An open competition. That’s how offensive coordinator Thomas Brown described the state of the depth chart back in March. At running back, that sentiment may prove to ring truest. With Mark Walton graduating to the NFL, the Canes have a battle for the spot of RB1 on the roster for this fall. DeeJay Dallas will see carries and touches, likely at both RB and WR, but the competition will fall mostly between junior Travis Homer and freshman 5-star Lorenzo Lingard for top back duties.
One advantage Homer will have over his freshman teammate is Miami’s early schedule. Lingard will be facing a big step-up in the opposition he faces and it could take him some time to adjust to the speed of the college game. Considering LSU is Miami’s first opponent, Lingard may have to wait to play the Savannah State and FIUs of the world to see a steady amount of carries.
For Homer to grab the starting job and keep it throughout the season he is going to have to do the little things better than the much ballyhooed 5-star. The best way for the junior to gain favor with the coaching staff is by improving his already-strong ability as a pass protector.
In this play against Clemson, Homer is a part of the play-action fake but does a great job of keeping his head up to find the pass rusher he’ll need to pick up. With the Tigers showing blitz, Homer flashes toward TE Michael Irvin who pretty much gets beat off the snap.
Although Homer’s technique isn’t perfect, he does a good enough job of getting in the edge rusher’s way and allowing Rosier to step up in the pocket to deliver the pass.
Against FSU, Homer is one-on-one with a free rusher and exhibits much better technique in engaging his man. He’s patient and allows LB Jacob Pugh to work upfield before Homer takes him on.
Homer’s hands are in good position, within the defender’s pads, but for him to get better technique-wise he’s going to have to not drop his head and keep his feet square with his shoulders. But it’s his patience and ability to locate the free rusher that makes Homer, most likely, a better option on passing downs than Lingard.
Homer’s pass-blocking ability was good last year, make no doubt about it. His diagnosis ability and base of technique made him in the upper tier of pass protecting backs in the nation. For him to get better and really hone his ability, he’s going to have to continue working at and improving his technique until it’s all muscle memory.
Pass-blocking is not going to be the only thing that will keep Homer on the field in 2018. Homer’s jack-of-all-trades style should make him a good three down option and a worthy opponent for someone as talented as Lingard. Homer is very decisive as a runner and possesses great acceleration to go with solid overall speed and agility and is a much better open-field runner than his athleticism may indicate. He keeps his legs churning through his carries with good power and a very effective stiff-arm. He’s also a fine pass-catcher and has experience running routes out of the backfield and split out in the slot.
Lorenzo Lingard is going to be a part of the Miami offense in 2018, he’s too talented to be left out, but don’t discount Travis Homer’s abilities on third down as the lynchpin for him keeping ahold of the starting job even past week 1.