Looking back on Alton McCaskill’s 2021 breakout season
Freshman running back Alton McCaskill’s impact for Houston during the 2021-22 college football season was game-changing and served as a step in the right direction for the Cougars run game.
Just a season ago, the Cougars leading rusher was former running back Kyle Porter with 424 yards on just 105 carries. Junior quarterback Clayton Tune led the team in rushing touchdowns with five and the team as a whole mustered 1,145 yards rushing total for the year.
A lot has changed since then.
McCaskill alone carried the ball 189 times for 961 yards and 16 touchdowns, doubling Porters’ total rushing yards from a year ago and making it the most carries and yards from a UH running back since Kenneth Farrow back in 2015. The Cougars nearly doubled their total rushing yards from a year ago.
“There’s nothing he can’t do, he did not look like a freshman to me at all,” said UH football head coach Dana Holgorsen after McCaskill’s breakout game in September. “I think he’s going to turn into a feature back and a complete back.”
McCaskill’s 16 touchdowns were the most in the nation for a freshman and second-most in a single season in UH football program history. As a result, the 6-foot-1-inch running back out of Conroe was awarded AAC Rookie of the Year and named to the All-Conference second team.
“I’m here to be legendary and break records,” McCaskill said. “That’s been my mindset, I definitely want to put a stamp on this University with Alton McCaskill’s name on it.”
A stamp is exactly what was made his freshman season and the run game for UH has been redefined because of his success.
Despite being a freshman, the heavy workload has been welcomed by McCaskill.
“I just feel blessed that the coaches really trust me to be out there and showcase what I can do,” McCaskill said. “It’s better than anything I could’ve hoped for, I love it here.”
UH lost only one game during the 2021-22 season after making McCaskill the primary back in Week Two. And now that he is on board with the work, the run game is likely to see the same success as long as McCaskill is a part of the program.
The UH football team’s strength and recovery team is what allows McCaskill to remain confident as well as comfortable in taking on such a large role so early in his collegiate career.
“I believe we have the best in the nation as far as enforcing recovery,” McCaskill said. “Keeping our bodies as strong and healthy as possible.”
While a solid offensive line upfront is typically the most vital in the success of a running back, McCaskill believes the defense he practices against every week is really the key to him getting better and being able to produce in games.
“We have a really good defense,” McCaskill said. “Going against them every day made me better and more equipped to go showcase what I can do in a game. I feel like we have the best defense in our conference.”
UH ranked first in the conference and 10th in the nation in rushing defense during 2021, giving McCaskill some of the best competition in the country to practice against, making it even easier to translate into games.
Holgorsen liked what he saw in year one from McCaskill, the expectation is that the player’s production will continue and in turn, so will his impact during his sophomore campaign.
“He’s mature for a true freshman,” Holgorsen said. “I love everything I see about him.”