Devontae Booker (R-Sr)
Bubba Poole (R-Sr)
Joseph Williams (R-Jr)
Troy McCormick (R-So)
Drevian Young (R-So)
Monte Seabrook (So)
Marcel Brown (Fr)
Utah essentially picked up a 5 star recruit with the 2015 class when All PAC 12 running back Devontae Booker announced that he would return to Utah for his senior season. Booker is coming off arguably the best season by a Ute running back in history, and really did all his damage in just 10 games, as he only averaged 10 carries per game in the first 3 games of the season, versus 26 carries per game in his last 10. Booker finished the season with 1,512 rushing yards and 10 TD's, and has the rare combination of break away speed, and power to break tackles at the line of scrimmage. He also displayed some of the best hands on the team towards the end of the season, as he totaled 336 receiving yards and 2 TD's through the air.
Simply put, Booker should repeat as 1st Team All PAC 12 in 2015, and also should push for national awards. If he averages 24-27 carries per game in 2015, which there's no reason he shouldn't, he'll likely break the single season school rushing record of 1,520 yards, set by John White IV in 2011, and may even break the career rushing record of 3,120 yards set by Mike Anderson. Let's hope that there's no error in addition when trying to figure out if he breaks either of those records in 2015.
Can there really be a dark horse when you return arguably the best running back in school history? Not really, but for the sake of the article, we'll say there is one, and that one would be incoming JUCO transfer Joseph Williams. Williams comes to Utah from ASA Junior College in New York, by way of the University of Connecticut. Williams was very highly regarded at UCONN before running in to some legal trouble, and ended up at ASA Junior College where he put up big numbers in a small amount of games during the 2014 season (1,093 rushing yards, 237 receiving yards & 10 total TD's in 7 games). Williams is built very similarly to Devontae Booker, at 5'11-205lbs, but possesses a little bit better break away speed than Booker. Williams is also a very good receiver out of the backfield, which proved to be a big part of the Ute offense towards the end of the 2014 season. With Booker returning, Williams and the rest of the running back's will be fighting for the 2nd spot on the depth chart, but don't count out the JUCO transfer as Utah has shown the ability to get the most out of JUCO transfer running backs.
The Other Candidates
After being the leading rusher in 2013, and starting running back for the first 4 games of 2014, Poole saw his playing time and carries drop drastically with the emergence of Devontae Booker. Averaging just 4 carries per game in 2014, there are questions about what Poole's role will be in 2015. Poole is a good athlete that is solid in every area of being a running back, but doesn't excel in any one area. He's a good receiver out of the backfield and is good in the open field, but doesn't have break away speed and tends to "dance" a little too much behind the line of scrimmage. He'll have to re assert himself this off season in order to stay towards the top of the depth chart.
The small speedster emerged towards the end of the season, much to the enjoyment of fans, as he saw his playing time increase against Colorado and Colorado State. McCormick was a main stay on the Utes special teams in 2014, as he was primarily used as a "gunner" on punt coverage due to his fantastic speed, but showed that he was ready for more during the Las Vegas Bowl, as he had 86 yards rushing on just 5 carries. He showed that his speed is unmatched by most other players on the field, but also displayed the ability to effectively run between the tackles. With another year of strength training and weight gain, look for McCormick to be a permanent staple as a change of pace back in 2015.
Another speedster out of Texas, Drevian Young is one of the fastest players on the Utah roster but is also has very good agility. After a redshirt year in 2013, Young battled with Troy McCormick for the 3rd spot on the depth chart in 2014, but wasn't able to really assert himself due to not being able to effectively run between the tackles. Young is at his best when out in space, but hasn't been able to hone in on the other aspects of being a PAC 12 level running back. He's still young and has 3 more seasons at Utah, but will have to really work to overcome those ahead of him on the depth chart.
Another main stay on the Utes special teams in 2014, Seabrook started his Utah career last season at corner back, but made the switch over to offense about half way through the season. Since moving to the offensive side of the ball, Seabrook has also spent time at wide receiver so it's a little unclear at this time where exactly he'll end up, as he could realistically play 4 different positions. Seabrook is already one of the best athletes on the Ute roster and has some of the best raw athletic abilities, but still needs to work at becoming a polished football player. With his position kind of up in the air at this point, Spring Camp and Fall Camp will be crucial in terms of determining his future. If that future is at running back, I think he compares pretty well to Bubba Poole, only faster. Similar size and build, Seabrook could become an every down type of back with more strength added to his frame.
Brown committed to Utah as part of the 2015 class back in November 2014, and already has the look of an every down running back. Brown put up video game like numbers during his senior season, rushing for 1,972 yards and 29 TD's, while also racking up 330 receiving yards and 4 TD's. At 5'10-210lbs, Brown has good speed and power, but will have to work on pass protection when he gets to Utah, as we've seen that can be the difference between playing and sitting the bench. There's also some concern with Brown's academics, which is a reason why he wasn't as heavily recruited as other running backs, but if he can clear those obstacles, he has a bright future at Utah.
2015 Projected Running Back Depth Chart
1. Devontae Booker
2. Joseph Williams OR
4. Bubba Poole
5. Drevian Young OR
2015 Depth Chart Projections: Running Back
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