Arizona has some depth at running back next season, but it won’t mean much unless Nick Wilson can stay healthy.
In terms of talent, Wilson is clearly the best back on Arizona’s roster. The issue is that he wasn’t healthy enough this past season to show it and it is difficult to put any faith into the belief that he will be able to remain healthy next season.
If Wilson is healthy, he is going to be the main back and if not, that’s when things are a bit more up in the air.
We feel confident in what we saw from Orlando Bradford to believe he is going to get plenty of carries next season and certainly more than he got this past season.
Some would make the argument that he didn’t get enough touches his freshman season and we wouldn’t necessarily disagree.
With Jared Baker gone, the only player in Bradford’s way is Wilson and there’s no way that he is going to get 25 carries a game with his lack of ability to stay healthy.
Bradford is a powerful runner and similar to Wilson in running style. He showed flashes of what he could do as recent as the New Mexico Bowl and we have to assume the coaching staff is going to do everything it can to make sure he is ready to handle a bigger workload next season.
After those two, it gets a little tricky. We don’t have any reason to think that Zach Green is going to come in and all of a sudden be able to carry the ball with effectiveness.
He hasn’t shown he can do it yet and he also hasn’t shown that he can get in good enough shape for the coaches to trust him enough to even give him a chance.
Jonathan Haden is an option, though the coaches have been using him more as a wide receiver and special teams player. We have no idea if he can handle a bigger workload and it is something that we can find out in the spring.
So who do we think is going to be the third back?
Tyler Raynor would have had a better shot if he did not break his ankle, but that is now going to make it difficult for him.
Russell Halimon tore his ACL and even if he is recovered from it come summer, it may make sense to redshirt him.
That leaves J.J. Taylor, who would fit in nicely because he is a small back and also has the ability to catch out of the backfield.
If Wilson and Bradford are more powerful runners, Taylor would offer a nice change of pace and is a guy that fits in so well with Arizona’s system that we think he could be successful right away.
No matter who wins the third running back job, the fact that there are going to be three legitimate backs on the roster is a nice problem to have and the position shouldn’t have any drop off next season.