Fall Preview: Running Backs

The run of great running backs at the University of Miami from the late 90s into recent days has been incredible. And while Javarris James showed flashes as a freshman last season, the Canes are hoping to have that big time player again this season.

When you go from a run of players that included Edgerrin James, Clinton Portis, Willis McGahee, and Frank Gore, your fans can be quite critical of your play at the running back position.

That's what has happened since Gore left for the NFL. The Hurricanes have struggled to find that difference maker at the running back position.

The most promising player at the position last season was Javarris James. The younger cousin of Edgerrin, who carries the nickname 'Baby J' finished his first year as a Hurricane with 802 yards and four touchdowns on the ground, with a long of 62. He also proved to be a quality pass-catcher with 17 catches for 200 yards and a touchdown. James, a sophomore, is hoping for a breakout season that will continue putting his name on the national map.

Senior Charlie Jones is the most experienced of all the running backs. With just 206 yards on 61 carries and one touchdown a year ago, Jones saw his opportunities become more limited with the emergence of James. The knock on Jones sometimes is that he's not a big play threat, as indicated by having a long of just 16 yards a season ago. Still, Jones has big game experience, is a proven blocker, and also caught 10 passes out of the backfield last season. If Jones wants to play in the NFL in 2008 and beyond, this is a big year for him to step up and take control of the position.

Junior Derron Thomas doesn't have big game experience like Jones but he did play in 12 games last season, finishing the year with 159 yards. He's more of a breakaway threat with his speed but it won't get any easier for him as far as getting more carries.

Redshirt freshman Kylan Robinson did not play last season but is a talented player who is still learning the position. His size and inside toughness indicate the ability to play fullback as well.

Junior George Timmons has played in one game since his arrival at UM so it's hard to imagine that he'll play a huge role in the depth chart at running back.

Incoming freshman Graig Cooper might be the most talented of all the running backs. The former Mr. Football in the state of Tennessee, Cooper showed flashes of big play ability in the spring and many people believe he'll emerge with James to form a potent 1-2 punch.

Incoming freshman Lee Chambers isn't the biggest kid out there but has tremendous speed and could make an immediate impact on special teams. Fellow incoming freshman Shawnbrey McNeal could also factor in the same way but as of now he's not in school yet. It's believed that he'll report next week.

Fullback Jerrell Mabry is a very talented blocker who has battled some weight issues since arriving as a Hurricane. The sophomore showed flashes in the spring of becoming a very important part in this offense. It's still unclear how much the new offense run by Patrick Nix will utilize the fullback but whwnever it does, Mabry is clearly the guy there.

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