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Houston Cougars Spring Position Previews: Running Back

Plenty of options, but there are only so many carries to go around.

NCAA Football: Houston at Texas Tech Michael C. Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

Part 2 of Houston’s Spring Position Previews focuses on the ball carriers. Houston didn’t have a running back break the 1,000 yard mark, but that could change this year. A new coaching staff means every position (besides quarterback) is wide open. Running back is a crowded position, but let’s see who will be in the rotation this year.

POSITIONS: QB, WR/TE, OL, DL, LB, DB, S/T

Returning Production

PATRICK CARR
152 carries, 868 yards (5.7 yards per carry), 5 touchdowns

MULBAH CAR
66 carries, 325 yards (4.9 ypc), 2 touchdowns

KEVRIN JUSTICE
24 carries, 149 yards (6.2 ypc), 1 touchdown

CHANDLER SMITH
30 carries, 139 yards (4.6 ypc), 2 touchdowns

KELAN WALKER
12 carries, 112 yards (9.3 ypc), 1 touchdown

GRANT STUARD
5 carries, 35 yards (7.0 ypc)

Player Previews

Patrick Carr, Senior

After a 2017 campaign in which he rushed for just 26 yards, Carr took over the starting spot in 2018 and never looked back. His 868 yards were a career high, and he could be even better this year. He’s best when working in small spaces. Running room came at a premium last year, but that didn’t phase him. He may not be the fastest back, but his patience and quick burst through holes allow him to get to the second level quickly. Once he meets a defender, his balance allows him to sustain a hit and keep going forward. After coming close to eclipsing the 1,000 yard mark last year, achieving that this year is the goal.

NCAA Football: South Florida at Houston
Car wasn’t the starter last year, but that doesn’t mean he’s not a candidate to be one this year.
Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Mulbah Car, Senior

If you don’t know his story, you should definitely check it out. Car’s worked hard to get where he is, and that shows on the field. His strength and toughness are evident when he carries the ball, and Houston also uses him to block for King on the edge. Don’t sleep on his speed, as he is more than capable of running away from defenders. While Carr receives starter carries, Car will also get his fair share of rushing attempts. They form one of the more reliable backfields in the conference.

Kevrin Justice, Senior

Averaging 6.2 yards per carry isn’t a joke. Justice may be the third option with this team, but that could change with this coaching staff. Throw in the potential for injuries, and Justice will need to be ready when called upon. Given that passing is vital for this offenses success, adding pass catching to his arsenal could help him see the field more.

Chandler Smith, Junior

You could say size isn’t on his side, but that doesn’t matter to him. Smith plays bigger than his size, which will do him well when this position becomes wide open next year. Three seniors currently remain ahead of him, but he will still get a chance to show what he can do to this new coaching staff.

Kelan Walker, Sophomore

When Walker first signed with the Cougars, I said that he could be a contributor with this team early. His 9.3 yards per carry made me look good despite his limited rushing attempts. At 5’11”, 214 pounds, he has great size for this position, but his quickness and speed round out his game well. Like Smith, this year may not result in carries, but he can still showcase his skills for next year.

Tulane v Houston
Surprisingly, we saw Stuard carry the ball a few times after playing primarily on defense.
Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images

Grant Stuard, Junior

Houston used Stuard all over the place on defense, and that’s where he should be in 2019. But since were allowed to wonder what he can do given last year, let’s talk about Stuard the running back. This kid loves the game of football, and that’s the best way to put it. He plays every play like it’s his last, and his motor is equal to that of Ed Oliver’s. If he’s used at running back, the position gets a player who will run through anyone for his team. Since it’s crowded already, he’s probably going to stay on defense. Don’t know who he is? Just watch for the flowing hair.

Josh Burrell, Senior

Burrell mostly saw time on special teams the last few years, and there hasn’t been any indication of that changing. He’s the biggest back on the team, so he could be called upon for goal line packages. For now, we should expect to see his consistency on special teams, but that doesn’t mean things could change.

Recruiting class addition: Terrell Brown

Outlook

Given what we saw last year, there’s not much doubt that we will see anyone besides Carr and Car getting a majority of the carries. What’s unknown is how this coaching staff will evaluate these players. I truly believe that Walker could get into the rotation, given his skillset. Whether that happens or not remains to be seen. Dana Holgorsen’s offense typically has been pass-heavy, so getting a rusher over 1,000 yards could be a tall task. Still, he’s got plenty of options that can carry the ball.