Over the past two years, Mark Walton has taken over as Miami’s feature back.
After rushing over 1000 yards on 209 carries last season, Walton found comfort behind veteran quarterback Brad Kaaya, and an offensive line unit that was the same his first two years.
But with the departure of Kaaya and the addition of new lineman such as Navaughn Donaldson, George Brown Jr., and Kai-Leon Herbert, the ‘Canes offense will undergo a lot of lineup changes in 2017.
While the changes will be beneficial for Miami on the line, the ‘Canes will have lean on Walton more than ever with a first-year starter at quarterback.
Add onto the inexperience at quarterback with depth issues beyond Travis Homer at the running back position, and the evidence is clear that Walton will have his work cut out for him in 2017.
“Mark can always get better but the thing about Mark is he is a perfectionist,” Offensive Coordinator/Runningbacks coach Thomas Brown said. “He will take whatever you tell him and try to perfect his craft which makes him even better every single day. When the rest of the guys in the room learn to follow that lead and that example, we will all get better.”
Walton has led by example since he stepped on campus in 2015, and due to the departure of Joseph Yearby and Gus Edwards on the depth chart behind him, the 5’9” back will be the only ball carrier on the roster who has had a season with over 100 carries.
Walton battled through injuries and stepped up in big moments for the ‘Canes in 2016, but his character was revealed more than ever by the way coaches say he has responded to the loss of his mother earlier this month.
“He’s a phenomenal kid,” Brown said. “Knowing him as a person and knowing what he has been through his entire life and even going through what he’s going through recently, I tell him all the time, or I told him before, I don’t always know how he does it.”
“He does a really good job of locking in, being focused, obviously we have a great network of family around him here to keep him in good spirits. But I think he does a really good job when he gets here of locking in, and tuning out everything else,” Brown said.
Walton will have a revamped offensive line and should be relied upon more with a new quarterback in 2017, and with questions surrounding positions such as tight end and quarterback this spring, Miami fans can rest easily knowing the top of the ‘Canes running back depth chart is solidified.