There may be no other starting position as up in the air right now for the Deacs than starting tailback.
The slight favorite at the end of spring football was sophomore Tyler Bell, who started six of the last seven games last season.
But then word broke that Bell will miss the first couple weeks of fall camp with an injury, first reported by Dan Collins of the Winston-Salem Journal in an interview with Wake offensive coordinator Warren Ruggiero.
Bell was the leading rusher last year, gaining 451 yards on 129 carries, with one touchdown.
The reps Bell will miss early in camp are valuable, and there’s a cadre of capable teammates desperately looking to break out of the pack and capture the starting spot.
True freshman Cade Carney had a spectacular spring camp as an early enrollee, running past, around and other through defenders. A workout freak, who loves to wear cut off shirts to show off his bulging biceps, Carney went from being a player Clawson expected to compete for short yardage playing time, to a player he believes could compete for the starting position.
“Going into it, my thought was that he’s going to be a four-unit special teams guy and maybe the third-down back,” Clawson said at the end of spring camp. “Now, you look at what’s he’s done — he’s battling to be our starting tailback. You project a guy to do certain things for you, but then you have him on the field and he does that and a whole lot more.”
But before the spring camp story was Carney’s break-out performance, it once was about the emergence of redshirt freshman Rocky Reid.
Reid had ankle issues late in fall camp last year that lingered as the season began. Eventually it got to a point where redshirting was the smart choice with Reid, but now the Concord, North Carolina product is primed to compete for significant playing time.
“Rocky’s a guy who if we can get him going downhill with his pads square, he can be a very effective player,” Clawson said during spring camp.
Then again, true freshman Arkeem Byrd may come in and swipe the position away from all those aforementioned. Byrd rushed for 1,220 yards and 16 scores in his senior high school season, and was the team captain. He was the No. 4 ranked running back in the talent-rich state of Georgia, and was the final piece of the 2016 Wake Forest recruiting class, coming through with a signing day decision to become a Deac.
Also returning is sophomore Matt Colburn, who started three games last season, finishing with 239 yards and one touchdown on 66 carries. Colbun won South Carolina Mr. Football award in 2014, and picked the Deacs after having his offer at Louisville pulled the week of National Signing Day.
Junior Isaiah Robinson was fourth on the team last season with 120 rushing yards on 39 carries. He started the first two games of the season.
Expect Clawson to utilize multiple backs through the season, and in each individual game. The race for the starting spot, and for all playing time, is completely wide open right now, with all six backs discussed in this piece firmly in the mix.