until Charles hit his stride, so to speak, well into October) could have established his 20-carry-per-game bona fides over more than a third of a season. As it stands, he seems destined for third down, change-of-pace and return duty.

Not that there's anything wrong with that - man's got to get paid somehow. Godspeed, Jamaal Charles.

Update [2008-1-2 17:52:7 by SMQ]: Draft guru Matt Miller at Mocking the Draft confirms a quartet of other stars have announced their intentions to school early: Boise State offensive tackle Ryan Clady, Louisville receiver Mario Urrutia, Maryland linebacker Erin Henderson and, as expected, the ridiculously athletic Phillips, along with Clady a sure first round pick.

Live long and prosper, men.
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