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Houston Cougars Postseason Position Review: Running Back

Injuries hampered this group, but they were still fairly effective.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: OCT 19 Houston at UConn Photo by Williams Paul/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Adding depth to a position that seemingly didn’t need it proved to be a great idea as the season progressed. The running back position returned Patrick Carr and Mulbah Car, but Dana Holgorsen added Texas transfer Kyle Porter to the mix. We received a preview of what next year will look like and, despite less production than 2018, this group looked solid most of the year.

Season Review

The injury bug got Houston running backs this year too, leading to a rotation of healthy and new backs. Returning starter Patrick Carr only saw action in six games this season, which was a disappointment for his senior season. Injuries prevented him from staying on the field, but he manged to be efficient when he played. Averaging 5.7 yards per carry, Carr was his normal self when healthy. Even when the blocking wasn’t the greatest, he could break off a big run at any time. When he wasn’t in, Houston was lucky to have guys to take his place.

Kyle Porter became a valuable piece for the Cougars offense in 2019, rushing for 616 yards and three touchdowns. He also added 128 yards receiving and another score. Porter gave Houston another strong back who wouldn’t shy away from contact, but also a threat as a receiver. Unfortunately, at times Porter battled a back injury that kept him out of a game and knocked him out of a couple others. So that’s now two players that dealt with injuries this year but, once again, Houston had more guys waiting.

An argument could be made that Mulbah Car was the best running back on Houston this year. He made the most of his 59 carries, averaging 6.4 yards on those rushes. A couple times this year (especially against Oklahoma), Car lit a fire in the rushing attack that struggled at times. Holgorsen and his staff managed to limit him to four games of action, giving him a chance to reshirt for next year. Car will compete again for the starting job, and this position adds more depth too.

Chandler Smith averaged five yards per carry this year, but only received 32 carries. With Carr gone, he’ll compete for carries in 2020, assuming he can beat out a handful of players. Terrell “Smoke” Brown saw time in key games this year, as did Kelan Walker. Both are expected to compete with Car, Smith, and Porter for reps next year. That’s basically what fans should expect next year unless a transfer or someone unknown hops into the mix in the offseason.

Season Grade: B+

Questions Going Forward

  • Can this group stay healthy?
  • Will more competition push them to elevate their play?
  • Can one back eclipse 1,000 yards in a crowded backfield?


The depth chart next year figures to be:


There’s no doubt about the first two, but the competition figures to be tight for the third spot. Houston’s offense struggled with consistency this year, and the running backs weren’t much different. Overall a solid group, but they can do much better. Staying healthy will help that goal, and healthy competition should make them better as a whole. Even in Dana Holgorsen’s Air Raid, the running game must be prominent. He’ll have the talent to balance the attack next year, and it’s just a matter of who much they get used and how high they can go.