Only two players have rushed for more than 100 yards against the top-ranked Clemson Tigers this year: Florida State’s Dalvin Cook and Appalachian State’s Marcus Cox.
As we look ahead to the Raycom Media Camellia Bowl on Saturday, December 19, I want to put this talented running back under the microscope. Although he still has one year of eligibility remaining, it wouldn’t be surprising if he declared for the 2016 NFL Draft and was a late round pick. Let’s take a closer look.
Since App State officially became a member of the Sun Belt Conference last year, Marcus Cox has been their star. In 2014 he rushed for 1,415 yards and 19 touchdowns and this year, in 11 games, he has amassed 1,261 yards and eight TDs. A solid receiver too, Cox has surpassed 100 yards from scrimmage in 18 of his past 22 games.
As he is listed at 200 pounds, I pulled together this quick comparable group for Cox based on the following two factors, then sorted by career rush yards per game:
- players weighing between 190 and 210 pounds
- players who played their final season at +/- six months of Cox’s age of 21.3
|RB||Draft Pick||Conf||Age||Wt||Career RuYds/G|
|Ray Rice||55||Big East||20.9||199||129.6|
|KaDeem Carey||117||Pac 12||21.2||207||117.8|
|Mike Hart||202||Big Ten||21.7||206||117.2|
|Marcus Cox||TBD||Sun Belt||21.3||200||116.6|
|Chris Brown||93||Big 12||21.7||210||116.1|
|Jacquizz Rodgers||145||Pac 12||20.9||196||107.7|
|Donald Brown||27||Big East||21.7||210||102.7|
|Tevin Coleman||73||Big Ten||21.7||206||97.6|
Although Ray Rice is probably the only elite back of that group, a number of them have been effective rotational backs who have stuck in the NFL for a while. To be clear, I’m not saying that Marcus Cox is comparable to Ray Rice, or any of them. I do think it matters, though, that he has been so productive throughout his career, at a relatively decent size and respectable age.
Where the comparison group might break down for you is with regards to strength of schedule. Of the ten players he just appeared alongside, only Mewelde Moore was from outside the BCS/Power-5 conferences. In general, that’s the tough, and probably encouraging, aspect of evaluating Cox; not a lot of prospects have his profile.
Small Conference Roots
To better understand the nature of running backs being drafted from the non-major FBS conferences, I went back and looked at the highest drafted small-conference runners since 2001 who weigh between 190 and 210 pounds. Here’s the crew:
|RB||Draft Pick||Year||Age||Weight||40||Car RuYds/G|
|Michael Smith (USU)||212||2012||23.4||207||4.36||46.9|
If you’re wondering who the majority of these guys are, you’re not alone. And, of those who have had some success, 1 those guys were all drafted highly enough that it was obvious their team was going to give them an opportunity. I think it would be easy to look at this crew and think that maybe Cox could wind up with a similar profile to Hillman, Moats and Moore, but I think that might be irrelevant as far as potential draft position because of how the NFL’s valuation of running backs has seemed to change in recent years. Also, Cox seems unlikely to run in the 4.4 range.
Is Marcus Cox a slam-dunk prospect? No. Could Marcus Cox be a late-round running back in 2016 or 2017 who finds a role in the league? I think so. Why don’t you give him a look in the Camellia Bowl and see for yourself?
- Chris Johnson, Ronnie Hillman, Moore (back)