Mark Walton. Travis Homer. There are your two healthy scholarship running backs as the spring winds down to a close. Oft-injured through high school, freshman Robert Burns started the spring practicing but went down with a shoulder injury early. Redshirt junior Trayone Gray has missed the spring as he recovers from an ACL injury.
The good news: all signs point to those two being healthy and ready to go by fall camp, along with the two healthy RB’s first mentioned. The bad news: that's still only four players at one of the most vulnerable positions in the game, and again, half are coming off of injuries.
Now, there’s certainly talent in the RB corps, especially as Mark Walton returns from a 1,000 yard rushing season and is one of the best returning RB’s in the country. There is a lot of high hope for speedy sophomore Travis Homer, who saw most of his action on the field last year with the special teams where he made a wealth of plays. Even Robert Burns, when he was healthy in high school, showed solid promise to be a good college football player. He still has to prove he can be healthy and produce at the college level just like Gray.
There's a lot of potential for this group, but they still need help as the depth is far from ideal. You never want to have one player (Walton) get the vast majority of a team’s carries, no matter how much talent that player may posses. Even solely relying on two RB’s (add in Homer) is walking a dangerous line. All it takes is one injury and Miami goes from treacherous to sound-all-alarms. There is a reason that Mark Richt has said that he has had nightmares concerning RB depth this spring.
With that said, the head man is well aware of the situation. He has said that he believes both Burns and Gray are expected to be ready by fall camp and he believes there's a good chance to bring in a transfer to come in and play immediately (hi, Tyshon Dye). Miami has hosted the Clemson grad-transfer and by all accounts, it seems as if he should eventually make his way on to the roster after he graduates from Clemson.
There also remains the possibility of moving freshman Deejay Dallas over to RB from wide receiver, where he is currently training. Mark Richt expressed his desire to not to have to make that change for the true-freshman, but did say that he would likely be the first player to make the move over to RB if needed. Dallas is a gifted athlete and a player that came in without a true position, having played all over the field during high school.
While comfort should be taken from the confidence that Richt feels in adding another body to the RB group, uncertainty still follows. Dye wouldn't necessarily project as a RB2 to Walton’s RB1, but he would surely be a welcomed addition to a decimated group. He is also experienced and by all accounts, healthy, something that Burns and Gray can not currently say about themselves.
While depth is a bit terrifying at this position as it stands, it appears that help should be on the way. So, could RB depth become a major problem for Miami this year? Absolutely, but there is talent at the top to rely on and a coaching staff to trust in. An improving WR group should also aid in the run game and make it easier on whoever is the RB in the backfield at any time.
Additionally, there is a very good chance that whoever the QB is for the Canes, will be able to use his legs to create plays, whether it be Malik Rosier, Evan Shireffs, or N’Kosi Perry.
Yes, RB depth is very concerning, but it is something the coaches recognize and are trying to resolve. For now, we wish the injured RB’s a smooth recovery and health, and for Walton and Homer to remain healthy.