Statistically, Marshaun Coprich and James Robinson are the two most productive running backs in Illinois State Redbird football history. Ironically, both players wore No. 25.
Last week, the ISU football Twitter account hailed the duo for their rewriting of the program record book over the past seven seasons.
According to the ISU athletic website, Coprich (2012-15) is school's all time leader in rushing yards (5,195), attempts (926), touchdowns (59), all-purpose yards (5,801), points scored (362) and total touchdowns (60). The California native also owns every ISU single-season rushing record and finished his collegiate career ranked second in Missouri Valley Football Conference history in rushing yards and with 59 rushing touchdowns behind Zach Zenner of South Dakota State.
Coprich, a two-time All-American on numerous teams, was selected as the MVFC Offensive Player of the Year both his junior and senior seasons. Coprich finished fifth in the voting for the Walter Payton Award (given to the best player in FCS football) his junior season and finished third in the voting for the STATS FCS Offensive Player of the Year Award his senior season.
Since leaving Illinois State, Coprich has spent time in an NFL camp as well as playing briefly in the Canadian Football League and the now-defunct Alliance of American Football. It was reported earlier this year that Coprich had signed with the rebooted XFL.
Meanwhile, Robinson ranks second in the ISU career record books in rushing yards (4,368), yards per rush (5.65), rushing touchdowns (42), total touchdowns scored (44) and all-purpose yards (5,126).
Robinson, a Rockford native, was a three-time first team all-conference selection and a Walter Payton Award finalist the past two seasons. He is expected to be a mid-round selection in the 2020 NFL Draft.
In six career playoff games, Coprich rushed 145 times for 844 yards (5.82 average) with nine touchdowns. He also caught 10 passes for 27 yards.
At 5-foot-9 and 205 pounds, Coprich was an integral part of the Redbirds' run to the national championship game that capped the 2014 season. He rushed for over 100 yards in three of the four postseason games — including a 259-yard, four-touchdown performance in the quarterfinals.
In three career playoff games, Robinson has rushed for 499 yards on 79 carries (6.31 average) and three touchdowns. He also caught three passes for 16 yards. Robinson returned three kickoffs for 87 yards his freshman year against Central Arkansas.
In this year's first-round playoff game at Southeast Missouri State, the 5-foot-10, 225-pound Robinson set a school and conference record with 297 rushing yards. In ISU's two postseason games this fall, Robinson has gone for 507 yards on 78 carries (6.5 average) and three touchdowns.
While Coprich certainly benefited from playing in the same backfield as dual-threat star Tre Roberson during that '14 playoff run, Robinson has shouldered most of the load this season with redshirt freshman Bryce Jefferson filling in for injured starter Brady Davis.
"We've certainly been spoiled to have those guys these past years in the backfield," Mike Williams, ISU Assistant Athletics Director/Communications, told Prairie State Pigskin.
Redbird Football Radio Network sideline reporter Craig Bertsche has watched both players in action from field level.
"Marshaun’s playoff performance against Eastern Washington in the 2014 quarterfinals was the best playoff performance I’ve seen from a Redbird. He had 259 yards and four touchdowns, including a 74-yard run in the fourth quarter to clinch the win," Bertsche told Prairie State Pigskin. "Marshaun was viewed as a slasher, but he could go for 30 carries and still seem fresh because he didn’t take the big hit.
"Robinson’s 297-yard effort against SEMO was maybe the most dominant effort I’ve seen. He imposed his will on the Redhawks, impressive given their talented line backing corps. James seems to relish contact—it’s like he’s insulted that a defender challenges him. Both had the ability to deliver a spirit crushing run in the fourth quarter. ISU is fortunate to have two of the Valley’s best running backs in history so close together. James is the more complete running back given his ability to catch passes and block, which is why he’s a second day-NFL draft prospect."
Former football coach turned ISU broadcaster and indoor football executive Ted Schmitz has also seen both backs in their Redbird careers.
"Coprich had more speed runs and James more power runs," Schmitz told Prairie State Pigskin. "James is a better receiver and also a better pass blocker. He has a chance to make an NFL roster."
Williams added, "Very different (players) in a lot of ways, but very similar as well. Marshaun's speed was elite. When he got into the open field, he was gone. He was a burner, but the thing that people forget about Marshaun is that he was not afraid to initiate contact. A lot of times he didn't have to because he was shifty side-to-side or when he hit a hole, he was just gone. But, he would run over somebody if he had to.
"James is like what Coach (Spack) talks about all the time; he's your prototypical Big 10-kind of power back. He's certainly got enough speed to run away from you, but not a guy that's going to win a lot of 100-meter or 40-meter runs. His patience is what makes him so good along with his balance. He does not go down on first contact. Those are the two things about him that really impress me."