Regardless of the quarterback position battle outcome, whoever stands behind center in 2018 can be confident in handing the ball off to any of Miami’s deep, athletic, and talented running backs. Arguably the Canes’ best RB group since the early 2000s, head coach Mark Richt and offensive coordinator Thomas Brown will be challenged with devising game plans to exploit the wealth at this position.
Departed starter Mark Walton’s 2017 season was cut short by injury which gave Travis Homer and Deejay Dallas a heavy dosing of meaningful reps and leadership opportunities. In 2018, those two will be joined by blue chip freshmen and bolstered by returning veterans whose aim will be to keep the offensive motor car speeding down the road back to the ACC Championship.
Mark Walton’s early departure to the NFL will undoubtedly leave a void in on-field production and team leadership. In 2016, Walton surpassed the 1,000 yard benchmark, and in 2017 during relief of Walton’s injury, Travis Homer nearly did the same. While this bodes well for Miami’s running game, replacing Walton’s moxie and leadership will be a taller task. Players like Homer, Dallas, Lingard, and Burns are fully capable, but they must seize the opportunity both on the playing field and in the locker room.
Miami signed All-American football and track star Lorenzo Lingard in 2018 which provided Miami its first five star running back since Duke Johnson in 2012. As an early enrollee, Lingard has already given fans a glimpse of his first-class speed, but the fanfare surrounding Lingard has overshadowed fellow 2018 signee Camron Davis. Davis is an elite running back from Miami’s Carol City High School who can offer more ‘thunder’ to Lingard’s ‘lightning’. His powerful running style will earn him tough yards inside, and he can also sneak out of the backfield as a pass catching option.
This fall, the Canes will also likely feature 6’2” 245lbs. freshman fullback Realus George. Mark Richt has always kept a fullback package as a staple in his offense, and George fits Richt’s fullback prototype perfectly. Ranked number one at his position in 2018, Realus George already commands the physical abilities to advance the ball in short yardage and goal line situations.
Players at the Position
Crispian Atkins – Redshirt Junior
Robert Burns – Redshirt Freshman
Deejay Dallas – Sophomore
Camron Davis – Freshman
Realus George – Freshman
Trayone Gray – Redshirt Senior
Travis Homer – Junior
Lorenzo Lingard – Freshman
Travis Homer is assured the starting role, but there will be a heavy dosing of his position-mates as the season progresses. Deejay Dallas will see many snaps at the traditional running back position and will also be utilized as a receiver, passer, and who knows what else. Dallas is one of the best all-around athletes on the team, so he will have creative, nontraditional roles devised to get him the ball.
Although they may not start, players like Lorenzo Lingard and Robert Burns will also have opportunities to contribute and systematically work their way up the depth chart. Burns, specifically, has earned praise from coaches for his performance in spring practices, a welcome surprise after nagging injuries halted his entire freshman year.
Strength of the Unit
Speed. In Miami’s most recent strength and conditioning testing, the running backs put up other-worldly numbers showing an embarrassment of riches. In the 40-yard dash, Lingard ran a 4.27, Homer 4.31, and Dallas 4.45. Lingard was also featured as one of the fastest overall players in college football by nfl.com. This is the caliber of speed for which Miami is known and expected to have. Any of Miami’s running backs have the athleticism and breakaway speed to reach the end zone on any play.
A secondary strength of the group would be its depth. The Canes have about five running backs that are potential starters on any other power five football team which is reminiscent of the days when Miami dominated college football and competed regularly for national championships.
Biggest Concerns Entering 2018
The biggest concern is unfortunately something out of the running backs’ control. In 2017, the offensive line struggled at times to provide push off the line of scrimmage and create adequate running lanes. With many questions along the front five still unanswered entering 2018, opposing defenses could again neutralize Miami’s running game despite its high level of talent. A critical emphasis over summer and fall camp will be solidifying the offensive line to maximize Miami’s weapons at running back.