After Edwards, Miami still has plenty of RB options
Sep. 01, 2015
CORAL GABLES, Fla. (AP) — Of all the players who will be on the field for Miami this season, only one has scored multiple rushing touchdowns so far in his Hurricanes career.
That would be Dallas Crawford.
And he's now a starting safety for the Hurricanes, long removed from his running back days.
Losing Gus Edwards late last month to a season-ending foot injury means there's many more carries are up for grabs in a relatively untested Miami backfield. Edwards had 11 touchdowns in his first two Miami seasons, and he and Duke Johnson (now of the Cleveland Browns) combined for 16 of the 19 ground scores the Hurricanes had in 2014.
So when the season starts Saturday night against Bethune-Cookman, it'll be Joe Yearby, Mark Walton and Trayone Gray getting the bulk of the handoffs. Yearby was last year's backup who got 86 carries and most of those in second halves, Gray had just six carries in three games a season ago, and Walton is a true freshman.
"We don't feel like we're going to miss a beat there," Miami coach Al Golden said Tuesday. "We feel badly for Gus, disappointed for him. He worked really hard but he's coming back, he's in great spirits and it's a great opportunity for the other three guys to step up and execute."
The severity of the injury in Edwards' left foot — at first thought just to be a bruise of some sort — wasn't fully known until he underwent a surgical procedure on Saturday. Edwards has the mix of size (241 pounds was his listed weight on this year's roster) and speed (21 mph top-end sprinting speed according to the school's GPS data) that had him squarely in the mix to start.
"We didn't know how serious it was," Crawford said. "I know he'll rehab and come back stronger than ever next year."
But for this year, Yearby might have the edge on being the starter. A backfield-by-committee situation seems more than a little possible.
"That was heartbreaking," Yearby said of the news that Edwards' season ended before it started.
Yearby was then asked if he and Walton were ready to assume a heavier workload, and he nodded.
"Me, Mark and Choc," Yearby said, the last name being the moniker teammates have given to Gray.
Even with Edwards gone, Miami's backs could get off to a good start. Bethune-Cookman lost its top seven tacklers from last year, and Week 2 opponent Florida Atlantic gave up a staggering 34 touchdowns on the ground last season — only nine of the 125 teams at college football's highest level gave up more in 2014.
After that, the Hurricanes should have a much better feel for what the rotation taking handoffs from quarterback Brad Kaaya will look like.
"It is a big deal because (Edwards) is a weapon," Kaaya said. "It sucks to lose a weapon but we also have three other guys who were recruited by us, good, athletic running backs."