TwistNHook: So, what do you guys think of the running backs for the 2014 season?
boomtho: I am excited to watch our group of RB's this year. While it appears we won't have a transcendent RB like Jahvid or Marshawn, I think we have a deep, versatile group of RB's that can be situationally deployed to great effect. Between Lasco's toughness, Khalfani's speed, and whatever Tre Watson and Coprich can give, we should get solid production. At the same time, in my opinion, RB's themselves are a small part of their overall success - the OL and WR blocking is much more important (and, to a lesser degree, a respectable passing game so the defense can't stack the box). Those variables are all pretty unknown, and that tempers my expectations for the RB group as a whole. Put another way, I think we have the RB talent, but them shining will require sustained excellence in blocking, and the jury is still out there.
Vlad Belo: I'm optimistic about our running back group. Like boomtho, I don't see us having the star feature back but we really haven't had that since Shane Vereen graduated. What we do have is a young group with great potential. Lasco is the guy in the bunch whom I expect to emerge as the #1 guy on the depth chart for the season opener. But I look forward to seeing Khalfani as well. We saw some flashes last year of what he can do and his speed is certainly a nice weapon to have when we get him outside the tackles or to the second level of the defense.
I know there's a lot of optimism about true freshman Tre Watson (as there should be). But the guy I am most looking forward to watching is fellow freshman Vic Enwere. Big, powerful back. I expect him to be a factor as a ball carrier, receiver, and blocker.
These guys will only be as good as our OL allows them to be, however. Same story as in years past.
Avinash Kunnath: I'm really high on Pierre Ingram taking a step forward. I think he's a really solid running back coach who got dealt a horrible hand last season. He also gets it when it comes to recruiting. Landing Tre Watson and Vic Enwere last year (both of whom I think are capable of being starting D-1 backs) after the way we performed rushing-wise is just really impressive. It's easily our best RB class since Ron Gould got Jahvid Best and Shane Vereen in one class, and they complement each other really well as our backs of the future.
This is Daniel Lasco's chance to win the top spot, and through two years the jury is out. He has yet to break out. He doesn't have great cutback ability, limiting him mostly to inside plays, and he struggles to stay healthy. I have a feeling Khalfani Muhammad is going to eventually edge out Lasco in overall carries though. I just like his game in this offense, which favors open field ability and working in space.
Finally, I feel like the freshmen will play significant reps as the season goes on. Enwere is just built--he's going to be our short-yardage back real quickly. And out of all four, Watson has the best chance at being a feature back, so I imagine he'll get a chance to start building up reps in a game in which Lasco or Muhammad are struggling. It's a growing year, but I think we see a significant step forward with the O-line mostly returning intact in front of them.
Berkelium97: This is another position where my biggest concern is outside the position's control. In this case, I'm concerned about run blocking. We were 108th in the nation with an underwhelming 3.49 yards per rushing attempt last season. Without a credible running game, the offense loses some flexibility. Opponents can drop 8 into coverage on passing plays, safeties don't bite on playaction, and the red zone offense struggles.
If the O-line can improve its run blocking I think we'll be okay. Muhammad gives us an element of speed, Lasco has demonstrated an ability to charge through would-be tacklers, and the freshmen look promising. Someone will inevitably step up if the O-line does its job.
Avinash Kunnath: We will get to it when we get to the O-line, but the run game actually improved in yards per carry despite all the injuries and shuffling up front. We were averaging well under three yards per carry by mid-season, but we actually ran the ball pretty well against Washington, Arizona, USC, and Colorado (over four yards per carry in each game, over five in two). Muhammad ripped off one big run a game and Lasco and Bigelow each had a good game here and there. With running back depth improving we could see significant improvement in YPC and more trust being put in the rush attack.
Ruey Yen: With the Bear Raid likely getting on track in 2014, I think our RBs will get plenty of opportunities to shine. Like everyone has said earlier about us not having a clear feature back, we do have quite a few players with that game breaking speed. After reading Nam's reports about the Training Camp, both of the freshmen in Tre Watson and Vic Enwere are both supposedly quite impressive. I would not be surprised if one of them emerges as the more tradition workhorse back by the end of the season.
All these expectation are assuming that the Golden Bears will certainly be a lot more competitive this year. If things are a repeat of last year and the Bears fall behind super early in the game, then the RBs, as good as they may be, won't get any opportunities to do anything.