Darren Page, DLD Lead Scout
Judging the play of Lache Seastrunk at this point in his college career, it’s tough to believe he was once buried deep in a depth chart and seeking a transfer at Oregon. Even though those running backs he couldn’t supplant were the likes LaMichael James, Kenjon Barner, and DeAnthony Thomas, it’s tough to envision a situation where Lache Seastrunk can’t get snaps on any FBS teams. That was two years ago and it is a different day.
Seastrunk did his time sitting out a season after transferring to Baylor. As soon as he started to get a significant share of carries in 2012, he began to make his mark on an already explosive Baylor offense. Through four games against low level defenses in 2013, Seastrunk has already rung up 8 touchdowns on 53 carries, averaging 11.1 yards a crack. Baylor’s schedule will soon get tougher and Seastrunk will face better defenses, but his ability to turn games on their head with one touch of the ball would put stress on any defense in the country.
The biggest question about Lache Seastrunk’s skillset is how it translates to the NFL. Offensive coordinators in the league have increasingly shown a willingness to adapt their offense to player whose talents requires it. Seastrunk isn’t and probably never will be a back who pounds the rock between the tackles in tight spaces and fights for difficult yardage. Instead, he thrives when able to stretch defenses horizontally before cutting to get north and south, or pressing the line of scrimmage before bouncing to the perimeter.
What sets Seastrunk apart as a draft prospect is an incredible change of direction ability and explosive acceleration into space to run for chunk yardage. When he gets to the second level, he has the athleticism to make defenders’ pursuit angles look silly. This is why Lache Seastrunk’s ability to change games with explosive plays will translate to the NFL. Let’s take a look at his two longest runs of the 2013 season and compare them to big plays by NFL backs I believe have some comparable traits.
Baylor is running a simple inside zone play with Seastrunk attacking the outside hip of the right guard and reading his block from there. The front side guard and tackle will combo the defensive tackle and front side linebacker.
As the linebacker flows over the top, he gains outside leverage on the tackle. This is the read Seastrunk makes and the reason he’s going to cut it up the field. Check out the way he sinks his hips to make cuts in the reverse angle. That’s how he generates so much burst after he changes directions and the reason he’s so difficult to get a beat on.
This is where Seastrunk’s uncommon athleticism turns a smart cut and good gain into a jaw-dropping 80 yard touchdown run. As he breaks through the hole, he reads the pursuit and knows he has to bounce it back outside as soon as possible. He puts a strong stiff arm on the linebacker who scrapes off and into the hole, before getting horizontal. Note the pursuit angles of the cornerback and safety.
Seastrunk sinks his hips to bounce to the outside with impressive acceleration. He’s up to top speed in an instant and has the pursuit caught out with his impressive athletic ability. He turns the corner with ease on this play and scampers 80 yards for a touchdown against a helpless West Virginia defense. The strain he puts on defender’s pursuit angles is what makes him so deadly in the open field. A safety may think he has a line on Seastrunk, but he soon changes direction and explodes into space with significant acceleration.
If there is one NFL team who has a running game similar to what the Baylor Bears run in Waco, it’s Chip Kelly’s Eagles. Lache Seastrunk also has comparable traits to Eagles back LeSean McCoy in their ability to plant their foot in the ground and change directions on a dime.
This is an inside zone from an overload set, with a guard and tight end on the right side and two tackles on the left. Again, combo blocks will account for the interior defensive lineman and inside backers.
McCoy reads the leverage of the defensive tackles and cuts back to find a gaping hole. You can see the way he sinks his hips and generates power in his cuts. No back in the league does that quite like McCoy does.
This is where the two plays are highly comparable. McCoy hits the second level and gets lateral as soon as a he clears the first wave of defenders. Again, there is downhill pursuit from a safety and from the outside in a cornerback.
McCoy turns the corner with impressive balance and leaves both defenders in his wake. He ends up running out of real estate and getting run out of bounds at the four yard line. It’s an example of the way an extremely athletic back can punish even the most disciplined of angles and rip off a big gain when an offensive line springs them into the open field.
Along with Seastrunk’s sensational open field elusiveness is the ability to make lateral cuts behind the line of scrimmage and make a defense stay disciplined in every single gap, including the edge.
This time Seastrunk is following a lead block out of the backfield, but has his running lane crashed by a defensive end.
The Warhawks are stunting the defensive end to the inside with the safety rolling down as the force defender on the outside. Seastrunk reads the block of his right tackle and bounces the run to the perimeter in decisive fashion.
As he presses the perimeter, he shakes the safety with a stutter step. From there, it’s all about foot speed to finish. Again, his acceleration to top speed gives the defense no chance to catch him, and it’s a 75 yard jaunt to the promised land. It’s Seastrunk’s ability to make lateral cuts that enable him to press any hole that appears in the zone running game and will always have defenses respecting the edge. If they don’t, they are toast.
An NFL back who knows a good bit about toasting defenses is C.J. Spiller. He has that rare burst into the open field with the speed to break off long runs, which he did in signature fashion against Cleveland.
The Bills will run an inside zone out of 12 personnel. Spiller takes the handoff on the right side of the formation, but will show his ability to get all the way back across the left side when the defense dictates it.
Spiller gets his reads of both Desmond Bryant and D’Qwell Jackson with hats on their outside shoulder and bounces it. By pressing the line of scrimmage first, Spiller gets both safeties coming forward and into the box, which puts them in no man’s land when he hits the outside.
Barkevious Mingo isn’t in awful position trying to set the edge. He has gotten pushed back, but his outside shoulder is free. It’s the pure acceleration and athleticism of Spiller to win around the corner and get north and south, where he sees nothing but green grass.
It’s these types of explosive plays that make junior Lache Seastrunk a near lock to go in the first two rounds of whatever draft he enters. His dynamic athletic ability has terrorized defenses at Baylor and it isn’t going to be any less effective on Sundays.
The aspect of Seastrunk’s game to monitor is his usage of that athleticism to maximize yardage when a defense has its bases covered. He’s guilty of looking for the home run on occasion, instead of getting north and south and fighting for tough yardage. Through four games as a junior, he has made noticeable improvements in this aspect of his game. It’s still important that he increases his effectiveness between the tackles when holes close around him. Lache Seastrunk has the tools and instinctive running back skills to be a game-changing running back worthy of a first round pick. He makes NFL runs on a week to week basis that turn games on their heads. If able to clean up the finer points of his game and harness that athleticism, the sky is truly the limit.