Written By Sammy Jacobs (@sammyj108)
As fall camp draws closer and the regular season crawls ever so near, we will preview every position group on the 2014 Indiana Hoosier football team. First up are the Hoosier running backs.
The 2013 Indiana offense got its reputation as a pass heavy attack, however they did average over 200 yards a game on the ground. This season, with the departures of four major pass catchers, the Hoosiers could become even more reliant on the run. This is not a bad thing. The Hoosiers have a bevy of talented running backs headlined by junior Tevin Coleman, but there is skill behind him in D’Angelo Roberts and the speedy Laray Smith. Let’s get down to each individual to see what he brings to the Hoosier backfield.
The junior had a sensational 2013 season when he reached the end zone in every game he played. He totaled 958 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns in nine games before missing the final three due to an ankle injury. Coleman earned honorable mention All-Big Ten by both the coaches and the media.
Coleman is a big back who also posses the speed to break away from a defense and score from anywhere on the field. He led the nation in 40+yard runs in 2013 with eight. He is also very able catching the ball out of the backfield.
Will Coleman be able to handle the majority of the running duties in 2014? He was only able to play in nine games last season due to an injury and only carried the ball 131 times, while reaching the 20 carry mark in a game only once. Stephen Houston is no longer splitting carries with him and he will be the guy when it comes to the running game.
Roberts is a local product out of Bloomington North where he set the Monroe County record for rushing with 6,002 yards. The senior has had his moments as a Hoosier as well. Roberts ran for 232 yards last season and has 795 rushing yards in his career to go along with seven touchdowns. Roberts has also added 257 yards receiving and a score during his tenure in Bloomington. In addition to being a threat on the ground, Roberts provides a weapon in the kick return game.
Roberts has the ability to make plays when given consistent playing time. He put up over 100 yards in the 2013 Bucket game and averaged 4.5 yards per carry. He also has the ability to make plays in the passing game and adds a home run threat to the kickoff team.
Life has been boom or bust with Roberts. He has had issues holding onto the ball during his career. If you take out the finale against Purdue Roberts only averaged 3.1 yards per carry and did not have a rushing touchdown. Is there enough production there to give Coleman a breather in this high paced offense?
Smith was a four-time All-American track star at Xaverian high school in Brooklyn, NY. Oh yeah, he was pretty good on the football field as well. Smith rushed for over 1,700 yards and 16 scores in his final two years of high school. The New Yorker’s career did not get off to the start that Hoosier fans expected as he fumbled away his only kick return and only carried the ball four times.
Speed kills and Smith has a ton of it. The track star could be a game changer should he get to the second level of the defense. The Hoosier staff would be thrilled if Smith could be able to handle return duties and take pressure off of Coleman and Shane Wynn, while giving Indiana a real advantage on special teams. He has the speed and the moves to be an elite returner in the Big Ten.
Will Smith be able to handle the rigors of playing running back in the Big Ten at 190lbs? While highly rated out of high school, the speedy Smith did not do anything to turn the heads of Hoosier fans. In fact some may say his freshman campaign was a disaster.
Best of the Rest
While the Hoosiers have some other players who could see time at the running back position these are the three that we have focused on. Tommy Mister, a big recruit in 2013, may see action if the two backups cannot get the job done. However, I see the Hoosiers redshirting him and developing him in the weight room and in practice to make a run at the starting job in 2015 (assuming Coleman leaves for the NFL). Anthony Davis and Andrew Wilson also saw playing time in 2013 and could see the field some more on special teams and if games get out of hand during the season. This may be the most talented and the deepest the Hoosier running back stable has been in a long time. Coach Kevin Wilson will likely use it to his advantage as the offense breaks in a new group of receivers