Don Chaney Jr. and Jaylan Knighton were two of the biggest commits of the 2020 Hurricanes recruiting class. 5-star and 4-star running backs in high school, both from South Florida, fans couldn’t wait to see what they did once they got to UM. Last season as a freshman, Chaney and Knighton showed us that the hype surrounding them was real, and also gave us flashes of what the next few years can be with them carrying the load on offense.
Coach Diaz on the Jaylan Knighton and Don Chaney Jr. "We think they have a great future ahead of them."— Marsh (@hurricanesmarsh) November 25, 2020
In 2020, Chaney finished the season with 322 yards and 3 touchdowns rushing, while Knighton added 209 yards and 1 touchdown. They were effective in the passing game as well, as Chaney added 11 catches for 143 yards, and Knighton finished with 11 receptions, for 135 yards and 1 touchdown. Knighton’s big highlight from 2020 came against Louisville, when he hauled in a 75-yard touchdown pass from D’Eriq King.
Towards the end of 2020, Chaney really shined at running back, and you can make the argument he looked like the best RB in Miami’s offense during the second half of the season. Against Duke, Chaney rushed for 62 yards and had 81 more yards through the air, ending the game with over 140 yards from scrimmage. In the bowl game against Oklahoma State, though he only had 6 carries, Chaney averaged 8.3 yards per attempt.
Knighton started the season off strong, with a 2 touchdown performance against Louisville, and rushing for a season high 59 yards in the opening game against UAB. Though, a shoulder injury in the Duke game ended his freshman campaign. However, Manny Diaz told reporters that Knighton is fully participating in spring practices.
Manny Diaz says Jaylan Knighton is full go for spring.— David Furones (@DavidFurones_) March 12, 2021
Heading into their second season at Miami, both are expected to take on larger roles in the Hurricanes offense and rushing attack. Cam’Ron Harris is returning for one more year, but I’d assume Rhett Lashlee’s distribution between the running backs will increase with Chaney and Knighton having a season under their belt.
● True Freshman Spotlight ●— NCAAF Nation (@NCAAFNation247) January 18, 2021
RB Jaylan Knighton - Miami
• Knighton has a ton of potential for the Canes. He rushed for 209 yards 1 TD and caught 11 passes for 135 yards 1 TD this year. pic.twitter.com/wpMTzuMYKq
Harris ended 2020 with significantly more offensive snaps (396) than Chaney (157) and Knighton (164). Miami finished 2020 ranked 68th in terms of their rushing offense, averaging just 162.5 yards per game on the ground. Increasing Chaney and Knighton’s snaps with them receiving more carries, I think you’ll see Miami become much more successful running the football.
Chaney is more of a pure running back, and can be bruising going up the middle, but also surprise you with his speed, as he had 3 rushes in 2020 that went over 20 yards. His strength however is really a strong aspect of his game, carrying defenders on his back and refusing to go down.
Knighton is your secret weapon on offense, a home-run hitter in the backfield, with open-field speed that’ll blow you away. What also makes Knighton so dangerous is how effective he can be in the passing game with screens and different concepts.
Jaylan “Rooster” Knighton was sharp in his collegiate debut, rushing for 59 yards on 9 carries.— Michael Yero (@MichaelYero) September 11, 2020
Knighton had an impressive 29-yard rush and sparked a touchdown run late in the 3Q. pic.twitter.com/ZZoG6l7iv2
The duo of Chaney and Knighton is one of the things I'm most looking forward to seeing as they enter year two, and if they become more involved in the offense, it’ll be a major step forward for the Canes and their young running backs.