Let’s just get this over with: Donnel Pumphrey is a small running back.
There I said it.
But the thing about Pumphrey’s three-year career is that he’s nearly unmatched in terms of productivity. As Matt Freedman and I have discussed on the RotoViz College Football Show, Pumphrey has almost nothing left to prove on the collegiate level, which means the Hawaii Bowl on Christmas Eve could be his last game with the Aztecs. Let’s examine his career and what his NFL future might hold.
Small and Unstoppable
In 39 career games Pumphrey has averaged 17 carries, 107 rush yards and 1.1 rush touchdowns. In raw numbers, that’s 4,173 rush yards. In three years. I mentioned earlier that Pumphrey is small, listed at just 5 – 9 180 pounds, so I did a quick search for similarly small and productive runners, who were under 190 pounds and had more than 3,8001 career rush yards.
|Player||School||F Age||Wt||Car Ru Yds||Car Ru Yds/G|
|Garrett Wolfe||No Illinois||22.4||186||5164||156.5|
|Darren Sproles||Kansas St||21.5||187||4979||110.6|
|Donnel Pumphrey||San Diego St||21.1||180||4173||107.1|
|Robbie Rouse||Fresno St||21.9||190||4647||92.9|
|Chris Barclay||Wake Forest||22.2||180||4032||87.7|
|Noel Devine||West Virginia||22.9||179||4315||84.6|
The home run comp here is Darren Sproles, which I think is the main reason for optimism with Pumphrey, but besides Sproles, I’m not sure who else you would take. Bueller?
Comparing Sproles and Pumphrey further, Sproles played in more games in college,2 and had more special teams contributions, but less receiving production. Overall, their college careers are fairly similar. The trick with Sproles, though, is that it took until his seventh professional season to achieve his first and only season with 1,000 yards from scrimmage in the NFL. Sproles was also a special teams demon in the NFL, which made his place on a roster that much safer and gave him time to marinate; I’m not sure Pumphrey has that potential.
Moreover, the likelihood that Pumphrey gets an opportunity is small. Since the year 2000, only six running backs weighing under 190 pounds have been drafted – and none higher than the third round.
And the thing is, I really like Pumphrey, but the odds appear to be stacked against him. Here’s footage of him from 2014 against North Carolina. Keep an eye out for him on Christmas Eve in the Hawaii Bowl. Regardless of his pro potential, he is a fantastic college back.