With two months till the season opener at Tulane, here’s the running back outlook in our position-by-position series on FIU.
All stats listed are for the 2018 season. Projected starter(s) in bold.
Returning: Shawndarrius Phillips (Sr.)- 5-11, 225, 393 yards and four touchdowns
Napoleon Maxwell (Grad.)- 6-0, 215, 684 yards rushing and seven touchdowns
D’Vonte Price (Jr.)- 6-2, 205, 560 yards rushing and five touchdowns
Anthony Jones (Grad)- 5-11, 220, 338 yards and six touchdowns
Shaun Peterson Jr. (R-Fr.)- 6-3, 225, four-game redshirt, 41 yards rushing
DeMarcus Townsend (R-Fr.)- 5-11, 205, redshirted in 2018
Jordan Atkins (R-Fr.)- 5-9, 188, redshirted in 2018
Newcomers: Maleek Williams (R-Soph)- 5-11, 225, 144 yards rushing and two touchdowns (At Arkansas)
Lexington Joseph (Fr.)- 5-8, 180, three-star recruit
Andy Bautista (Fr.)- 6-1, 230, made the team as a spring walk-on (Fullback)
Kamareon Williams (Fr.)- 6-3, 240, three-star recruit (Fullback)
Heading into Fall: FIU’s strongest unit from 2018 is back in full force for ‘19.
The quartet of Anthony Jones, D’Vonte Price, Shawndarrius Phillips, and Napoleon Maxwell. may very well make up the deepest running back room in C-USA. Each player is capable of being a starter at almost any FBS program in the nation.
Plus, talented freshman Shaun Peterson Jr. is fully healthy after battling ankle injuries for most of last season, and the equally capable DeMarcus Townsend is also part of the stable.
Collin Olsen filled the fullback position when it was deployed last season and did an excellent job as a blocker/special teams player in 2018. While it’s not a staple of the offense, Olsen did see time in all 13 contests.
With his graduation, three-star recruit Kamareon Williams is listed as a fullback, along with walk-on Andy Bautista who made the team in spring tryouts.
Williams is an excellent athlete, who played multiple positions in high school. Bautista hasn’t played football of record since his high-school graduation in 2016.
Summary: Just like last season. expect to see the top four backs used in a variety of ways, and in certain packages, multiple backs will be on the field together.
Offensive coordinator Rich Skrosky likes to deploy Price out of the slot in “12” personnel (one running back, two tight ends), either as a decoy, as a runner, or as a receiver.
Here’s an example of the 12 personnel grouping with Price.
The next clip shows an example of a “heavy” personnel grouping for FIU. Here, Skrosky has a fullback (Collin Olsen) along with two backs (Napoleon Maxwell and Shawndarrius Phillips) in “30” personnel.
Price and Jones are the most versatile of the backs, with each having at least 10 catches in 2018.
Maxwell is a tough runner, who is rarely stopped behind the line of scrimmage, and gets better as the game progresses.
Phillips is the most curious of the unit. After having 53 carries in the first four games, he fell out of the rotation, only having 41 carries in the final seven contests he appeared in.
The Delray Beach native battled injuries down the stretch, and then missed to the bowl game due to an off-the-field issue. However, when he’s right, he’s more than capable of carrying the load.
A player to keep an eye on is Peterson Jr.
Butch Davis hasn’t been shy about mentioning the freshman, who appeared in two games before taking a redshirt. He’s the biggest of the backs at 6-3. 225-pounds and runs with a purpose when he has the football.
Position Grade: A - Running backs coach Tim Harris Jr. has the kind of depth that most programs envy.
While there may not be a Willis McGahee, Clinton Portis or Edgerrin James on the roster (all players that Davis recruited at Miami), the group doesn’t drop off in talent from 1-5.
The only thing hampering them is consistency, as the rushing attack was ranked 117th in rushing marginal efficiency, but ninth in rushing marginal explosiveness a season ago.
In layman’s terms, what that means is the run game in 2018 was either boom or bust.
Now, with Skrosky’s offense prioritizing staying “on schedule,” during drives, a one-yard gain isn’t a bad play, however, each of these backs is capable of a big play at anytime.
That aside, this is still one of the deepest units in FBS football. The only reason they don’t get an A-plus, is because of the overall rushing efficiency last season.