2013 Position Review: Running Backs

A review of how the running backs performed in 2013 and a look ahead to 2014

The Utes struck gold when they brought in little known JC running back John White in before the 2011 season. White turned in back-to-back seasons of over 1000 rushing yards and often carried this team because of his productivity on the ground.

Entering the 2013 season, the Utes were faced with the daunting question as to who would replace the Wolfman and continue the Ute's legacy of quality running backs at Utah.

The Utes entered fall camp with a tremendous amount of depth at the position, but did they have a high quality back who would be the clear-cut choice to replace John White? Certainly the depth was there, but the quality of depth was a bigger question. The fall depth chart included the usual characters like Kelvin York, Lucky Radley and Karl Williams along with a newcomer James "Bubba" Poole. Each would be tasked to learn and adapt to Dennis Erickson's way of doing things on the ground and in the air.

It was clear from the beginning that senior Kelvin York would be the starter for the Ute's 2013 opener against Utah St, but Coaching Whittingham insisted that there wasn't huge separation between this group. That lack of separation continued throughout the 2013 campaign as rotations in the backfield became the norm for the Utah offense.

The Utes did improve their rushing stats over the previous season, but without a solid passing attack for the third straight season, it was easy for opposing defenses to key on stopping the run and pressuring the quarterback. Utah finished the season averaging 160 rushing yards/game which was 8th best in the conference. However, if you back out Travis Wilson's rushing yards, Utah's third leading rusher (likely second if he had finished the season), Utah's average dropped to 120 yards/game which would put them near the bottom of the conference.

Utah's leading rusher turned out to be sophomore Bubba Poole, who sparked the Utes early in the season as Kelvin York struggled to find his rhythm. Poole finished the season with 661 yards, but really disappeared towards the end as York began to pick up steam. Poole is the most complete back of the group with good hands, decent speed, a quick step and surprising power. The big knock on Poole at this point, is that while he is talented, he's average to slightly above average in all of these areas. He proved at times to be indecisive about where he wanted to go, and lacked vision to find the gaps and holes the Utah line often produced.

Kelvin York really struggled early in the season as he found his playing time reduced as additional carries were given to both York and Radley. Unfortunately for York and the program, the former three star JC recruit finally shined in his final two games as a Ute where he turned in dominate performances in a loss at WSU and a win over Colorado.

As for Lucky Radley, he seemed to make the most of his limited opportunities. He averaged a team best 4.8 yards/attempt and did a solid job limited big mistakes that had previously plagued him.

Overall, the running back by committee approach was marginally successful for the Utes, but this group was MIA in key losses that could have propelled the Utes to bowl game. The Utes rushed for less than 100 yards in two Pac-12 contests including a loss at home to UCLA and on the road at USC where the Utes had just 71 yards on the ground (42 of them were from Travis Wilson). Depth is nice, but this group needs to have talented depth.

They also failed at times to be effective pass blockers, missing assignment and contributed to buckets of interceptions thrown by Utah quarterbacks all season long. It should be noted that ball security great improved by this group over previous seasons. This group had only one lost fumble all season by Karl Williams against Utah St.

As the Utes move into off-season workouts and towards spring practices, this group is still pretty deep considering the departures of York and Karl Williams.

New faces will certainly be in the mix as the Utes search for an elite talent at the position. Look for Poole and Radley as your leading candidates to be starters next year, but watch out for speedy redshirt freshmen Dre'Vian Young and Troy McCormick who will make a strong run at the position. They will likely turn a few heads during spring practices as they attempt to work their way into starting roles. Both have tremendous speed and talent, now they both have to learn to play effectively at this level.

If JC transfer Devontae Booker can get eligible and make it on the team, look for him to make a big impression on the Utes as he fights for playing time as well.

Beginning Depth Chart
Kelvin York (Sr)
Bubba Poole (So)
Lucky Radley (Jr)
Karl Williams (Sr)

Ending Depth Chart
Bubba Poole (So) OR
Kelvin York (Sr)
Lucky Radley (Jr)

Early Spring Projected Depth Chart
Bubba Poole (Jr)
Lucky Radley (Sr)
Dre'Vian Young (R-Fr)
Troy McCormick (R-Fr)

Way Too Early Fall Projected Depth Chart
Dre'Vian Young (R-Fr)
Lucky Radley (Sr)
Bubba Poole (Jr)
Troy McCormick (R-Fr)

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