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Spring football review: Running Backs

NCAA Football: Colorado at Utah Jeff Swinger-USA TODAY Sports

It was a pretty quiet spring, overall, for the Utah football program, which I’d say is a good thing. We didn’t hear about a bunch of injuries, issues and system changes, which is a nice change of pace. Instead, we heard and saw how much better Tyler Huntley was looking in Troy Taylor’s offense, and that the secondary appears to be as deep as we all wanted it to be. I’m going to focus on the running back group today, and how Utah’s backfield could be as potent as ever in this upcoming season.

As long as they stay healthy, the Utes have a nice stable of running backs, being led by Zack Moss. Moss, a junior in the upcoming season, is comingo off of a 1200 yard season, and was unstopable in the last few games of the season. In the spring, in limited action, he showed what we saw at the end of last season. He was patient and did a good job picking up tough yards. He will no doubt be the lead back going into the coming season, but what he has behind him is what has me really excited. The key for Moss going forward is continue to work on the other parts of his game, like pass blocking. The kept him off the field as a freshman, and he did a much better job last season, but it’s so important in today’s game that the running back have his QB’s back. Of course, it’s improtant for him too to let Huntley know he needs to get the ball on occasion on the read option.

After missing almost a year and a half, Armand Shyne returned to action this spring and he looked good. He’s very similar to Moss in a lot of ways, and what we saw from him a couple of seasons ago, when we was named the starter after Joe Williams left the team, he has the nose to pick up tough yards between the tackles. He’s not really the thunder to Zack’s lightning, but he’s an excellent option to have behind Moss, and could possible be a 1B in the depth chart. I see Shyne as a guy that can really help run out a clock. He did that really well in a situational drill in the last spring scrimmage.

So there are the two leading guys, Moss and Shyne, but the depth beyond those two also have me intriuged. Devonta’e Henry-Cole wasn’t able to practice this spring, due to an injury, but he really showed this past season that he can be an excellent change of pace back. He’s really slippery and can evade defenders with both his speed and size. He’s a big weapon that could come out of the backfield, as well, and to line up in the slot. I’d love to see him on the field in a lot of two back sets to give that dual option and really make defenses think.

The last guy that jumped out to me is TJ Green. The youngster from Arizona showed some playmaking ability this spring, and picked up some tough yards. I’m not sure how much run Green would get in the upcoming season, but he showed some things this spring that opened my eyes a little bit. He ran a little bit like Shyne, and did a good job getting around the end of the line of scrimmage to move the chains. Some young running backs will dance a bit in the back field and try to get a home run every play, and I saw some good decision making by Green, which bodes well for his future.

Having a returning offensive lineman really will help this crew too. Returning 4 of the 5 starters is a big deal, and having a returning QB is too. The key for this group will be health and having the trust of their QB. Maybe trust is the wrong term, but Huntley did keep it way too often last season, so if his decision making in the run game improves, I could see the Utes running for a lot of yards, which will be key to having a big season.