2016 Spring Preview - Running Backs

Written by: TJ Inman (@TJHoosierHuddle)

After back to back seasons of seeing Tevin Coleman and then Jordan Howard bolt for the NFL Draft, the Indiana Hoosiers enter the 2016 season in need of a new starting running back. IU has had a prolific running attack under Kevin Wilson and the return of the offensive coaches plus a very strong offensive line promises plenty of opportunity for ball carriers in 2016. The Hoosiers have a lot of interesting options in the backfield and we’ll begin to see the competition for carries once Spring practice gets under way.

The Mystery Man – Camion Patrick

Camion Patrick, a 6’2”, 225-pound athlete from Knoxville, Tennessee came to Indiana after a very prolific season at East Mississippi Community College. He played wide receiver and caught 42 passes while also returning punts (952 all-purpose yards). Patrick was forced to sit out the 2015 season due to an eligibility issue but he made the most of his time off, earning offensive scout team player of the year. During a post-game interview, Kevin Wilson was quoted as calling Patrick, “the best player on the football team. You haven’t seen him yet. He’s really good. We got some guys coming.”

You may be thinking, “IU has a very dangerous wide receiver entering the fray in 2016. That’s cool but what is he doing in this article about running backs?” There appears to be a good chance that Camion Patrick is going to be playing primarily at running back. While we can’t be sure of this, it appears that the coaches are very comfortable with the overall depth and talent they have at wide receiver and they feel Camion Patrick’s skillset would be more valuable at running back. There are a couple of video clips circulating on Instagram that show very brief snippets of what Patrick is capable of with the ball in his hands and we here at Hoosier Huddle are buying into the hype (or perhaps we are starting the hype, either way, we think he is going to GOOD). From all reports, Patrick is a physical specimen. He has size, speed and a year-plus of familiarity with the offense (the season on the sidelines could be a blessing). I think it’s very possible that Camion Patrick proves to be the best running back on the roster and, at minimum, he’ll split carries with Devine Redding and be a weapon all over for the field for this offense. If he can grasp the nuances of blocking (an underrated and very important part of a running back’s duties), Camion Patrick could be as good as any running back the Hoosiers have had under Kevin Wilson.

The Returning Starter – Devine Redding

The junior from Youngstown, Ohio, had a very strong sophomore season and helped keep IU’s offense rolling when Jordan Howard was lost to injury. Redding carried the ball 226 times during his sophomore season and gained 1,012 yards. The most encouraging part of his season was that he closed very well, gaining 130 yards against Maryland, 144 yards against Purdue and 227 yards (6.5 yards per carry) in the Pinstripe Bowl against Duke. Redding appears to be incredibly durable and he’s a decisive runner that can run through arm tackles and get yards after contact. He showed some burst during the final three games as he broke off runs of 45, 57 and 39 yards.

My prediction is that Camion Patrick wins the starting job at running back and Redding settles in a very valuable RB2 role. I think he’ll get at least 10-15 carries a game and it wouldn’t surprise me at all if he threatened to break 1,000 yards once again. Kevin Wilson plays his cards extremely close to the vest so my prediction could end up being laughably incorrect but I feel very good about this one-two punch in the backfield.

Fighting For Carries – Mike Majette, Ricky Brookins, Alex Rodriguez

Let me start this section by saying that three potentially impactful backfield players will not be present for Spring practice because they won’t be enrolled in school yet. Kiante Enis, Tyler Natee and Cole Gest are all incoming freshmen that bring unique skillsets to the program and they’ll all join the battle for running back playing time. We’ll discuss their upcoming freshmen seasons in the months to come but they’ll be left out of this Spring preview article.

Mike Majette is the most intriguing of this trio. He exploded as a dual-threat out of the backfield against Rutgers as ran the ball 11 times for 83 yards and caught a touchdown pass. Majette is very quick and exhibited good hands but he was conspicuously absent from the game plan in the bowl game. I’m not sure where the coaches see him fitting best in the future but I think he could be a nice change of pace piece for the next three seasons. With talented freshmen on the way, this will be a crucial offseason of development for Majette.

Ricky Brookins and Alex Rodriguez are both returning walk-ons that had varying degrees of exposure and success in their 2015 seasons. Brookins was mostly used as a kick returner but his best game didn’t come until the regular season finale against Purdue (seven carries with 64 yards). Alex Rodriguez notched a touchdown against Duke in the Pinstripe Bowl but was used sparingly during the rest of the season. All five of the players I wrote about are facing a critical Spring as they battle for carries and playing time. My guess is that Patrick wins the starting job while Devine Redding earns 10-15 carries a game and establishes himself as the clear-cut #2 running back. I then view Mike Majette winning the job of the third running back but he’ll need to hold off a trio of talented and versatile challengers once the freshmen get on campus.