In 2010, the Cincinnati Bearcats rushed for 1,880 as Isaiah Pead tallied 1,029 yards and six touchdowns, averaging 6.55 yards per carry. After that season, UC consistently eclipsed the 2,000 yard mark on the ground, with Pead and runners like George Winn, Hosey Williams and Tion Green carrying the torch (and the ball).
However, for the first time since that 2010 team, the Bearcats failed to reach 2,000 rushing yards in 2016. In fact, the 1,418 yards they did manage equated to a nearly 1,000-yard drop from the previous campaign.
Even if Ross Trail stood out with four touchdown passes during a recent scrimmage, Luke Fickell’s team will still need to move the ball on the ground to be successful. With an offense that will likely pass more than it runs by a wide margin, just having the ability to change the pace even occasionally will be crucial. After all, if teams can just hang back to defend the pass due to a lack of fear of the running game, then Trail (or Hayden Moore) is going to be in trouble.
Let’s take a look at how the running back corps looks entering 2017.
Green and Mike Boone accounted for 1,131 of the Bearcats’ rushing yardage last season and a major chunk of that is now out the door, with Green now suiting up for the Detroit Lions.
While that is a fine looking uniform and we wish Green all the best at the next level, replacing his 738 yards, pounding rushing style and success near the goal line will be a very difficult task. Green rushed for at least 700 yards in each of his last two seasons and averaged a respectable 4.7 yards per carry during his career while scoring 19 touchdowns.
Some other running backs on last year’s roster that are no longer around include Deionte Buckley, Chad Banschbach and Joshuwa Holloman. Buckley rushed for 97 yards on 19 carries last season in a minor role, while Banschbach did even less (27 yards on nine carries). Holloman was a speedy three-star recruit but decided to transfer.
My apologies - I misspoke. Joshuwa Holloman requested a release to transfer and play somewhere else.— BFox-BearcatsSpRadio (@bearcatsradio) August 2, 2017
Well, hopefully 2014 or 2015 Boone is back and not the impostor from 2016. The 5’10, 205-pound back was the lightning to Green’s thunder, but the storm clouds only produced a weak rain last year. Boone averaged a miserable (compared to his previous results) 3.7 yards per carry and finished with only 388 yards and two touchdowns despite setting a career-high in carries (105). In 2015, he averaged 7.2 yards per attempt and scored nine times. He only played in nine games in 2016, but a few more contests weren’t going to make up the ground he lost.
On a more positive note, Boone proved his ability as a pass catcher out of the backfield, as he set personal bests in receptions (20), receiving yards (249) and yards per reception (12.5). A little more of that and a return to the Nightcrawler style elusiveness of 2014 and 2015 would be a great help to a developing offense.
Fighting for the role of Robin to Boone’s Batman will likely be redshirt freshmen Gerrid Doaks, Hunter Gillespie and sophomore Taylor Boose. Doaks impressed on the scout team in 2016 and Boose actually got a little bit of actual playing time.
The rather thin group at running back is fortified by some intriguing newcomers.
Michael Warren II is a three-star recruit and was named the No. 2 running back in the Midwest by 247 Sports. He was also 2016’s Ohio Associated Press Mr. Football. A 5’10, 212-pound brusier, Warren II should eventually follow behind Green in terms of role.
Jaelen Greene comes to UC from Georgia where he was a three-star recruit and a top 75 running back in the country according to ESPN. At 5’11” and 202 pounds, he’s a bit quicker on his feet that Warren II.
Lastly, there’s walk-on Michael Kopaygorodsky, who comes from Mason, Ohio.