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Wake Forest Running Back Overview

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What can we expect to see out of the Wake Forest running backs this season?

Mark Dolejs-USA TODAY Sports

Wake Forest had the worst rushing game in the country last season. That is simply not up for debate. The Deacs averaged an entire 1.25 yards per carry, which was last nationally, and .7 yards/carry worse than second-to-last. In three games last season, the Deacs finished with a negative rushing total, and in only one game, Army, did Wake Forest eclipse the 100 yard mark. However, it's not entirely fair to place the entire lack of a rushing attack on the tailbacks. The offensive line was dead last in a number of offensive line statistics including: adjusted line yards, line yards/carry on standard and passing downs, and stuff rate. The offensive line, while younger, is now stronger and faster than a season ago. Will the running game improve? I examine that and how I expect the carries to be distributed.

Freshmen

Rocky Reid

Reid is one of the best prospects Wake Forest has ever landed. Reid ran for more than 6,000 yards over his final two years of high school, and chose Wake Forest over West Virginia, and Louisville.  His body is college-ready and I fully expect him to compete for the starting job from day one.

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Matt Colburn

Matt Colburn made national news for all of the wrong reasons this past recruiting cycle. He was initially committed to Louisville, only to have his scholarship offer revoked at the last minute and was instead offered a gray shirt. What was Louisville's loss, turned out to be Wake Forest's gain. Colburn was very productive during his high school career. He accumulated 6,543 yards and 95 touchdowns during his high school career. As a senior, he ran for 1,705 yards and 27 touchdowns, and as a result he was named Mr. Football in the state of South Carolina. I expect Colburn to compete for playing time this season. Worst case, is that he will be a very valuable piece in the future.

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Tyler Bell

Bell is a freshman out of the state of Alabama. He ran the ball 153 times for 640 yards as a senior, though he was dealing with injuries throughout the season. I expect Bell to redshirt this season, but Clawson has said the running back battle could be a five-man race.

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Returning Players

Isaiah Robinson

Robinson received the most carries for the Deacs last season. He ran the ball 98 times for 175 yards, which translates to just 1.8 yards/carry. He also finished with 3 touchdowns. Robinson is more of a power back than a speed back. I expect him to compete for the starting role, but I do not believe he has the same raw ability that Rocky Reid does. However, he does have a year of experience and conditioning going for him. He should still get plenty of touches this season.

Dez Wortham

Wortham displayed some strong flashes last season, after missing most of the first month of the season. Against Florida State, he ran the ball 12 times for 68 yards. Against Clemson he ran the ball 8 times for 30 yards, but unfortunately he averaged just 2.86 yards/carry on the season. Again, it's difficult to determine how much of this was on the backs and how much of this was on the offensive line. Wortham is best in the open field, and he had a very good spring game. I expect him to get an opportunity to start.

Conclusion

Wake Forest now has some legitimate pieces at running back. Reid was a massive pick up for this staff, and it was very helpful to also add Colburn late in the recruiting period. The offensive line this season could easily start three redshirt freshmen, in Phil Haynes, Ryan Anderson and Justin Herron. What they lack in experience and refined technique, they do make up for in agility and strength. It's not ideal to start three redshirt freshmen on an offensive line, but this move will pay dividends in 2016 and beyond.  The running attack will be better in 2015 by default, but it probably will not be solid until 2016.