Position Preview: Running Backs

Scott breaks down the SMU running back position and who will come out of camp as the starter.

2013 Recap

With the addition of JUCO transfer Traylon Shead, and another year of experience for Prescott Line and K.C. Nlemchi, SMU’s running game was expected to take a step in the right direction. However, Shead’s season was derailed by injury, and neither Line or Nlemchi were able to get anything consistent going. Line led the way with 90 rushing attempts, racking up 342 yards for an average of 3.7 yards per carry, and Nlemchi and Shead both struggled to see playing time, only carrying the ball 51 times each. The Mustangs got most of their running production from their quarterback Garrett Gilbert, who had a team-high 424 yards on 83 carries. Towards the end of the season, linebacker-turned-running back Kevin Pope ran the ball well and provided a little spark for the Mustangs, but he only carried the ball 17 times. With a struggling offensive line, SMU’s running game struggled all season long to compliment the Mustangs’ passing attack.

2014 Preview

With the sudden departure of Traylon Shead, Kevin Pope, and Prescott Line will be asked to be the primary runners in 2014. With an improving offensive line, and another year of experience for Line, expect both Pope and Line to make improvements from last year. Maintaining a steady running attack will be key for SMU’s offense, which will likely be run by quarterback Neal Burcham. Pope and Line have a more downhill style of running, so incoming freshman Daniel Gresham will be asked to be the change-of-pace back this year. Despite being ranked as the top fullback in the 2014 class, Gresham has been working to drop weight this off-season in order to improve his agility and speed for the upcoming season. Expect Pope and Line to receive the majority of the carries this season, but Gresham will no doubt see playing time as a freshman.

Unknown to Watch

Plain and simple: Daniel Gresham landed in SMU’s lap. Originally committed to Texas, the four-star back then decommitted from Texas and committed to Louisville. But when new Louisville coach Bobby Petrino took over the program, he informed Gresham they would no longer need his services. Gresham, who hopes to major in Business at SMU, brings a combination of size, speed, and blocking-ability, and it will be hard to keep this All Saints Episcopal product off of the field. Gresham is eager to prove himself to the SMU coaching staff, and if the offense struggles to put points on the board, he may see even more playing time than expected.

Star of the group

Kevin Pope has the best pure talent in the group aside from Daniel Gresham at this point. Pope has the opportunity to start on both sides of the ball and that will mean June Jones will need to share the load if Pope is the starter at running back. Pope has the potential to be a game breaker, but his carries will need to be watched.

PonyStampede Depth Chart:
1. Kevin Pope
2. Prescott Line
3. Daniel Gresham
4. K C Nlemchi

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