He was once the top running back prospect in the state of Florida. He set a state record with 2,836 rushing yards to go along with an astounding 37 touchdowns. He had 200 or more yards in each of 11 consecutive games.
This five-star recruit didn’t go to Florida, where many of the top recruits end up. He didn’t elect to go to Miami or Florida State or any other school that would have given him more recognition and thrust him farther into the limelight. He chose USF to be his home for the next four years.
When Mike Ford elected to join the Bulls, the entire campus was abuzz. Everywhere I turned someone was asking or talking about Ford – the best running back in the state of Florida. I was constantly told to watch his high school highlights on YouTube.
Maybe this could be another case of an over-hyped player coming to a team and not living up to the promise. We would have to see it for ourselves.
Well, we did. In his first game as a South Florida Bull, he disproved the doubters by scoring three touchdowns and averaging 13.8 yards per carry. In his second game against a tough Auburn defense he came away with 90 total yards and a touchdown on 21 carries and one reception.
Unfortunately, that would be, by far, the most action he would receive. He has not received more than eight carries in the last four games.
Common explanations and thought could be that this star running back may be good because he is a freshman and has to earn his dues. Benjamin Williams is proven and hasn’t been outplayed yet.
Fellow freshman Jamar Taylor sees more action than Ford does. Yes, Taylor has less carries, but he does have more receptions and is on the field almost twice as much as Ford.
As an avid football fan with a coaching mentality, I can’t explain the decision to not feed this 6-foot-2, 225-pound workhorse the ball. This athlete falls forward every play, averages a team-high 5.2 yards per carry and is second only to quarterback Matt Grothe in USF touchdowns scored with seven.
One thing that has kept me sane over the past few games is the fact that I don’t know what happens behind closed doors on the team. Maybe Ford isn’t doing well in school or isn’t getting along with teammates. I would say, “maybe he’s learning a life lesson from the coach. Maybe the coaches lost faith in him when he had three fumbles in two games.”
I chalked it up to wisdom on the coach’s part.
That was before Rutgers.
Now I am furious and I want answers. Not only was he not utilized for the fourth game in a row, but he had the fewest rushing attempts all season. Against the Scarlet Knights, Ford carried the ball only four times for nine yards.
Of course, when he was put in on the goal line he did his job and punched through the line with purpose for yet another touchdown.
Although Ford is a special back with a great mixture of power and speed, he can’t be used like a Reggie Bush and only come in the game for certain situations. He is the type of back who will wear down the defense with his upfront and hard-hitting style of play. If he and Williams can each get 10-15 carries a game, it would take pressure off Matt Grothe to always supply the offense.
Maybe now that USF’s “championship” run has been clearly put to rest, coach Jim Leavitt will try to make a Ford appearance on the field a more consistent occurrence.
There are plenty of teams out there that would make him a feature back, which he is fully capable of being, even as a freshman. He came here to play, not sit.