Recruiting Review: Running Backs

With the loss of Jarrett Payton and the question marks surrounding Frank Gore's knees, the University of Miami was put in a unique situation this year. They needed running backs and they needed them fast. During the Larry Coker era, the Hurricanes have signed two backs -- Tyrone Moss and J.R. Mounts, who is now at Florida A&M.

Dating back to the spring, the Canes were in a nice situation because two of the state's top returning players were running backs from Dade County. South Dade's Charlie Jones and Killian's Bobby Washington were coming off outstanding junior years and both were very high on the Hurricanes from day one. That gave UM a good starting point for recruiting running backs this year.

Washington made an early commitment to UM, while Jones made his commitment to the Canes during the middle part of the season.

"I'm going in and taking somebody's job," said an always confident Washington. "I feel like I'll be the best running back on the team next year."

Jones has more quiet confidence. He likes to keep more to himself and let his actions on the field do the talking. Unfortunately, he suffered through some injuries as a senior but he's capable of being a real difference maker at the next level.

The Canes didn't stop there. They targeted three other top running back prospects, starting with three different times of the year.

Texas standout Adrian Peterson was on everyone's All-American lists and the Hurricanes were one of the first schools to offer him a scholarship last spring. He took an unofficial visit to UM in August before visiting UM officially in December. They weren't enough, as the Hurrricanes lost out to Oklahoma for this top back.

Louisiana product Derron Thomas appeared on the UM recruiting map in the early part of the regular season. It was in early November when the UM coaches decided to offer him a scholarship. Despite having running back commitments from two of Florida's top prospects, they decided Thomas was too good to pass up. Like Jones and Washington, Thomas didn't even officially visit any other schools.

After watching him at its summer camp a couple summers ago, the UM coaches didn't begin actively recruiting Pittsburgh's Andrew Johnson until he opened his recruitment back up in early January. The talented running back prospect was a Pittsburgh commitment for most of the year and when he decided to look around, Larry Coker found his way into the Johnson household. The talented back took recruiting trips to Pittsburgh, Miami, and then Florida. He made commitments to all three schools on the respective visits, but it was the Hurricanes that came out on top in the end.

All four backs have something in common -- they're not afraid to compete. Each of the four backs talked about the competition they'll be facing.

Washington -- "Those other guys don't bother me. I know what I can do and like I said, I'll be the best back they have next year."

Jones -- "There will be a lot of competition. I'm just going to have to work really hard and try to get a jump by starting a little earlier (for 7 on 7 drills, workouts, etc.)."

Thomas -- "I know they're bringing in some other top backs but that's always something you have to deal with when you go to Miami. It's a dream of mine to play there and that wasn't going to stop me."

Johnson -- "I feel as if I'm the best running back in the country so competing with those other guys isn't going to be a problem. I'm ready for the challenge."

They all bring a little something different to the field as well. Jones probably has the best running instincts of the group and may have a leg up on the competition right away because the offense he played in at South Dade is very similar to the one UM runs. Thomas is probably the most explosive of the group. He's also the most proven pass catcher of the four. Johnson is the fastest of the group and perhaps the most versatile. If someone's going to switch positions, Johnson's the most likely candidate -- probably to cornerback. Washington is probably the most complete back of the group. As some have indicated, he has some Willis McGahee in him.

It should be very exciting watching these kids compete because all four of them have big time upsides and they all bring something different to the table.

Next Review: Wide Receivers

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