After missing out on a running back in the 2014 recruiting cycle, a once crowded depth chart now only features Tarean Folston and Greg Bryant. Two backs that once worried about having to find snaps will now have all the work they could ever want, with the majority of spring spent doing everything they can to stay healthy.
After two seasons in the program, Folston and Bryant find themselves in different places. Yet both have their plates full.
In Folston, the Irish have a do-everything back that could’ve played a much larger role in the offense if he was given the opportunity to do so. Coming off a breakthrough sophomore campaign, Folston should expect to emerge on a national level in 2015.
In Bryant, the Irish have a thoroughbred who is only now being broken. After a lost freshman season due to injury and a second-season learning the ropes, Bryant may seem like he’s been around the block, but could easily live up to his lofty recruiting expectations very quickly if all goes according to plan.
With Josh Adams and Dexter Williams not on campus until June, the numbers are mighty precarious for spring’s 15 practices. But that doesn’t take away from a position group that’s expected to do very big things.
Let’s take a closer look at a running back duo that needs to take a huge step forward this spring.
RUNNING BACK DEPTH CHART
1. Tarean Folston, Jr.
2. Greg Bryant, Jr.*
*Signifies a fifth-year of eligibility available.
Tarean Folston: Stay healthy. That’s pretty much the first, and you could almost say, only objective to Folston’s spring season. Stay healthy, get better, and be ready for a breakout season come fall.
Of course, Folston has work to do. While he showed flashes of brilliance during the middle of the 2014 season, working with a still-to-be determined running back coach and playing under new offensive coordinator Mike Sanford will test the running back.
After knowing only Tony Alford’s coaching and Brian Kelly’s commitment to the ground game, expect the change of scenery only to help Folston.
Greg Bryant: Long gone is the five-star reputation. Now Bryant finds himself with a much-needed blank slate, and a new relationship developing with his offensive coordinator as well as his running backs coach as he enters his second season of eligibility.
Bryant’s maturity has allowed him to deal with the burden of great expectations thus far in his career. And after showing glimpses of good play during the 2014 season, now we need to see maturity in his game.
That means taking what the defense gives. It means not trying to create a YouTube highlight on every carry. And it means running in the framework of the offense, something that Bryant didn’t always do.
After playing almost too fast last season, Bryant can take this spring to build comfort behind an offensive line that should be elite and a running game that most certainly will be emphasized. While showing a chemistry with Malik Zaire certainly helped late in the season, Bryant’s breakout looks right around the corner… even if it’s taken longer than most expected.