Yes, I've called it before and I'm calling now, Devontae Booker will be the starting running back during the 2014 season. And the role he will play will be crucial to the success of Utah. Bubba Poole will still see a ton of touches, it's just he's tentative running between the tackles and getting those tough yards. Booker is a tough runner, that can shed tackles and get those last couple of yards for a 1st-down, plus he also has plenty of shake in his style to elude tacklers in the open field.
The fact of the matter is, this offensive unit needs a productive every down running back. They need a back that can get in there and get those last couple of yards, or one that can pick-up an edge rush to give the QB time. Poole had a good start to last year, but eventually started to run soft when it came to getting those tough yards. On the season last year, Utah averaged 4.1 yards per carry. No where near good enough to compete game-in and game-out in the Pac-12. Between Poole, Kelvin York, Karl Wiliams, and Lucky Radley, Utah had a hard time identifying the go-to guy all season.
There are plenty of other names out there that people would put as more indispensable, and they'd be hard to argue. Especially with the offensive line coming off the season they did. I expect, especially with the addition of Jim Harding, this group to improve greatly this coming season. Jeremiah Poutasi has already shown me that he's more serious this season, by losing some weight and getting faster. This is no doubt the most indispensable group.
Many people would say whoever starts at quarterback would be more indispensable. No doubt the QB position is the most important on the field. I now see plenty of talent at QB, with Wilson and Manning, that can handle that roll. Not to forget the 2011 season, when Jon Hayes was quarterback, proved that you can win some games by not having the best guy behind center. Fortunately, John White was there to save the Utes in 2011. Booker can possibly fill that same roll this season.
If the offensive line improves, which I expect it to, then Devontae Booker will take a ton of pressure off of whichever quarterback holds onto the starting spot.
One of the biggest problems for the Ute offense the last couple of seasons, other than injuries at the QB position, was the ability to keep the chains moving and staying on the field. Last season, Utah was 11th in the Pac-12 in 1st-downs gained and 10th in 3rd-down conversion percentage, at 34.2%. Not only are drives not sustained and ending too soon, but that puts what is likely a tired defense back on the field. Devontae Booker has shown he has the capability of powering for those yards to help keep a drive alive. Even if a drive doesn't result in points, taking some time off the clock, flipping field position, and keeping the defense off the field will help over the course of the season.
If Utah is to be successful this coming season, they will need to average about 5-yards per carry, convert around 45% on 3rd-down conversion, and will wear teams down in the 4th quarter. And all of that will be if Devontae Booker (behind an improved offensive line) takes them there.
So, who do you think Utah's most indispensable player is this upcoming season? Let us know below!