So…..I wrote back in June about what I thought would happen with the 2016 running back group. Consider this article a what-did-I-get-right, and how-stupid-do-I-look piece of journalism……
For those interested in my crystal ball predictions, the article can be found here.
PREDICTED LEAD BACK: Mark Walton
At the time I wrote about the positional group back in June, Walton was still trying to beat a DUI charge, which was later dropped. Still, I thought that, even if he was to be suspended for a short amount of time, he would eventually rise to the top of the group, breaking 1000 yards along the way.
Well, the case was dropped, Walton didn’t miss any time, and he would rack up 1117 yards on the ground, the 7th-highest single season total in school history. He also broke 100 yards rushing in 6 games. His season high rushing total came early in the season against FAU, when he went for 155 yards.
Shining moment: There were several. Finding pay dirt 4 times against FAU was a nice tune up for a 14 TD performance on the season. Breaking free for an 80-yard touchdown at App State was my personal favorite single play of the entire season, I think. Maybe. But I think his performance at NC State, as the Canes were in the midst of a finally-finding-themselves 4-game winning streak, was perhaps the most meaningful and impactful of all of them. Against one of the better run defenses in the country, Walton found the end zone 3 times, including a 24-yarder in the game’s final minutes to seal the deal. That run showed Walton’s combination of power and speed, as he ran over 2 would-be tacklers at the line of scrimmage and outran the safety to the end zone.
Forgettable dud: Not many, really. I suppose a performance that should have been better – from everyone – was at Notre Dame, in what was probably the thumb-in-the-eye loss on the entire schedule. Walton averaged a season-low 2.5 ypc, although Miami turned to the pass more in the second half due to the score.
THE PREDICTED GUY WHO COULD PROVE ME A FOOL: Gus Edwards
REALITY: well….depends on how you define fool….
I thought Gus Edwards could be that battering ram that Richt would lean on in establishing a consistent rushing attack. Not so much. After starting 2016 off with a 7-carry-106-yard bang, Edwards apparently entered Richt’s dog house and stayed there for the first 2/3 of the season. Although he finished with a modest showing in the final 4 games of the year (outgaining Yearby during that stretch), he certainly did not prove to be the starter-type that could’ve made me look foolish. Perhaps I looked foolish by giving him too much preseason hype.
Shining moment: The opener (?). There weren’t many shining moments so to speak, as it’s hard to shine from the bench, nor when your only touchdown comes in week 1 against a push-over opponent.
Forgettable dud: I guess when your game rushing totals have you going backwards, that’s a forgettable dud. 3 carries for -1 yards in the yakker at South Bend.
THE PREDICTED THIRD GUY: Joe Yearby
Well…..in the strange reality show that is Living in Mark’s Dog House, it seems that Edwards was sent packing, and Yearby was brought in late in the season. But it was Yearby who started off the season strong in the Hurricanes’ opening games, torching FAMU and FAU for 105 and 121 yards, respectively, on a combined 27 carries. However, he would only break the 50-yard rushing mark 4 times the rest of the season. Following a 10-carry, 74-yard effort against UNC, Yearby wouldn’t see double-digit touches the rest of the season, seeing only 20 combined touches over the final 4 games of the season.
Shining moment: Taking the opening cream puffs out of consideration, Yearby’s 27-yard touchdown run against Georgia Tech on a power run to the right was impressive…..and big, as Tech would eventually pull within 28-21 late before Kaaya put the game away.
Forgettable dud: Probably an 8-carry, 28-yard performance against Pitt, which signaled the changing of the guard going forward at the backup position in favor of Edwards.
Final stats for 2016:
Walton – 209 carries, 1117 yards, 14 TD
Edwards – 59 carries, 290 yards, 1 TD
Yearby – 102 carries, 602 yards, 7 TD
So, what do you all think? Did the running back group play out as you thought/expected/hoped?