Towson running back Terrance West is an exciting prospect. His numbers are just hilarious. He’s a junior with 86 career touchdowns. He broke FCS records in single season rushing touchdowns (41) and yards (2509). He had 354 yards and 5 touchdowns against what was the FCS’s 2nd ranked team in Eastern Illinois. His career at Towson was incredible, and he could make an impact at the NFL level.
West’s stats sound great in theory but there is a problem. Running backs are like cars; when you want one, you’d like the year it was made, it’s horsepower, it’s fuel efficiency (stamina), crash test safety rating (can it take a hit without getting injured?), it’s maximum speed (let’s assume there are no speed limits), and the odometer. Running backs are unique in the last respect; they age quickly so it’s essential that there aren’t too many miles on it when you buy it. West has a ton of carries under his belt thus far (802, including 413 in 2013), and the fact that he turns 23 in 2 weeks doesn’t help. He’ll be past his prime. He has decent measurables, standing 5’11, 223lbs, and running a 4.59 40 yard dash, according to NFLDraftScout.com. The 4.59 40 seems mediocre, but he looks faster on film. Admittedly, I have a history of overestimating the speed of FCS prospects, struggling to tell the difference between a guy who is fast or just faster than his teammates and opponents. Still, West seems to get the outside seemingly with ease, which is promising.
West has very good vision. He can find holes with ease and burst through them. He does an excellent job of following his blocks and he is a patient, deliberate runner. He makes pretty wise cutbacks, and he really sets up his blocks as an outside runner. He could be a little more deceptive with his eyes, though.
West is a good inside runner. He has very good core strength and is never taken down by arm tackles, in an Eddie Lacy kind of way. He doesn’t go down unless his opponent raps up, which really helps him through the middle. He also instinctively and efficiently uses a pseudo jump cut to get through holes in the middle, turning his body sideways so he can fit between small and make arm tackles much more difficult. That’s what makes him so effective at avoiding arm tackles; it’s hard to make an arm tackle against a ball carrier at that sort of angle, when he is perpendicular to you. He’s really tough to tackle in traffic, which makes him quite valuable, and impossible to stop near the goal line. He doesn’t accelerate quickly, but he has good long speed for his size.
West is a solid outside runner. He doesn’t look like the fastest guy, but he really does get the outside with impressive frequency and has solid balance along the sideline. His balance in general is terrific, and I was just amazed by some of the jump cuts he made in heavy snow against Eastern Illinois. He really knows how to follow the blocks of pulling lineman and break tackles. His excellent balance and strength makes tackling him very difficult for corners, and he has excellent stamina. His short area speed is fairly average, but his long speed is very good.
Towson doesn’t pass much, plus West takes on such a heavy workload as a runner that they often sub him out on third down, but West seems adequate on pass plays. He has decent hands and runs acceptable routes, and he has adequate strength as a run blocker but has almost no experience with any kind of pass protection scheme. His strength means most of his potential on pass plays lies in his blocking, but the pass blocking schemes he has been exposed to thus far at Towson are extremely basic and must be taken with a grain of salt. Pass protection is something he will need to learn in the NFL and will likely keep him glued to the bench on third downs until he gets a little practice.
Ultimately, I like West. His shiftiness through the hole and ability to weave through traffic will go a long way in the NFL, and should make him a solid goal line back at the worst.
NFL Comparison: Knowshon Moreno, except he enters the NFL much more raw in the passing game.
Grade: 77 (worthy of an early third round pick)
Projection: 70 (will be a late third to early fourth round pick)