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Brawn and Brains: How running backs Zamir White, Brittain Brown stood out in their college careers


The Silver and Black have been intentional about creating depth at the running back position this offseason — with good reason.

Running back is one of the more grueling positions in football, and in today's NFL, the more good ones your team has, the better. The Raiders already had the services of Pro Bowler Josh Jacobs along with the versatile Kenyan Drake. To bolster the corps behind them, they made a few free-agent signings, and also took two swings in the 2022 NFL Draft with Zamir White in the fourth round and Brittain Brown in the seventh. White is coming off a national championship season at Georgia while Brown saw plenty of snaps between his stints at Duke and UCLA.

"I'd say running back is just a tough position in the league. Those guys take a pounding, and it's a physical position," General Manager Dave Ziegler said after the draft. "Being able to add young players there to compete, see if they can find a role, and again, it goes back to what was available and the best players that were available when it was our turn to pick. Zamir was there and Brittain was there, so we selected those players."

Let's take a look at how the two draft picks compare and contrast.

No one man should have all that power

If you don't adequately wrap up Zamir White on a tackle, you're toast.

White picked up the nickname "Zeus" for a reason: He will run over you at lightning speed. The running back's greatest strength is his ability to keep his feet moving on plays. White excels at running through contact, and the film frequently shows two or three defenders trying to take him down on tackles. Last season, White averaged more than five yards per carry with 580 yards after contact and 31 broken tackles.

The 6-foot-1, 220-pounder believes his biggest strengths include running "downhill, fast, powerful, quick [and to] make guys miss." White said after being drafted that he models his game after Leonard Fournette and fellow Georgia running back Nick Chubb, who both can be seen as solid comparisons to White's game. Raiders Head Coach Josh McDaniels couldn't pass up the opportunity to add someone of White's skillset to the roster.

"He's played against a real high level of competition. He's a physical, tough, downhill runner," said McDaniels. "He's got burst and speed. He'll be physical in blitz pickup. They didn't throw him the ball a ton, but he's got adequate ability in the passing game."

"He's going to bring some skills into that running back room and I know he's going to compete his butt off and try to earn whatever role he can," continued McDaniels. "But I also know he's an unselfish kid with a great attitude and loves football, and whatever we ask him to do, I'm sure he's going to do it with a great mindset and great work ethic."

Patience is a virtue

What makes Brittain Brown stand out is his intelligence and patience.

Duke is regarded as one of the most prestigious universities in the country, and quite frankly, you've got to be pretty smart to get in there. Brown's smarts between the hashed can be seen in his knack to run through the right gap. He frequently shows patience while awaiting for his offensive line to develop gaps before he bursts through for big gains. His above-average speed and physicality allows him to shift through defenders and make plays. Over his past two seasons at UCLA, he averaged over six yards a carry and had eight carries for over 20 yards while at Duke.

"I'd say I've got an aggressive play style, but I think I'm able to do a lot of things that the running backs must do in today's game," Brown said during his introductory draft press conference. "I can catch the ball outside the backfield, I can run in between the tackles. I like to model my game after Adrian Peterson because that's my favorite running back. I think the way he runs is the way you're supposed to run the ball."

Paydirt specialists

The one great attribute both running backs possess is how to get to the end zone.

Last season, the Raiders were in the middle of pack in the NFL in the category of rushing touchdowns (14). Both White and Brown have had great success in the collegiate careers of scoring within the red zone. White has been used as a battering ram, opposing his will in the end zone with power and acrobatic maneuvers. Brown, on the other end, has done well getting in the end zone off option plays and jet sweeps.

White and Brown combined for 33 rushing touchdowns their last two seasons in college, something to be optimistic about moving forward.

View the best photos from the second day of the Las Vegas Raiders' OTAs at Intermountain Healthcare Performance Center.

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