Tevin Coleman is the all-around guy among Indiana running backs. He has great hands, phenomenal speed and a more physical approach this season.
Stephen Houston is a prototypical between-the-tackles runner, one who brings the boom with him – and hes got some breakaway speed, too.
Then there are the complimentary players: DAngelo Roberts, who can catch it out of the backfield and is a good slasher. Laray Smith, a freshman who is the teams fastest player. And Myles Turner, another young bruiser who can run through opponents.
Running backs coach Deland McCullough gets excited talking about these guys. There is so much potential, and so much variety, among the Hoosiers backfield options.
You got so many different dimensions in there, McCullough said. Through practice, you start moving the chess pieces around. You see strengths and weaknesses and how you can blend those together to make something thats going to be special.
And IU needs some of those guys to be special this year.
Coach Kevin Wilson hasnt had a 1,000-yard rusher during his three-year tenure in Bloomington. The Hoosiers had the best passing offense in the Big Ten last season, with 311.2 yards per game.
But the run game contributed just 130.8 yards per game, which was 10th among conference programs.
We got a chance at tailback, but we aint been good at tailback since weve been here. From 1990 until now, I believe, this is the first time Ive had two-straight years without a 1,000-yard back, Wilson said. Were still very average at back, and its not the offensive line – its backs too. Those guys need to step up.
Houston and Coleman, who will likely see the bulk of the carries, have accepted that challenge.
Both are battling to get the lions share of snaps, too.
It makes you hungry, said Houston, the 6-foot, 227-pound senior. Im going to step up to the plate, go out here and compete for a starting job, give it my all and I definitely could be the first 1,000 yard rusher in years. Thats how I feel.
Coleman feels the same way. Roberts wants to get into the mix.
And the freshmen, who arent allowed to speak to the media until they play, have to be ready to prove themselves.
All of that stacks up to a lot of competition, which should help the Hoosiers put a better overall unit on the field.
Experience at the position will help, too.
Last year, Steve and all of us left a lot of yards on the field because we didnt really hit our reads exactly, said Coleman, who ran for 225 yards and a touchdown as a freshman. We left a lot of yards on the field. Definitely, this year, well hit 1,000 yards.
Whether its him, or Houston, or some up-and-comers. Wilson was high on Smiths ability in camp.
Its getting him to know which way to go and hang on to the ball, but it goes really fast, Wilson said. Hes hands-down the fastest person that walks in this building. He can roll.
All that adds up to a lot of toys for McCullough to play with, and it gives him and the offensive coordinator a good kind of problem.
With all that talent, who will IU choose?
Right now, McCullough said, the guys are making it hard for us.