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Miami Hurricanes 2023 position preview: Running Back

Injuries plagued the 2022 backfield - who’s ready to step up?

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COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 24 Middle Tennessee at Miami Photo by Samuel Lewis/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

With apologies to the offensive line, Miami’s running back room was probably the most injury stricken unit in 2022. Miami only had three scholarship running backs available at the start of last season. Building depth was a clear priority for Coach Mario Cristobal, so the Hurricanes brought in a top transfer as well as a pair of four star freshmen to bolster three returning backs coming off injuries last season. In 2023, a deeper group of running backs will be running behind a rebuilt, and theoretically improved, offensive line. The opportunity is there for one or more of these young men to have a breakout year.

New position coach Tim Harris Jr. should be a breath of fresh air. It certainly helps that he bleeds orange and green. Harris Jr. is a member of the UM Sports Hall of Fame for being a four-time All American runner at Miami. His younger brother, Brandon Harris, was a touted CB for the Canes. His father, Tim “Ice” Harris, spent most of his career coaching at either UM or Booker T. Washington. Harris Jr. comes to Miami after serving as the RB coach and assistant head coach at UCF where the Golden Knights averaged 228.4 rushing yds per game, good for ninth nationally. Quite frankly, UM has nowhere to go but up after averaging a paltry 3.8 yds per carry last season. Harris Jr.’s deep ties to the South Florida community should also help pitching local recruits to stay home.

The Lead Back

Henry Parrish, Jr.

2022 Stats: 10 Games, 130 Rush. Att., 616 Rush. Yds., 4 Rush. Tds., 17 Rec., 120 Rec. Yds., 2 Rec. Tds.

2020 Recruiting Class, Highest Ranking (Rivals): 4 stars, No. 149 Nat’l, No. 10 RB

Parrish, an Ole Miss transfer last summer, was the 2022 Hurricanes’ leading rusher despite missing the Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech games. As the coaching staff lost faith in turnover prone Jaylon Knighton, Parrish’s workload increased to a peak of 25 carries for 114 yds in an overtime victory against Virginia. Unfortunately, injuries would slow Parrish down as he averaged about 6 carries for 20 yds per game in the last three blowout losses to FSU, Clemson, and Pitt.

Parrish was the lone bright spot for the Canes’ beleaguered backfield. He earned All-ACC, Third Team honors despite the nagging injuries. Expect Parrish to start the season with primary first and second down workload. While repeat All Conference honors is well within reach for the incumbent RB1, behind Parrish is a stable of talented freshman and highly rated veterans returning from injuries.

2023 Prediction: 145 Rush Att., 700 Rush. Yds., 5 Rush. Tds., 15 Rec., 100 Rec. Yds., 1 Rec. Td

First Off the Bench

TreVonte’ Citizen

Syndication: The Clarion-Ledger
High School Sr. TreVonte’ Citizen stiff arms a defender
Barbara Gauntt/Clarion Ledger via Imagn Content Services, LLC

2022 Stats: 0 Games

2022 Recruiting Class, Highest Ranking (On3): 4 stars, No. 58 Nat’l, No. 2 RB

Citizen was a signing day centerpiece for Coach Cristobal’s first recruiting class, but offseason surgery kept him on the sidelines the entirety of his freshman season. His status remains a bit unknown as he was held out of the Spring Game, but Miami was anticipating that he’d be ready to go for fall practices. Citizen is the highest rated running back on the roster and has arguably the greatest upside.

When he’s ready to go, expect Citizen to get plenty of opportunities to demonstrate why he was such a highly rated prospect. Citizen has the potential to be a 20 carry a game feature back, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves considering that fans haven’t seen him a play a snap. I anticipate he will get early season chances to shine on third down. If he can remotely live up to his high school hype, don’t be surprised to see his workload steadily increase as the year progresses.

2023 Prediction: 80 Rush Att., 450 Rush. Yds., 3 Rush. Tds., 25 Rec., 350 Rec. Yds., 4 Rec. Tds.

Donald Chaney, Jr.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 10 Southern Miss at Miami
One of Chaney’s only two rushes last season
Photo by Peter Joneleit/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

2022 Stats: 1 Game, 2 Rush. Att., 8 Rush. Yds.

2020 Recruiting Class, Highest Ranking (247 Sports): 4 stars, No. 74 Nat’l, No. 5 RB

Chaney, the veteran of the bunch, has suffered one injury after another since a promising 332 rushing yd., 3 TD freshman year in which he saw action every game. Chaney is battling back from a torn ACL, but he was out there scrimmaging in the Spring Game and finished with four carries for 17 yards. When healthy, Chaney is a versatile back who has shown flashes of elite agility and power.

I would venture to guess that Chaney starts the season as the RB2 and first to spell Parrish. Canes fans are rooting for Chaney, but this is a backfield crowded with healthy veterans and hungry freshman who aren’t recovering from the serious injuries that Chaney has suffered. We’re all rooting for Chaney, but I think by midseason he’ll fall to 3rd or 4th in per game touches.

2023 Prediction: 40 Rush Att., 130 Rush. Yds., 1 Rush. Td., 5 Rec., 40 Rec. Yds.

Ajay Allen Jr.

2022 Stats (Nebraska): 4 Games, 33 Rush. Att., 190 Rush. Yds., 2 Rush. Tds., 1 Rec., 9 Rec. Yds.

2022 Recruiting Class, Highest Ranking (On3): 4 stars, No. 109 Nat’l, No. 5 RB

The Louisiana native originally committed to TCU before flipping to Nebraska on last year’s signing day. While the Horned Frogs played for a national title, the Huskers finally pulled the plug on the Scott Frost era and Allen decided to join the U. Allen is an exciting player who is really, really tough to tackle. He averaged 5.8 yds per carry his first four games before suffering a season ending injury.

Allen is an intriguing wild card. He could surpass Parrish’s arrival last season as an impactful RB transfer, or he could ride the bench the whole season. Either way, he should be eager to contribute and is a welcome addition to the room. I’m willing to bet he’ll have at least one breakout game this year, probably towards the back half of the season.

2023 Prediction: 40 Rush Att., 200 Rush. Yds., 2 Rush. Td., 2 Rec., 20 Rec. Yds.

The Freshmen

Mark Fletcher

Highest Ranking (247): 4 stars, No. 99 Nat’l, No. 6 RB

Christopher Johnson

Highest Ranking (On3): 4 stars, No. 197 Nat’l, No. 11 RB

Coach Cristobal was able to keep two, four star backs from Broward County home last recruiting cycle. Fletcher, who attended American Heritage, is a bruising 6’1”, 225 lbs while Johnson, from Dillard, is an elusive 5’11”, 169 lbs who was also an award winning sprinter (and is expected to run Track and Field during the off season). The pair compliment each other well and both have a promising future at Miami. Fletcher and Johnson are each talented enough to see the field this season especially if injuries get the better of Miami’s returning veterans. But presuming no major injury issues like last year, they’ll probably see the field just a few times while preserving their redshirts.

2023 Prediction (Fletcher): 15 Rush Att., 80 Rush. Yds., 1 Rush. Td., 2 Rec., 20 Rec. Yds.

2023 Prediction (Johnson): 5 Rush Att., 20 Rush. Yds., 5 Rec., 80 Rec. Yds., 1 Rec. Td.

Rounding Out the Depth Chart

Terrell Walden II

2022 Stats: 2 Games, 6 Rush. Att., 43 Rush. Yds., 1 Rush. Td.

2022 Recruiting Class, Unranked

Mike Peraino

2022 Stats: 0 games

2022 Recruiting Class, Unranked

Walden recorded five carries and a touchdown in mop-up time against Bethune Cookman last year. A Hurricane legacy (his father played DB for Miami), he will be available should the injury situation turn dire with the scholarship backs.

Peraino is an interesting cat. A walk-on member of the practice squad last year, Peraino is a self proclaimed “Italian Stallion” who certainly knows how to market himself. In fact, he was one of the few walk-on freshmen in the nation to earn NIL compensation.

If either Walden or Peraino see the field, something really good or something really bad happened. Either injuries completely decimated the running back room, the Canes are in a blowout and looking to preserve the scholarship players, or one of these guys is having a Stetson Bennett moment in surging past half a dozen four star recruits on the depth chart.


Who Will Lead the Hurricanes in Rushing in 2023?

This poll is closed

  • 38%
    Henry Parrish, Jr.
    (71 votes)
  • 17%
    TreVonte’ Citizen
    (33 votes)
  • 18%
    Donald Chaney, Jr.
    (35 votes)
  • 13%
    Ajay Allen, Jr.
    (25 votes)
  • 9%
    Mark Fletcher
    (18 votes)
  • 1%
    Christopher Johnson
    (2 votes)
  • 0%
    (1 vote)
185 votes total Vote Now