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January 14, 2011

Film Room Breakdown: Shon Carson

I will begin posting evaluations of the Top Players from the Class of 2011 here on SCVarsity.com. Shon Carson is one of the top prospects from the Palmetto State in both football and baseball. AS the NO. 7 ranked player in the SCVarsity.com's Top Thirty Players and today, we take a look at why he is ranked where he is at and what makes him so special as a player.

Speed kills. Unfortunately, much like the wide receiver position, the evaluation of the running back position at the high school level is often entirely based on speed.

However, qualities such as quickness through the hole, run vision, pick and slide skills, balance and change of direction skills are every bit as important. A player termed an all-purpose back with excellent size and power is the ideal prospect for most programs.

While speed is nice, quickness is great. There are a lot of great running backs at the college level who lack great 40 speed, but have exceptional quickness.

Also, with so many spread offensive sets, today's running backs must be versatile enough to catch the ball out of the backfield. The running back with the ability to split out wide and create mismatches in the passing game is the ideal choice. It also helps if they have some skills as return specialists.

There are plenty of other areas used to judge running backs. The ability to make tacklers miss and eliminate a lot of head-on collisions is a great indicator of a back's ability to stay healthy.

Blocking is another under-evaluated skill when it comes to grading backs. Most freshmen entering college have not spent a lot of time working on their blocking skills. If you ask any college coach, a freshman running back is more likely to sit on the bench or come out on passing downs - not for his inefficiencies as a runner, but for his lack of success as a blocker and his inability to pick up the blitz.

It is very rare when you get a back who can do everything: run, catch and even return. These guys give opposing defenses nightmares, and they can change the personality of an offense.

I have eight specific criteria I look at when evaluating running backs and I won't go into specifics of everyone of them right now, but here is my evaluation of Shon Carson based on my criteria.

Jim Baxter's Evaluation
  • Inside Ability: Carson has outstanding ability to pick his holes and slide through them, lending credibility to his level of vision in traffic and his ability to cut and change directions with incredible top end speed.
  • Outside Ability: There is no doubt that his speed can beat guys to the edge and when he gets there, his change of direction speed allows him to really elude pursuit.
  • Elusiveness: Shon has the ability to avoid tackles and because of that and his change of direction speed, rarely takes a big hit. He is great in space and is able to find it with his vistion.
  • Power: Shon gets behind his pads very well and has deceptive strength. One of the things that makes him hard to tackle on the inside game is his speed rarely allows more than a hand and arm to get on him and his strength makes it difficult to arm tackle him. He is always going forward, even after contact.
  • Blocking: Shon was not asked to block in the offense he was in. His instincts along with the rest of his skill set lead me to believe he could be a very good blocker. His size would be a concern in this area at the SEC level of play.

  • Hands: He can make the catch out of the backfield and downfield, as well. He does not have a problem with fumbles and protects the ball very well when running in traffic.

  • Durability: He can definitely take a hit. His frame is compact and layered in muscle. He is a touch kid who doesn't seem to wear down during the game and, as I pointed out earlier, his elusiveness keeps people from getting a solid hit on him.

  • Running Style: I've heard people call him a slasher but he think he's more of a "darter," in that he is so explosive and can stop-go on a dime and reach top speed quickly. Incredible ability to separate from pursuit.

  • Strengths: His skill set is complete. He has the speed, hands, elusiveness, and durability you need in a back playing in the SEC.

  • Weakness: Very little; he does have a tendency to outrun his blockers, which is not something you want to do at the next level. He has the vision and speed to stay behind the blockers and make his move when it is there at the next level, but that is something he will just have to learn.

  • Similarities: Carson reminds me of Marshall Faulk and Emmitt Smith.

Concern over Carson is his baseball career. Right now, in my opinion, his arm is little more than average for the next level. For him to develop into a big time player on the diamond, he would almost have to be full time baseball. I don't see him doing it otherwise. That said, it is probably eventually going to come down to a decision on how far he wants to progress in either sport.

I believe he is a player who can be a great contributor in the football program. He is not going to be a 20-25 carry a game guy, but I could see him being dangerous in the one-back set coming out of the backfield as a receiver and as a guy who could spell Lattimore in a part time capacity.

SCVarsity.com publisher Jim Baxter has been on top of high school sports for more than two decades, delivering player rankings for football, basketball, and baseball. He has written recruiting articles for various publications over the past nine years, including The Deep South Recruiting Guide. He is the founder and publisher of SCVarsity.com. His game-of-the-week previews and evaluations can be heard on 107.5 The Game during football season and he is co-host of the Saturday Morning South Carolina Coaches' Show on 107.5 The Game.

To contact JB, simply email [email protected]

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