Unlike in previous seasons when the 'Canes had Clinton Portis, Willis McGahee, Edgerrin James, James Jackson and a young healthy Frank Gore, last season the Hurricane suffered through an overall poor season on the ground.
It happened for a number of reasons, but none was more evident than the fact the top running backs in the 'Canes backfield, Gore and backup Tyrone Moss, rather than be wrecking balls out of the backfield were shaped more like bowling balls, (i.e. they were extremely overweight), and it was more than obvious because linebackers and linemen were faster than them.
Gore and Moss lacked explosion out of the backfield, lacked the ability to hit open holes the line created and were unable to breakaway from defenders when they finally did get into the open field.
And it was for one reason. They were in the buffet line too often and the coaching staff did't curb that like it should have.
To add insult to injury, once Gore declared for the NFL Draft, he somehow managed to lose 20 pounds in a couple of months because he finally stopped eating the ultra fattening foods at home that cause him to gain so much weight he was over 230 pounds, yet only 5-foot-9.
Coach Larry Coker was left to wonder, "Why couldn't Frank Gore lose that weight while he was playing at UM?"
Moss fell into that same problem as he ballooned too. And with the remaining backups being young freshmen, it meant for a long season on the ground, one that was a bitter disappointment.
However, the coaching staff has already said it will not have another situation like last year. The message has been heard loud and clear by Moss who has lost weight and is more svelte looking than he's been in the past. Lost weight will add to his quickness and should make him better.
At the same time, after the spring running back Derron Thomas, a 5-foot-9, 190-pound ball of lightning had a great spring and rose up the depth chart to number two behind Moss.
He supplanted the expected number two back in Charlie Jones, the South Dade native who has failed to do anything dazzling as of yet. While steady, he hasnâ€™t shown flashes of brilliance and hasnâ€™t been able to do anything to wow the coaches while Thomas did.
Clocked at 4.33 in the 40, Thomas brings reminders of the Gore that was at UM as a freshman when he broke a number of long rungs that had the media raving about the future at the position before he blew out his knee.
Hopefully, Thomas can provide the 'Canes with that thunder and lightning type mix with Moss in the backfield.
With Andrew Johnson out for the year more than likely with a torn ACL, the 'Canes will more than likely only rotate Moss and Thomas with Jones getting some time sparingly unless he does something to impress the coaches in Fall practice.
At fullback, Quadtrine Hill is expected to start as he has for the past two years, but the 6-foot-2, 220-pound back could be supplanted at any time by the rock solid James Bryant, a 6-foot-3, 240-pound sledgehammer out of Reading, Pennsylvania.
While Hill has the experience and the ability to catch the ball out of the backfield, Bryant has established himself as the better blocker, one who can obliterate the opposing linebackers helping pave huge holes for Moss, Thomas and Jones.
Although Hill will probably start entering the season, don't be surprised to see Bryant take over primarily in run-down situations while Hill may be a third-down back in probable passing situations.
Regardless, the running game has to be better than it was last year for the 'Canes to have a chance to make real noise in a chase for their sixth national championship, but it's looking far more promising this year than last.
Position Preview: RB
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