Despite earning well-deserved accolades for his electrifying play and outstanding
gridiron accomplishments as the featured runner for Northern Illinois during
the last two and a half seasons, running back Garrett
Wolfe is a classic example of a collegiate star that likely will enjoy only
limited success in the National Football League because of his size.
The talented Wolfe, who currently holds a combined 12 school, conference and
NCAA records, will figure into the plans of a franchise
that is looking for a third-down/situational back and special teams player in
the lower rounds.
Wolfe's prep football career started with two unremarkable seasons at Fenwick
High School (Chicago), but his fortunes changed after he transferred to Holy
Cross High School (Chicago) following his sophomore year. Wolfe earned all-state
honors and numerous other awards as a tailback, amassing 4,311 rushing yards
and 56 touchdowns on 560 carries (7.7 yards per rush) during the 2000-01 seasons.
He did play on special teams as a junior, returning nine kickoffs for 378 yards
(42 yards per return) and three touchdowns (91, 89 and 87 yards, respectively).
Wolfe set 11 school records before he graduated.
His college career also started slowly. Northern Illinois redshirted Wolfe
during his 2002 freshman season, and he missed the entire 2003 season due to
academic problems. Wolfe finally received some limited playing time during the
first half of the 2004 season as the No. 3 tailback before he finally landed
the starting job. Wolfe finished the year leading the Mid-American Conference
with 256 carries for 1,656 yards (6.5 yards per rush) and 18 touchdowns, along
with 182.2 all-purpose yards per, in just six starts. He also notched 10 receptions
for 117 yards and three touchdowns while also racking up 231 yards on 11 kickoff
returns. Wolfe earned Mid-American Conference first-team honors and other awards.
Wolfe started nine of 11 games in 2005 (he missed two contests with a knee
injury), but he still led the conference in rushing for the second straight
season. Wolfe amassed 1,580 rushing yards and 16 touchdowns on 242 carries (6.5
yards per rush). He caught 20 passes for 222 yards and one touchdown. In addition,
he racked up 1,802 total yards and scored 102 points. Wolfe stepped into the
national limelight thanks to strong performances against two teams from the
Big Ten Conference. Against Michigan, Wolfe rushed 17 times for 148 yards and
scored on a 76-yard run. He also rushed 34 times for 245 yards and scored three
touchdowns against Northwestern. Wolfe's laundry list of 2005 awards included
MAC Player of the Year honors.
Wolfe's 2006 senior season was his most productive. He started 13 games and
led the nation in rushing with 1,900 yards, on 289 carries (6.6 yards per rush),
to go along with 18 touchdowns. He also caught 26 passes for 247 yards and one
touchdown, piled up 2,147 all-purpose yards and scored 116 points. Wolfe received
national acclaim for a strong performance against then-No. 1 Ohio State, rushing
26 times for 171 yards. His single season total of 2,147 all-purpose yards ranks
second in Northern Illinois history behind the 2,284 yards amassed in 2002 by
running back Michael Turner (San
Diego Chargers). Wolfe also became the first player in MAC history to lead
the conference in rushing, all-purpose yardage and scoring for three consecutive
Wolfe started 27 of the 32 games in which he played at Northern Illinois. He
amassed career totals of 787 carries, 5,136 rushing yards, (6.5 yards per rush),
52 rushing touchdowns, 56 receptions, 586 receiving yards and five touchdowns.
He also totaled 231 yards on 11 kickoff returns and scored 344 points. In addition,
Wolfe touched the ball 854 times for 5,953 all-purpose yards.
Wolfe's production was outstanding, and he played at a top level against some
nationally respected teams during his collegiate career. Wolfe runs extremely
hard and plays with a lot of heart.
Recognized for his slashing running style, Wolfe displays an explosive burst
to the hole and outstanding quickness (4.43 40-yard dash) to the perimeter that
few other running backs possess.
At the combine, Wolfe notched a 4.08 time in the 20-yard shuttle and registered
a 6.69 time in the three-cone drill, which were both top marks among all running
backs tested. The 22-yard-old has great balance and change-of-direction ability;
he can make the first tackler miss.
Wolfe sees the field well, makes good decisions and shows patience in letting
his blocks develop. He has a strong upper-body (he bench pressed 225 pounds
a total of 18 times at the combine) and good leg drive (33-inch vertical jump).
Wolfe has done well protecting the football, fumbling just five times in the
last two seasons and has demonstrated good hands as a receiver.
Despite academic problems at Northern Illinois, Wolfe's intelligence is not
in question. Many believe that missing the 2003 season was a wakeup call for
Wolfe, and he started to apply himself in the classroom. Wolfe willingly has
spent extra hours in the film room. There have been no concerns about his character,
work ethic or attitude. Wolfe was a communications/media major.
Wolfe's lack of size (5-foot-7 3/8, 186 pounds) and concerns about his durability
at the next level are both red flags. Although Wolfe missed just three games
with injuries in college, his frame lacks the bulk to withstand the pounding
that a featured back in the NFL regularly absorbs.
Wolfe underwent surgery on his right shoulder twice during his college career
(spring 2005 and spring 2006), which has helped spark the doubts about his durability.
Although Wolfe is strong and has great leg drive, he lacks the necessary power
to run, consistently, up the middle and move the pile.
Wolfe occasionally struggles in short-yardage and goal-line situations; he
has a tendency to get stuffed when opposing defenses stack the line. Wolfe's
experience with route running was limited, because he was thrown to mostly on
dump-offs and screens. Wolfe lacks experience as a kickoff returner.
Wolfe has been wrongly compared with current NFL
players such as running back Maurice Jones-Drew
(Jacksonville Jaguars) and running back Leon
Washington (New York Jets). Wolfe, Jones-Drew
and Washington are all similar in height; however, Jones-Drew and Washington
both weigh in the low 200-pound range, while Wolfe weights just 186 pounds.
Wolfe lacks the size and bulk to serve as a featured back, which is what will
scare teams away from pulling the trigger on him in the early rounds. However,
he should bring impressive value to a club as a third-down/situational running
back and potential special teams kickoff/punt return specialist.
Wolfe likely will hear his named called in the fifth round. He could slide
up into the fourth round, if a team in need of a backup running back is enamored
with his speed. To survive in the NFL, Wolfe needs
to add at least 10 pounds of muscle without sacrificing his speed.