The Portis breakdown, revisited

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Back in early October, just after Maryland hit the midpoint of its season, it seemed like a good time to run through exactly how change-of-pace quarterback Josh Portis was used.

At the time, he’d played in every game, with his longest stretch of playing time coming well after a victory against Eastern Michigan was decided. Overall, he’d played 38 snaps in six games, with some sort of Portis run dominating the ultimate result of the plays.

Well, with the lull in the schedule, it’s time to do another analysis building off the list from the last time.

And, to be perfectly truthful (and to state the obvious), the list didn’t get much longer.

Portis has played just once in the last five games. And in the final half of the season, he was officially involved in eight plays.

That’s 46 total. But don’t take my word for it; look at this breakdown of plays instead:

DELAWARE (5)

Q1: 1/10, UM 26: Portis 6 run
Q2: 1/10, UM 35: False start, Dane Randolph
Q2: 1/15, UM 30: Portis 5 run (consecutive plays)
Q3: 2/10, UD 24: Portis 2 run
Q3: 2/8, UM 32: Portis -3 run

AT MIDDLE TENNESSEE (7)

Q2: 1/10, UM 27: Portis 4 pass to Danny Oquendo
Q2: 2/6, UM 31: Portis 12 run (consecutive plays)
Q2: 1/20, UM 33: Portis 16 run
Q3: 3/6, MT 21: Portis 2 run right
Q4: 3/3, UM 37: Portis 4 run
Q4: 3/7, MT 33: Portis 2 run left
Q4: 4/5, MT 31: Portis -5 run left

CALIFORNIA (5)

Q1: 2/8, CAL 12: Darrius Heyward-Bey 9 end around
Q1: 1/G, CAL 3: Da’Rel Scott 2 run left
Q1: 2/6, UM 44: Portis 2 option keeper
Q2: 1/10, CAL 35: Calls timeout
Q2: 2/7, CAL 44: Laterals out of bounds for loss of 6

EASTERN MICHIGAN (13)

Q2: 3/8, UM 40: Portis play-action incomplete to Oquendo
Q4: 1/10, EMU 16: Portis 6 run right
Q4: 2/8, UM 45: Portis 5 run up the middle (roughly 7 minutes left, Portis plays from here)
Q4: 3/3, 50: Portis 7 run up the middle
Q4: 1/10, EMU 43: Oquendo 43 touchdown pass to Isaiah Williams
Q4: 1/10, UM 20: Portis 17 run right
Q4: 1/10, UM 37: Portis 33 run
Q4: 1/10, EMU 30: Morgan Green 0 run
Q4: 2/10, EMU 30: Portis 6 run
Q4: 3/4, EMU 24: Portis 8 run
Q4: 1/10, EMU 16: Portis 8 run
Q4: 2/2, EMU 8: Portis 8 touchdown run
Q4: 1/10, UM 18: Portis kneel for -3

AT CLEMSON (5)

Q1: 2/10, CU 42: Portis right end for 1
Q1: 2/9, CU 17: Portis right end for 9
Q2: 3/3, CU 8: Phil Costa false start
Q3: 1/10, CU 42: Costa false start
Q4: 2/12, CU 44: Scott 2 run left

AT VIRGINIA (3)

Q2: 2/10, UM 43: Portis 6 run (plus Scott Burley penalty for late hit)
Q2: 2/6, UVA 43: Portis 3 run right
Q3: 1/10, UM 46: Portis run wiped out by Dan Gronkowski hold

WAKE FOREST (5)

Q3: 2/5, UM 44: Portis 5 run
Q4: 2/7, UM 41: Heyward-Bey 1 run
Q4: 1/10, UM 42: Portis 9 run left (Portis plays from here)
Q4: 2/1, WF 49: Portis -4 run
Q4: 3/5, UM 47: Portis 3 run

N.C. STATE (0-DNP)

AT VIRGINIA TECH (0-DNP)

NORTH CAROLINA (3)

Q2: 2/13, UM 27: Portis 12 draw
Q2: 1/10, 50: Portis incomplete for Heyward-Bey
Q4: 1/15, UM 26: Portis 7 run and lost fumble

FLORIDA STATE (0-DNP)

AT BOSTON COLLEGE (0-DNP)

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It worked well the last time, so here’s the same breakdown of snaps, with the work from the final six games tossed in.

BY QUARTER: First 6, Second 13, Third 6, Fourth 21

BY OUTCOME: Portis run 30, Portis handoff/lateral 7, Penalty negates play 4, Portis pass 3, Portis kneel 1, Timeout called 1.

BY DOWN: First 19, second 18, third 8, fourth 1

Some will say Portis was completely misused. Others will say he simply wasn’t good enough to make it onto the field. Trust me, I’ve heard both of those arguments.

In all honesty, I still don’t know quite what to make of the guy. But I do know for all of the hype surrounding Portis when he transferred, and then the Sturm und Drang when he was suspended last season, the experctations were considerably higher than the following stat line:

31 carries, 186 yards, 1 TD, 1-for-3 passing for 4 yards

Those numbers scream “third running back” (albeit an efficient one), not “freakish athlete” or “game-changer.”

It was the former role that Portis filled this season, essentially mothballed when the luxury of playing three tailbacks expired and conference play cranked up. That’s also the point where quarterback continuity seemed to become more important.

And with Chris Turner theoretically entrenched as the starting quarterback heading into 2009, it is difficult to envision a scenario in which that changes without an injury involved.

Patrick Stevens

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