Spring Preview: Running Back

Running back competition will be one of the more tightly contested position group battles

The Candidates

James "Bubba" Poole
No one can argue that the best performance out of a running back in 2013 was Poole's against Stanford. Poole ran for 111 yards and added 75 yards on catches out of the backfield. Poole had only two TDs on the season though, so while he can move the ball up and down the field pretty consistently, coaches were concerned enough to move him to the sideline when the Utes got in the red zone. Can he be the lead back this season? While arguably the best in 2013, he wasn't able to separate himself enough for the coaches to end the carousel at running back.

Lucky Radley
Winner of the all name team, it is unfortunate that Radley hasn't been able to do more with the time he has been given at Utah. Radley had two really good games in 2013 (vs. Weber State, at Arizona) but couldn't be counted on as a consistent back, averaging just 2.8 yards per carry outside of those two games. The times he caught the ball out of the backfield he was terrific, unfortunately, catching wasn't his strong suit.

Jarrell Oliver
Has any Ute experienced the injury bug more so than Oliver? At least Jordan Wynn was able to compete in some games. The majority of Oliver's career at Utah has been spent in the "Pit" rehabbing injury after injury, including 2013, which was completely lost due to a foot injury during fall camp. Oliver has participated in just four games in his time at Utah, with a meager 52 yards on 23 carries. Can he stay healthy? His track record doesn't look promising. Oliver showcased what a healthy version of him can do in the 2012 battle for backup RB behind John White. Good north-south runner – question will be whether all of the bad breaks hinder his outlook or give him extra motivation. Had issues with poor pass blocking that limited the on-field action that he saw as well that will need to be addressed.

Marcus Sanders-Williams
Sanders-Williams was one of the five Utes that got to see playing time at RB with some mop-up duty against Weber State. With the running back carousel that Utah had in 2013, it was surprising that MSW didn't see more on field action. One reoccurring theme with the latest additions to running back for Utah – speed, and MSW is no exception to that. Sanders-Williams ran a 4.43 40 coming out of high school, but he has the size as well. Listed at 5'11 and 212 pounds, it would be easy to assume that MSW would be in serious contention for the top spot coming out of the spring. However, his downside would be his lack of field vision. Like running into a wall would be, if a RB can't find a hole to run through it will be tough sledding to gain yardage.

Devontae Booker
At last, Booker is finally a Ute. After sorting out all of the academic issues, Booker immediately provides playable depth to an otherwise young position group. Booker is a do it all back with a very similar playstyle to Bubba Poole. He is an SEC type back with not only good speed, but size as well. If he plays to his potential he will be the best blend of talent and size at running back on the roster. The sky is the limit for Booker, but it is up to him to get there.

Dre'vian Young
It is hard not to be impressed when watching film of Dre'vian Young (remember his 60 yard TD run in last year's fall camp?) Young doubled as a sprinter in high school, winning the 400 meter relay in just 46.8 seconds, the fourth best in the nation by a prep athlete in 2013. It helps that he may have the best field vision of all of the running back candidates. It is almost a certainty that Young will see playing time - the question will be just how much he gets. Can he be a 15-20 carries per game Pac-12 running back? I haven't seen enough yet to put him at the top spot, but if there is a dark horse candidate that could steal the show, it would be Young.

Troy McCormick
I see McCormick filling in the role that Reggie Dunn had at Utah, occasionally running the football with end-arounds and other option type plays. Could also see time returning kicks. He came into last fall camp around 165, and unfortunately, sources tell us that is about right where he sits today. With that weight he'll be limited right off the bat and I highly doubt that he'll be taking handoffs into the heart of a defense.

DJ Law (fall)

Harvey Langi (fall)

Projected Depth Chart Heading Into Spring
Bubba Poole
Lucky Radley or
DeVontae Booker
Dre'vian Young or
Marcus Sanders-Williams

What Has To Happen
It is time for the running back by committee approach to officially come to an end. The reason John White IV got 35+ carries some games? He was the BEST choice. It is time for a running back to grab this opportunity by the reigns and prove that they belong as a Pac-12 running back, not just in star rating, but in on field production. I like Young as a dark horse candidate here, but if Booker can play to his full potential, watch out.

Projected Depth Chart Coming Out of Spring
DeVontae Booker
Dre'vian Young or
Bubba Poole
Harvey Langi or
Marcus Sanders-Williams

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