The 2018 Miami Hurricanes running back situation is an about-face from a season ago. Mark Walton was the marquee attraction, but went down with a season-ending ankle injury, opening the door for Travis Homer to soak up the spotlight as the primary ball carrier in 2017. Freshman athlete DeeJay Dallas, who is blessed with so much talent that a few position coaches were surely making the case to add him to their meeting room, ended up a member of RB coach Thomas Brown’s running back room. Dallas burst onto the scene, finessing defenders with every carry for a big gain and hyping up the Canes’ fanbase in the process. Oh, and the Hurricanes brought in two of the best RBs at the high school level in the country in Lorenzo Lingard and Cam’ron Davis.
Looks like Thomas Brown and head coach Mark Richt have one of those good problems of divvying up carries this season.
Let’s clear the air here. Incumbent starter Travis Homer has done nothing to lose any carries, or to be discounted in any manner. Recently named to Doak Walker Award watch list, Homer’s 966 rushing yards, 5.9 yards-per-carry and eight rushing touchdowns in 2017 attest to his productivity. Factor in his 18 receptions for 219 receiving yards with one receiving touchdown and you began to see why the coaching staff trust him as the lead back. Now, as the unquestioned starter entering the season, Homer will not only be expected to carry the bulk of the load on the ground for the Canes, but to be looked upon as a leader and mentor for the rushers on his coattails.
One such player in the mix is DeeJay Dallas. You could make the case that No.13 was the most electric player on the field for the Hurricanes a season ago. Dallas has an uncanny ability to avoid tackles, make defenders miss and slither for extra yardage upon contact. Having lined up in multiple positions (RB, QB, WR), it’s the versatility of the Brunswick, Georgia, native that has Canes supporters begging to see the him get more shots with the ball in his hand. Ask and you shall receive — or, to be accurate, get swole this off-season and you’ll get more carries. In order to handle the punishment RBs endure, Dallas put on some added bulk to what was once a small frame. With the added size, there is a belief that Dallas could, and should, see an uptick in touches on offense if the Canes want to be serious contenders in the coming months.
The buzz around freshman RB Lorenzo Lingard has been fairly substantial since the Orange City, Florida, native committed to the U in February of 2017. The 6’0, 202 pound tailback possesses legitimate track speed to go along with a frame that dishes out punishment to those who cross his path. An early enrollee this past spring, Lingard has been impressing his teammates and coaches in his on-field orientation with the Hurricanes. After rushing for over 2,500 yards in high school, there’s reason to believe that the man wearing the #1 jersey will exceed expectations soon, if not immediately. Starting in August and playing through January — hopefully — Miami familia will bare witness to the next chapter in the story of Lorenzo Lingard.
After the Big 3 at the position, you’ think there’d be a drop-off to fill out the remainder of the depth chart, but the Canes have plenty of quality backs on the roster this year that would be capable of carrying the load should injuries arise to any of the starters. There’s intriguing potential for players who have not received the same size of publicity entering the season, however. Former four-star Carol City running back Cam’ron Davis is flying under the radar after being the final member of the 2018 recruiting class to arrive on campus. A talented back in his own right, Davis has the opportunity in camp to make up some ground and time as he makes his case for playing time. Redshirt freshman RB Robert Burns endured an injury-plagued season, but has overcome a lingering shoulder injury suffered in last year’s spring practice. Recently Burns was able to remind coaching staff and teammates why he was a take in the ‘17 recruiting class by taking part in spring practices months ago. Should Burns continue to put forth a clean bill of health, Miami can lay claim to possessing the most talented and more abundant group of running backs in the ACC.
Don’t call it a comeback. …Actually, after an absence last season, perhaps this would qualify. Miami will feature more two-back formations that are led with a fullback. The battle to be the battering ram in the run game entering camp boils down to former running back Trayone Gray and freshman Realus George Jr. Standing tall at 6’2, 240 pounds, Gray is one of the biggest members of the running back room. There have been flashes of brilliance as a traditional running back for Gray, so it should be intriguing to see how the senior translates to the new position. Although he’s listed as a freshman, George is the odds-on favorite to come out ahead of the running back in this competition. At 6’2, 255 pounds, George was ranked as one of the best fullbacks at the high school level and should help the Canes run game with blocking and pass-protection.
Last year’s running back group amounted to Mark Walton, Travis Homer and plenty of questions marks. This current group stands to provide enormous potential from the top to the bottom of the depth chart.
IT’S ALWAYS ABOUT THE U!