CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – Despite earning first-team All-ACC honors and rushing for 1,463 yards in 2015, junior running back Elijah Hood is still looking for more.
“I don’t want to do it again, I want to do better,” Hood said after practice on Thursday. “You did this much this year, you work a little bit harder, you do an extra rep, study a little bit more film, how far can you go?”
Hood recorded the third-highest single season yardage mark in North Carolina history on top of 17 rushing touchdowns last fall. When the ball found its way into Hood’s hands, he became a force at the line of scrimmage and in the open field, averaging 6.7 yards per carry. That mark was good for fourth nationally among running backs with at least 200 rushing attempts.
Where Hood looks to improve this offseason, however, is his play when he isn’t carrying the ball.
“I would say he’s definitely improved catching the ball out of the backfield and just taking his game to the next level for pass protection,” junior quarterback Mitch Trubisky said. “Seeing linebackers, if they’re blitzing, he’s picking them up, sticking his face in there, if they’re not, he’s getting out and stretching the defense for the receivers behind him.”
And in typical Elijah Hood fashion, he’s throwing himself 100 percent into those areas.
“I promise you that Elijah is working as hard as anybody else out there on the field,” head coach Larry Fedora said. “You don’t have to ever worry about that with him, I assure you.”
But how does one of the best running backs in the conference stay so motivated? Being surrounded by a bevy of talent at the same position certainly helps.
“When you’re in Larry Fedora’s offense, you’ve got to prove yourself every year,” Hood said. “They don’t expect the same guy every year. You’ve got to prove you’re the same guy every year.”
Hood is backed by senior running backs T.J. Logan and Khris Francis. Those two have upped the effort level even further over the spring, which has helped drive Hood.
“I see how hard they’re working and how hard they’re going and it motivates me,” Hood said. “I can’t get behind and I sure as hell don’t want to disappoint anybody out there.”
It’s competitive, but it’s still a family in the UNC backfield.
“We all put in so much work as a unit, and I think the running backs want to be the core of this offense,” Hood said. “We want to lead by example and all those guys do a great job of pushing ourselves and trying to push our teammates with us.”
Less than five months remain until North Carolina’s season opener in the Chick-Fil-A Kickoff Game against Georgia in Atlanta. For Hood, that’s almost five months left to get better.
“My only option is to keep working as hard as I can and see how far I can go.”