Loading up on bruising running backs worked for Pete Carroll with the Trojans. After drafting two more, the plan appears ready for the NFL.
Anyone inspired to add music to the theme of the Seahawks draft need go no further than the song most hated by University of Washington football fans: “Fight On.” Annoying as the USC fight song may be locally, the Seahawks of 2013 are going to look even more like the Trojans teams that Carroll coached to seven consecutive Pac-10 titles.
Contrary as always to conventional wisdom, the Seahawks Saturday added another running back, Louisiana State’s Spencer Ware, in the sixth round, to Friday’s second-round choice, Christine Michael of Texas A&M. They share the distinction of being almost exactly the same shape of mobile kitchen appliance (5-foot-10, 230 pounds) as well as not being starters for their college teams last fall, and Carroll cares not a bit.
“We want this position loaded up,” Carroll said. “I think the chance to get another good, strong, tough guy (Michael) adds to the theme of what we’re trying to present as a team.
“We know how we want to run it, we know the style we’d like to bring, and we don’t need to take a step back at any time when these guys come off the bench. I think it gives us great depth and great consistency.”
That style of major depth at a position that can control games was the bedrock of the best Trojans teams and the 2012 Seahawks. To Carroll’s point, here are the top five teams in 2012 rushing attempts:
1. Seattle 536
2. New England 523
3. Washington 519
4. Houston, 508
5. Kansas City 500
Noteworthy in that list is the top four teams all made the playoffs and all had good quarterbacks, even though Seattle’s Russell Wilson and Washington’s Robert Griffin III were rookies. As Carroll has emphasized, a good running game reduces risks to QBs, takes pressure off the defense and limits opponents’ opportunities.
To underscore the point, in 2011, the Seahawks were dead last in the NFL in time of possession, owning the ball 45.8 percent of the time. Last season, they were fourth, at 53 percent, and 12-6. A seven percent difference doesn’t seem like much, but given the parity in the NFL, seven percent can be the difference between, say, six wins and 10 wins, and between 12 wins and 14 wins.
Blessed with a quarterback who makes few mental errors, the Seahawks could afford in the draft to make a strength stronger. If RB No. 1 Marshawn Lynch, the key man, is injured, they have second-year holdover (and fourth-round draft choice) Robert Turbin and two rookies stout enough to avoid having to change much of the game plan.
But to be direct, Michael and Ware, barring mishap, won’t be running the ball much in the fall. They will be play mostly special teams. In fact, so will virtually all of the 11 players drafted by the Seahawks who stick on the 53-man roster.
“I think you’re going to see us develop Christine as a blocker,” Carroll said. “He has not done as much pass protection work as we’d like. When we looked at Robert last year we felt the same way. But Robert came on really strong as a pass blocker. So we hope to do the same thing with Christine.”
Of Ware, who rushed in his senior season for 358 yards and a 3.9 average on a loaded LSU team (Michael rushed for 409 yards for Texas A&M as the Aggies converted to a spread offense), Carroll said, “We saw him as a fullback as well as a running back. He such a tough guy. We really liked his nature. We’ll fit him into special teams as well.
“We’ll groom him as a fullback who can play running back. He’s a big load when he runs the ball.”
Carroll said he was happy with the job being done by Mike Robinson, but “he’s been alone” as a fullback. Ware, as with his fellow draftees, are unlikely to dislodge any incumbent, which is less a slight to them and more of a salute to the youth and abilities of the incumbents.
Happy as was Schneider — “I’m real excited for this group because of the toughness, speed and intensity we added,” he said — it wouldn’t be a Seahawks draft without a stir. Fifth-round selection Tharold Simon, a 6-2 cornerback from LSU, made draft headlines Thursday night when he was arrested in his hometown of Eunice, LA., after he was charged with public intimidation, resisting arrest and unnecessary noise.
Simon explained that his car was parked in front of his grandmother’s house when a patrol car pulled up and an officer said the car was parked illegally. Simon came out and was ordered to move the car. He backed the car into the driveway, radio music blaring, and things turned messy. The officer ran his license, and then prepared to write him a ticket.
According to the police report, Simon told the officer, “I own Eunice . . . you’re going to be mine.” He also said the mayor was on his side and it would cost the cop his job.
Simon didn’t acknowledge the remarks, but did say, “It’s my fault . . . I’m embarrassed about what happened. It shouldn’t have happened.”
Simon explained, “I was like, ‘Man, you trippin’ for nothing. I mean, there’s nothing serious really going on around here.’
“And I guess he said my pants was low. So he was like, ‘Pick your pants up before I take you to jail.’ And I picked my pants up. And then he just grabbed me and said, ‘You know what, matter of fact, put your hands behind your back.’”
Simon said he attempted to toss his car keys to a cousin, which the officer interpreted as resisting arrest.
“I never ran,” Simon said. “I never flinched or moved or nothing.” But he was handcuffed, taken to jail, charged and released on $11,000 bond.
Ed Dodds, the Seahawks south central scout responsible for scouting Simon, said the episode did not alter the team’s view of the player.
“I spent a lot of time with Tharold,” Dodds said. “He’s a really good kid. He wants to please. He called me as soon as that happened. And as far as specifics, we’ll just kind of wait to see what shakes out.”
Hard to say what will become of the episode or Simon, especially with a secondary crowded with incumbents. But he can always fall back on ownership of his hometown. The Seahawks would seem to have a modestly larger agenda of owning the ball, the clock and this NFL season.
Nine free agents signed
After the draft, the Seahawks signed nine free agents:
Matt Austin, WR, Utah State; Alvin Bailey, T, Arkansas; Kenneth Boatright, DE, Southern Illinois; Ramon Buchanan, LB, Miami; John Lotulelei, LB, UNLV; Ray Polk, SS, Colorado; Jordan Roussos, G, Bowling Green; Dominique Whaley, RB, Oklahoma; Craig Wilkins, LB, Old Dominion.