COLUMBUS, OH - NOVEMBER 5: Stephen Houston #12 of the Indiana Hoosiers celebrates his five-yard touchdown run in the first half against the Ohio State Buckeyes at Ohio Stadium on November 5, 2011 in Columbus, Ohio. (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)
The starter? Stephen Houston
A few days ago, I wouldn't have expected to include the question mark above, but new offensive coordinator Seth Littrell raised some eyebrows (or mine, at least) when he told the BTN crew that the front-runner for the starting position was someone else (see below). Regardless, Houston is the most accomplished running back on the roster, having led the team with 802 yards and 8 touchdowns. He also gained 164 yards on 17 receptions, which is significant, because the current offensive scheme will involve quite a bit of throwing the ball to the RBs. Houston broke the 100 yard barrier three times last season, against Northwestern, Wisconsin, and Purdue. His 52 yard touchdown run against the Boilermakers gave some temporary hope for the upset. Houston is a junior college transfer, but transferred after only one year, so he has two more seasons (including 2012) of eligibility.
Isaiah Roundtree. Roundtree is a redshirt sophomore who hasn't take a snap in game action since his senior year of high school in 2009. He transferred to IU from Morehead State and apparently was fairly impressive for the scout team last year. Of course, Roundtree has no college stats (he saw no action in his single year at Morehead), but Roundtree was listed by Littrell as the front-runner for the starting position. Roundtree is from Lawrence Central in Indianapolis. LC has never been a football power, at least not in recent memory, but if Roundtree does get the nod he will join a high school teammate, Roberson, in the IU backfield.
Matt Perez. The Chicago Tribune's high school player of the year as a senior, Perez has struggled with injuries since arriving at IU. He tore his ACL as a true freshman (although he may well have redshirted anyway) and missed at least the start of camp this season with a back injury. Perez did see the field in 10 of IU's 12 games last season, but after bearing some significant share of the load early in the season, he never carried the ball more than four times in IU's final nine games. He finished the season with 195 yards and 4 TDs, but 135 of those yards and all of the touchdowns came in the first three games.
D'Angelo Roberts. The true freshman from Bloomington also saw his carries decrease as Houston came into favor, but finished the season with 263 yards and four touchdowns. Two of his TDs came in the season finale against Purdue.
Tevin Coleman. Coleman is a true freshman from Oak Forest, Illinois. Coleman's offer sheet is very impressive--Michigan State, Iowa, Illinois, Purdue, and West Virginia, among others--but Coleman committed to IU because IU was willing to commit to Coleman as a running back. Some of Coleman's highest profile suitors, including MSU, considered moving him to defense. Those who saw IU's recent public scrimmage raved about him.
All of the other running backs on the roster are either walk-ons or are sitting out because of transferring in. It will be interesting to see how these guys adjust to the new offense, but there seems to be a nice mix of experience and potential here.