Is Darius Anderson the next great TCU running back?

Darius Anderson is arguably the most talented senior RB in the 2020 NFL Draft class but is currently forced to split carries with fellow senior, Sewo Olonilua, limiting Anderson’s production.

When you hear the words “running back” and “TCU” in the same sentence, one name comes to mind — LaDainian Tomlinson. In 4 seasons with the Horned Frogs, Tomlinson racked up 54 touchdowns on the ground with back-to-back 20 touchdown seasons.

LaDainian, or “LT” as he’s famously known, went on to have a phenomenal NFL career; he currently holds the record for most TDs on the ground with 28. It’s not likely TCU will have another RB come close to reaching LTs level (not many do), but if anyone has a shot, it’s Darius Anderson.

Anderson has had an up and down career for the Horned Frogs, as a sophomore (2017) he was the teams leading rusher despite senior Kyle Hicks rushing for more than 1,000 yards the previous year.

As a junior last season, his numbers took a dip and he was outproduced by Olonilua. His break-out game as a junior came against Ohio State when Anderson went off for two touchdowns and 154 yards, with 12.8 yards-per-carry. In that game, Anderson exploded for a 93 yard-TD run that was Matt Breida-esque.

On this play, Anderson displayed two of his best traits: his burst and long speed. By design, the play is a zone read. Bosa, the defensive end, comes crashing down and generally, it’s the quarterback’s job to pull the ball on such occasions, but Anderson doesn’t give him the chance. Anderson sees the hole in front of him, uses his burst to quickly clear the 2nd level and his long speed to eliminate the safeties angle, finishing it off in the end zone.

The Ohio State game was the third game of the season in 2018 for the Horned Frogs and after, Anderson never really looked the same. He and Olonilua continued to split carries throughout the year and the hype on Anderson blew away like a cold wind.

Now, it’s 2019 and it appears things have changed.

Anderson has come out this season on a mission, playing nearly every game to the same level he did against the Buckeyes. He is currently averaging 7.6 yards-per-carry on the season and has rushed for over 100 yards in 3-out-5 games, and he tops it all off with 6 total touchdowns.

His best game of the year so far was in TCU’s third game (again) against the Purdue Boilermakers. He came away with two touchdowns, 179 yards on the ground, and averaged 11.2 yards-per-carry. Anderson put his contact balance on display against Purdue, rarely being taken down by the first defender.

As you can see here on this play from his game against SMU, Anderson is able to absorb the contact and maintain his balance. He does so by carrying his momentum downhill and lowering his pad level at the point of contact. After breaking the tackle, he uses his speed to capture the corner and nearly caps it off in the end zone.

Another part of Anderson’s game that catches the eye is that he hardly takes negative plays; he rarely gets taken down in the backfield. When watching football on TV you’ll hear the announcers say, “take what the defense gives ya,” and that’s exactly what he does. If the play breaks down, Anderson will find the smallest crease to get the little yards that are there.

This play is a great example. The outside back comes crashing off the edge and the Iowa State defensive line does a good job at plugging up the holes. Anderson is quick to diagnose that the play has broken down, but sees a sliver of daylight; he cuts back against the grain splitting the down block and the defender coming off the edge and finishes it off in the end zone.

Not only is Anderson great as a pure runner, but he has some receiving chops as well. They don’t do it a lot, but TCU gets creative and lines him up out wide. The production you’d like isn’t there, only averaging two receptions (10 total) per game, but he has good hands and operates well in the open field.

As it stands, Anderson’s biggest weakness is currently his pass blocking. He has a hard time identifying where the blitz/pressure is coming from and often comes up late on blocks. When he does pick up the rusher, he usually goes for a cut block.

If he isn’t able to show improvements in his pass blocking it will be hard to imagine him being picked any earlier than Day-3. If that’s the case, Anderson will be a great value pick; what he brings as a pure runner and pass catcher will make any team happy.