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Spring Football Position Preview: Running Backs

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2019 looks bright for a group featuring two rising sophomores and the electrifying DeeJay Dallas

NCAA Football: Duke at Miami Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

In 2018, it’s no surprise that the Miami Hurricanes offense was nothing short of horrid. Averaging just 18 points a game in the final seven games, the Hurricanes’ offense under Jon and Mark Richt failed to run or pass the football effectively at a consistent rate.

Over the course of the season, the Hurricanes running game, led primarily by junior Travis Homer and then-sophomore DeeJay Dallas, Miami averaged 197 yards a game and scored 25 total rushing touchdowns.

Key Losses:

For 2019, the Hurricanes will be without 2018 leading-rusher Travis Homer, who declared for the NFL Draft as a junior.

In 2018, the Oxbridge Academy product ran for 985 yards (6.0 per carry) and 4 touchdowns. Homer also added 186 yards on 12 receptions. Despite a decrease in production from Homer’s 2017 campaign, Homer still showed flashes of lead-back potential. In Miami’s 24-3 win over Pittsburgh, Homer ran for 168 yards on just eight carries and added a touchdown.

Homer’s overall impact will be tough to replace. While the Hurricanes’ running back room is deep, Homer provided both leadership and talent during a dark time for the Miami offense.

Key Additions:

NCAA Football: Liberty at Auburn
After transferring to Miami from Auburn, Asa Martin (3) is poised to sit out the 2019 season with eyes on carving a role in 2020.
John Reed-USA TODAY Sports

Despite being interested and having a commitment in 4-star recruit Marcus Crowley and Miami legacy Mark-Antony Richards, the Hurricanes will go into the 2019 season with just one more running back: sophomore Asa Martin, who transferred from Auburn to Miami.

Before going to Auburn, Martin was a composite 4-star recruit according to 247Sports and was named Mr. Alabama his senior season. Martin had offers from Alabama and Clemson before choosing Auburn.

While at Auburn, the intention among both Martin and the coaches was to redshirt. However, Martin played in his fifth-game against Mississippi State, burning his redshirt and leading Martin to transfer.

While Martin will have to sit out in 2019, he’ll be a welcome addition in 2020, when he enters as a redshirt sophomore.

The Returning Pieces:

Despite losing Homer, the Hurricanes will still return three pieces of what looks to be a talented running back room next season.

The first is likely starter, DeeJay Dallas, who enters his junior season. Primarily being used as a spell to Homer, Dallas was originally a wide receiver for the Hurricanes, before moving to the backfield after the injury to Mark Walton in 2017.

Last season, Dallas tallied 702 yards from scrimmage with 6 touchdowns. With over 100 carries on the ground, Dallas’ primary responsibility was to provide coverage for Homer when his struggles came. Dallas was also used as a punt returner for the Hurricanes, where he had a touchdown.

This year, expect Dallas to carry the ball about 150 times over the course of the season and get a good chunk of receptions out of the backfield. Electrifying speed should allow Dallas to be an impact not only on the ground but also through the air when he leaves the backfield.

Behind Dallas will likely be a combination of true sophomores Lorenzo Lingard and Cam’Ron Davis.

Ranked as a consensus 5-star coming out of high school, Lingard played in six games as a freshman before his season was ended with a knee injury sustained in practice. In those six games, Lingard finished with 17 carries, where he ran for 136 yards and two touchdowns.

Lingard is the closest thing to a lead back that the Hurricanes have. A perfect blend of power and speed with loads of potential, Lingard has a good chance of taking over the starting shot from Dallas.

Davis was a late season revelation for the Hurricanes. After only compiling six carries in the team’s first nine games, Davis had been given a chance against both Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech, where he rewarded Mark Richt with two touchdowns and 125 yards on just 13 carries.

Davis isn’t as talented as Lingard but his talents are clear. While he likely won’t be the second running back on the depth chart, it’s likely we see Davis get some touches and provide flashes of his skills.

Past Davis is Robert Burns, a redshirt sophomore with limited action last season. Burns finished last season with just 2 carries. At 5-11, 215, Burns is a powerful back capable of providing spurts when given production.

Usage

Using Dan Enos’ history as an offensive coordinator at Arkansas (2015-2017), there’s a way we can gauge how the carries are split up.

In 2015 and 2016, Arkansas had one “lead back” with Alex Collins and Rawleigh Williams III getting 271 and 245 carries apiece. While the Hurricanes likely don’t have a back capable of getting 250+ carries, DeeJay Dallas will likely get anywhere from 170-200+ carries.

After Dallas, Lingard will likely get over 120 touches as he recovers from his 2018 knee injury. Davis is a weirder scenario. Depending on how Enos uses the running backs, Davis could get anywhere from 60-100 carries as the third running back on the depth chart.

After that, Burns will likely be the fourth-string running back because of the depth at the position and will likely not get enough carries to make a major impact.