Positional Series: Running Backs

There is plenty of competition at the running back position for the Hoosiers. But how are the running backs handling that?

Today begins a 10-part in 10 days series looking at every position on the Indiana football team. Today, Tony Adragna takes a look at the running back position.

Expected to start

Stephen Houston/RS SR/6-0/260

Houston is the most experienced running back for the Hoosiers. Last season, he rushed for 12 touchdowns and averaged 4.7 yards per carry. He also led the team with 1,130 all-purpose yards. He is currently sixth on IU's career rushing touchdown list.

In the two-deep

Tevin Coleman/SO/6-1/205

D'Angelo Roberts/JR/5-10/205

Both Coleman and Roberts will have a chance to see a lot of playing time this season. Last season, Roberts rushed for 300 yards and three touchdowns. Coleman saw more action in the return game, but he rushed for 225 yards and a touchdown last season.

Others in the mix

Andrew Wilson/RS FR/5-11/222

Anthony Davis/RS SO/5-8/203

Myles Graham/FR/6-0/213

Laray Smith/FR/6-0/188

Help on the way

No commits for 2014

Position coach

Deland McCullough

McCullough is in his third season as the running backs coach for the Hoosiers. Prior to being at Indiana, McCullough was an offensive and special teams intern with Miami (Ohio) University in 2010. Before coaching at the collegiate level, McCullough was a teacher, principal, athletic director, and head football coach at a Cincinnati high school.

McCullough was also a standout running back at Miami (Ohio) University from 1992-95, and went on to play in the NFL for the Cincinnati Bengals and Philadelphia Eagles.

Positional strengths

The Hoosiers strength at running back this season will be their depth. As a unit, the Hoosiers have a back for all facets of the game. Houston and Coleman are downhill runners that will use their strength, while Roberts and Smith will use their speed and agility to break free from opposing defenders.

While the depth is great for in-game situations, it also creates competition from an internal standpoint. The competition keeps the entire running back corps focused because they know that there are several capable backs that could get first-team reps.

What needs to improve?

Indiana's rushing offense ranked 10th out of 12 teams in the Big Ten last season in yards per game, averaging just 130 rushing yards per game. The Hoosiers also averaged 3.9 yards per rush on the season.

The biggest flaw with Indiana's rushing game last season was their lack of a consistent rusher. Houston emerged as the most reliable back, but even he had games where he struggled. In all, the Hoosiers started four different running backs at some point in the season.

Many of the Hoosiers rushing woes can be attributed to the fact that they played from behind in several games, so they passed the ball 141 more times than they ran it.

Another factor that hindered their rushing game was Tre Roberson getting injured in the second game of the season. Although Roberson played less than two games, he was still the fifth leading rusher for the Hoosiers, and he averaged the most rushing yards per game on the team.

Kevin Wilson's take on the unit

"There's competition there. We're just getting deeper. And as a coach, that is our best friend. It's helping us a bunch."

The Players weigh in, too:

Houston said there's plenty of competition at the position.

"Between me and Tevin alone, me and him are battling hard," Houston said. "It's friendly competition, but at the end of the day, it is competition. It's making everybody else better."

Houston also mentioned that although it is competition internally, it truly does help having depth at the running back position.

"It's very important (to have depth)," Houston said. "Although you want to be that guy, sometimes you do get burnt out. You have a clear conscience knowing that you have somebody backing you up that can do the exact same things you can do."

Overall analysis

Indiana will certainly have depth at the running back position this season, as there are three or four guys that will see some action throughout games.

The Hoosiers struggled last season to pick up yards in short yardage situations, so they need a power back that can run between the tackles.

However, Indiana also needs a back that can pass-block, and a back that can break away from the defense.

While the Hoosiers may not have one back that can check all of those boxes, they have a nice mixture of backs with different skill sets that can be used in different situations.

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Tomorrow will be part two of the 10-day series when Joe Popely looks at the Indiana wide receivers.


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