Replacing Duke Johnson was not going to be easy for the Canes. Anytime you lose your school's all-time leading rusher the challenge will be very difficult.
The Canes entered fall camp with four tailbacks and one fullback. Because there is no one tailback that entered fall camp above the rest, the coaches were faced with the challenge of getting all four running backs ready to play.
Gus Edwards started fall as the team's number one back. He's a big back who Al Golden said over the summer is in the best shape of his life. At 235 pounds, he's a big back who can take it between the tackles. He does not, however, have great running instincts. He's not a major threat out of the backfield. He does not have breakaway speed. He is a big back who can average around four yards per carry. He also has the edge over the others with experience. Edwards was exactly those things throughout fall camp.
Joe Yearby was the biggest threat to take over as the starter. A former five-star recruit out of high school, Yearby was given plenty of opportunities last season and showed flashes of being a playmaker. He can catch passes from the backfield, has very good vision, and can make a lot of people miss in the open field. He does, however, lack breakaway speed which might be the only thing preventing him from becoming a complete back. Added weight should help him handle more of the load. Yearby turned in a solid camp but it wasn't one that clearly won him the job.
Trayone Gray came here as a wide receiver after playing mostly quarterback in high school. He has the most impressive combination of size and speed of all the running backs. However, it just doesn't come naturally to him. James Coley said after the last scrimmage that Gray still needs to run with better pad level. Because of his size and athleticism he'll remain in the mix but he's still a ways behind the top two here.
Mark Walton might be the most talented of the four. A lot of people think he is. Like with any true freshman, however, a lot of his chances will depend on his ability to pick up blitzes and holding onto the football. He's a very talented natural runner with a nice combination of size, strength, and speed. He had a solid fall camp and it wouldn't surprise people if he ended up being the best of the bunch by mid-season.
Walter Tucker remains the team's fullback. He's very athletic for a kid his size and for that position. However, he will remain limited in this offense because it doesn't use a fullback a whole lot. Tucker is also very good on special teams, which will likely be big biggest role this season.