Walton, who rushed for a team-high 1,117 yards and 14 touchdowns last season, is the unquestioned leader of the Miami running back group and a focal point for the Hurricanes’ offense. Offensive coordinator and running backs coach Thomas Brown loves the leadership and competitiveness Walton has shown so far this spring.
“Right now his reps have been normal,” Brown said. “I haven’t cut back at all with him. Obviously, you want to be conscious of a very talented guy like that. But honestly, he is a competitor and really if I tried to hold him back, he probably wouldn’t let me anyway. And I love that about him. But I think he can carry a workload and be an every down type tailback like he was last year for us. We had kind of a three tailback system, we rotated three guys. And it may be less than that this year. We will kind of just see how the rest of the guys do behind him from a competition standpoint. And how big the separation is between Mark and everybody else.”
Through 26 games, Walton has scored 25 touchdowns and rushed for over 1,500 yards while sharing time in the Hurricanes’ backfield. Heading into his junior season, Walton is expected to get the majority of the touches at running back and the Miami native is focused on preparing his body for the increased workload.
“Just visiting the training room more often,” Walton said. “Getting extra work in, in the weight room. Stretching out a lot and just taking care of my body more.”
Who will play behind Walton is one of the questions the Hurricanes will need to answer before they kick off their 2017 season on against Bethune-Cookman. Many expect Travis Homer to battle for that role and the rising sophomore has impressed Brown with his maturity and development since he arrived on campus a year ago.
“I think it has been great,” Brown said. “I think competition is always great to have in a room. To force guys to continue to compete and to continue to get better. I think Travis has always been a very mature guy from day one, I think, compared to most guys coming out of high school. He has done a really good job just trying to continue to push himself every single day and battle with Mark.”
Walton has been impressed with Homer and thinks he can be a contributor for the Hurricanes in 2017 and beyond.
“Travis is a great running back,” Walton said. “There are little things he needs work on, like being patient a little bit. But overall I think he is going to be a heck of a player.”
Homer played primarily on special teams as a freshman, covering kicks and punts for Miami, but that game experience has helped prepare him for the potential increased role on offense. Now he and his fellow running backs are focused on pushing each other to improve with every spring practice.
“We definitely just have to keep our conditioning up as a group and just keep working each other to get better, so we can help out the team.”