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2017 Indiana Football: Uncertainty at the Running Back Position?

This week we continue our preview of the upcoming IU football season with a look at the running backs on the roster.

NCAA Football: Penn State at Indiana Marc Lebryk-USA TODAY Sports

The Indiana rushing attack has been prevalent for the last few years with stars Tevin Coleman and Jordan Howard using the momentum to break into the NFL. Last season was no different, with Devine Redding rushing for over 1,000 yards.

This season may be a little different for the Hoosiers. Redding has moved on to pursue a pro career and the offensive system will be different following the resignation of Kevin Wilson and the hiring of Mike Debord as the offensive coordinator. Indiana also lost their second-leading rusher from last season after the retirement/graduation of quarterback Zander Diamont.

The fact that highly-regarded running backs coach Deland McCullough left to coach at Southern Cal also makes the running backs picture a little murkier. New coach Mike Hart has said that the competition will be wide open, which is perfectly reasonable. There’s so much talent at the position that any number of guys could be next year’s starter.

Camion Patrick, redshirt senior

The oldest back of the bunch will have his last shot at being an impact player for the Hoosiers this fall after an injury-riddled career. Since transferring to IU from East Mississippi Community College, Patrick has missed time due to knee and shoulder injuries. If you watch his JUCO highlights, you can see how good his open field skills are. He can make defenders miss with ease and he should be able to catch passes out of the backfield considering he’s a former wide receiver. We got a glimpse at his athleticism when he went up for a touchdown catch against Rutger. Yes, it was against Rutger, but it was still a good catch. Once referred to as IU’s best football player by Kevin Wilson, the potential is there for Patrick to have a break out season.

Ricky Brookins, redshirt junior

Brookins should get plenty of touches for IU in the fall. He looked impressive in the Cream & Crimson Game, scoring a touchdown and trucking Good Football Player Rashard Fant to get into the end zone, which you can see a couple of angles of here. Last season, Brookins averaged 4.1 yards per carry on 20 rushes for 82 yards. If you saw him in the spring game, Brookins can obviously contribute to the offense as a pass catcher and he can also carry the load in the running game.

Alex Rodriguez, redshirt junior

Another spring game standout, the former walk-on is a tough, physical runner who could shoulder a heavy load for the Hoosiers in the fall. Rodriguez played every down of the spring game for the Crimson team, which had no other running backs. Last season he carried the ball 10 times for 41 yards, a solid 4.1 yards per carry. After the spring game, Tom Allen commented on A-Rod’s performance, “Big. Physical. Tough,” Allen said, “He played every single snap and he took pride in that. He came to me and said 'Coach, I'm not going to let them sub me out.' Mindset, toughness, I love it." Rodriguez can make moves in the open field and run in between the tackles, like he did when scoring the winning touchdown in overtime of the spring game.

Mike Majette, junior

Majette could play a third-down back role for IU in the fall, as he had a great season catching the ball last season, catching 7 passes over 8 games for 87 yards before he suffered a season ending injury. Majette should also get his fair share of carries as well. He’s carried the ball 76 times over the last two seasons and totaled 361 yards. Majette’s reported 4.4 40-yard dash speed and acceleration make him a great compliment to the more powerful backs on this list like Brookins and Rodriguez.

Devonte Williams, redshirt sophomore

After moving from cornerback to running back before last season, Williams has shown some promise as a versatile, do-it-all back. Last season he ran the ball 48 times for 167 yards, caught 7 passes for 50 yards, and returned 39 kicks for 784 yards. The Hoosiers could use Williams in a number of roles next season.

Tyler Natee, sophomore

You know him, you love him, Big Bacon is back to punish more defenders and score more TDs. The 6-foot, 270-pound power back may have played quarterback in high school, but he should be a big option for IU in short yardage situations in the upcoming season. Natee lost his read option partner with Diamont retiring, but the Wild Bacon package could still be in the cards for IU. The Hoosiers could potentially replace Diamont with redshirt freshman Peyton Ramsey or freshman Nick Tronti, who can both make plays with their legs.

Cole Gest, redshirt freshman

After suffering an injury early last season, Gest is back and ready to go. The athletic back with deceptive speed could be a main cog in the Hoosier backfield during the upcoming season. Gest returned kicks for IU last season before the injury, and he could return to that role as well. Look for Gest to breakout in the fall.

Connor Thomas, redshirt freshman

The Clarksville, TN native joined the Hoosier football program as a walk-on last season. As a senior in high school, Thomas had 1,619 all-purpose yards and 25 TDs. Thomas ran a 4.49 second 40 in high school, so he’s got some speed. He also finished high school with a 3.97 GPA, which was featured in his highlight reel. You can watch his reel here.

Morgan Ellison, freshman

After decommitting from Ohio University, Indiana was quick to offer Ellison and he will come to Bloomington with some lofty expectations after Deland McCullough called him “Jordan Howard 2.0.” The 247Sports’ three-star recruit ran for 1,841 and 29 TDs as a senior. Ellison also lettered in rugby and track & field in high school.

Craig Nelson, freshman

The Miami, FL native committed to IU in January after receiving only one other offer, from the University of Idaho. Ranked as a three-star prospect by 247Sports, Nelson was a two-time All-Dade County selection and was part of three national championship teams at Booker T. Washington High School. Nelson ran for over 1,000 yards and 10 touchdowns as a senior. He also totaled 600 receiving yards and 5 TDs.

With so many talented backs on the roster, expect the carries to get shared between several of them. Patrick should get a crack at the starting gig, but any number of guys could win the job including Williams, Majette, and Brookins. This competition is wide open, and it should be a good one.