On the Indiana roster there are several position groups with a great deal of depth and talent, but running back is arguably the deepest and the most talented of them all. The Hoosiers have a number of options at running back, and it is up to assistant coach Deland McCullough to figure out how to divide up the carries. Coach McCullough met with the media recently to talk about his backs and how Fall Camp went for them
The Indiana running backs coach said that he has been pleased with the effort his guys have been putting forth since the first day of Fall Camp.
“It went well,” he said about Fall Camp. “The guys are doing a good job of upholding the standards that we put in place years ago. We’re trying to keep things going and we’re working hard. We’re learning from our mistakes, and we’ve got great leadership in that room. I’m just excited to see what happens this season.”
The leader in the running back room is junior Devine Redding, and that is a role he has embraced since the end of the 2014 season.
“He took the leadership role right after Tevin (Coleman) left,” McCullough said about Redding. “He might be a little bit more vocal now. He is embracing guys whether it be Clyde or Cole, and teaching these guys the ropes and telling them not to stress so much. He teaches them different things like the technical aspects of playing the running back position. So he is probably a little bit more vocal, but what he brings to the field as far as just a ball carrier and leading by example, I mean you can’t touch him.”
The Hoosiers have a handful of newcomers at running back, but the most intriguing might be Clyde Newton. The IU senior is making the move to RB after three years at linebacker for the Hoosiers.
“Clyde is coming on strong and showing himself to be reliable,” McCullough said about Newton. “He is probably one of our better pass protectors. He is a big, strong guy with strong hands. He can catch the ball and run with velocity. He is a willing blocker. In some of our sets we may do two backs with a guy who needs to block so I’m excited about him.”
Another newcomer for the Hoosiers at running back is freshman Cole Gest. Coach McCullough said the Ohio native has a bright future in the IU offense.
“Cole Gest is clearly the most explosive guy, short distance explosion,” McCullough said. “I think the thing with him is just continue to work on his pace because he is just use to running so fast. We’ve been telling him that is only one piece of the puzzle. There is a pace to get to the holes. He has great examples with Devonte (Williams) and Devine (Redding) because they do a great job of not going full speed until they see an opening.”
Texas native Tyler Natee is another freshman running back for the Hoosiers, and he is someone that has impressed McCullough both on the field as well as off.
“I’ve been very impressed with Tyler,” McCullough said. “I wasn’t the main guy in recruiting him so I’m kind of learning more about him as we go along. He’s been great to have in our room. He is very, very intelligent. He’s definitely got a skill-set that’s going to help us. I think he continues to impress every time he is out there. He is gaining more and more followers as far as how he can help the team. It’s going to be exciting to see how everything plays out this season.”
Coach McCullough said he has never coached anyone like Natee at running back that has his combination of size and athleticism.
“No, I’ve never coached anyone that big,” the IU assistant said. “He has nimble feet and great hands. He is very, very intelligent. That is probably the thing that stands out to me the most right off the bat because he picked up everything that was going on. He applies coaching every day and he’s coming into his own. It is to be determined what his role will be because he is not the spread offense back where we’re going to feed him and he’s going to be in space because that’s not his thing. But definitely with the way our offense works and with the offensive minds that we have we’re going to find a place for him to help us out.”
When it comes to determining playing time Coach McCullough has a good problem on his hands with so many talented players and only so many carries to give out.
“It’s tough but it’s exciting too,” he said about trying to figure out playing time for everyone. “I jot things down at night at home and kind of going through and looking at guys and I’m like he can do this, and he can do this, Devine can do this, (Mike) Majette can do this, Cole can do this. You’re finding out different things about those guys. You see a Devonte and you say at least by stature he’s a smaller guy. He’s 182 to 185 pounds but he runs like he is 205, 210. Same thing with Cole. He’s a stockier, more powerfully built kid that is low to the ground and is not afraid of contact, which is obviously a staple of our room. You’ve got Devine who is a do-it-all guy. You’ve got A-Rod (Alex Rodriguez) that is coming back after being out with a little injury the first part of camp. He has embraced the number of reps he got because he wants to get back to what we thought he was coming out of the spring. So there are a lot of good things going on and it’s exciting.”
(SEE ALSO: 2016 Position Primer: Indiana Running Backs)