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Open Race for Houston's Starting Running Back Position

After losing their top two running backs, the Houston Cougars have to decide the pecking order for the position in 2016. With several candidates and some interesting names, it should be an intense race leading up to the start of the season.

Kenneth Farrow led the production for the Cougars in 2015. Who's going to step up this upcoming season?
Kenneth Farrow led the production for the Cougars in 2015. Who's going to step up this upcoming season?
Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Although the Houston Cougars look poised for continued success in 2016, primarily on the shoulders of quarterback Greg Ward Jr., they still have a few offensive questions. The most pertinent being: who will be the starting running back for the Cougars in 2016?

The senior departures of Kenneth Farrow and Ryan Jackson will be sorely missed. Although Ward led the Cougars in carries, yards and touchdowns last season, Farrow and Jackson were heavily involved in production.

The pair averaged five yards a carry, combined for 1365 yards and 16 TDs. While Farrow was the larger contributor to their production, Jackson's 2015 season ended on November 7 due to a broken collarbone in the 33-30 win over Cincinnati.

Ward will more than likely see a similar amount of rushing attempts, but the Cougars have to figure out what they're doing to complement him in the running game. Then, once you factor in RB Javin Webb's February dismissal, the need for an answer grows even stronger.

Webb had a promising two years on the field for UH, and his 70 carries for 277 yards and four TDs was a step up in responsibility, hopefully preparing him for a larger workload in 2016. Unfortunately, that isn't a possibility.

But when graduations and dismissals decimate RB depth, it's best to go for bulk to explore one's options. And that will more than likely be the case for head coach Tom Herman and offensive coordinator Major Applewhite through this offseason and into the regular season.

The most exciting name available is Duke Catalon, a four-star recruit in 2014 who transferred after redshirting the 2014 season with Texas. He transferred too late to be eligible last year, but he now has three years of eligibility, and is certainly the talent with the highest praise coming out of high school.

The two names that also deserve to be in the mix are sophomore Kaliq Kokuma, who had 18 carries for 92 yards last season, and true freshman Mulbah Car, a three-start recruit out of Reagan High School in Austin, TX.

Kevrin Justice may see some carries as well, but the first three options are likely Catalon, Kokuma and Car. Catalon has shown the most promise, and if he hadn't fallen behind the depth at Texas, he may have seen extensive carries this year or last.

Catalon losing out to others in the offseason isn't the most encouraging sign for actual ability, but the drop off in experience and talent should allow him to be the favorite for the job, or at least a competitor with just as much chance as Car and Kokuma.

Kokuma's small amount of experience certainly helps, and averaging 5.1 yards a carry helps his case to be involved again in 2015. As for Car, he will likely have the hardest route to a starting job as a true freshman, but the current situation in Houston could allow him to snag the spot.

While Houston's dynamic offensive coaching and the return of Ward makes the situation a lot less dire, the Cougars are in need of a solution at running back.

Questions remained unanswered, but this opens up the chance for one of these RBs to break out into a starting role. And considering Catalon, the oldest one vying for the job, still has three years of availability, winning that responsibility would be a major change for seasons to come.