Boston College's running back position has certainly been a position in flux over the past 12 months. Going into the 2015 season it appeared that Jonathan Hilliman was going to be the feature back, but an early injury derailed his sophomore campaign. Myles Willis, Tyler Rouse and to a lesser extent Marcus Outlow all got opportunities in BC's struggling offense last year, but none really grabbed defenses attention like Hilliman did in '14. Moving ahead the running back position will be a major storyline to watch. Let's take a look at how BC's running back situation stacks up for spring football.
The Hill Is Back
Even before his injury that cut his season short, 2015 was difficult for Jon Hilliman. Because of the struggles up front, he wasn't getting any room to run the ball, and finished the season with a paltry 3.88 yards per carry. He was practically invisible against FSU, but the important thing to note is that he is much better than that. Against NIU he exploded for 144 yards before he went down with his season ending injury, it was painful to watch because it was clear that he was getting everything back on track. Obviously the key moving forward for Hilliman will be his recovery and when he gets back on the field, the blocking. But if he can get space, he is a bruising back, with good acceleration and he should be the key to an effective BC rushing attack. He should be healthy enough to participate in spring football, but to what extent remains to be seen.
No New Friends
Probably the most concerning aspect of BC's depth chart was the attrition at the running back position. At some point last season Marcus Outlow, Myles Willis, Jordan Gowins, Jonathan Hilliman and Tyler Rouse were either hurt or banged up to the point that they couldn't play. It seemed by the end of the season all BC had left was a battered Rouse. Injuries at this position are natural, it's physically demanding, and with the way Addazio leans on them, it's going to happen. What worries me the most is that not only did Boston College not add any running backs in the 2016 class, but they lost two as well. Currently as it stands the depth chart only has Tyler Rouse, Hilliman and Willis. BC is going to need to make an addition there, whether that is through a transfer, or a position change. They cannot just have three running backs in an offense that relies so heavily on the run.
Where Will The Depth Come From?
Position changes are natural in college football. If BC can't land a transfer running back this spring, they are going to need to look at their roster as constituted to see if there is a player they can transition to HB. There are players on the roster that have experience at that position in high school, specifically Sharrieff Grice, Ben Glines, and Richard Wilson that they can plug in if it needed. Wilson seems to be the most logical candidate, as he got time at the position in 2015, and had some success (relatively speaking) and he came to BC as a half back before he was transitioned to the fullback position.
White and Loeffler On The Scene
As part of BC's coaching purge, former RB's coach Al Washington was promoted to Special Teams Coordinator. Taking his place is WR coach Brian White. While moving Washington could be perceived as a net loss for the position, the addition of White could be huge for the BC backs. While at Wisconsin, White was the offensive coordinator for Ron Dayne who went on to win the Heisman. His pedigree at this position is solid, and could really add to a vital position. New offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler on the other hand, has made his mark working with quarterbacks, so it will be interesting to see what effect he has on the half backs at BC
The running back position is clearly going to be a major focus of recruiting for the Class of 2017. With Rouse and Willis graduating, BC is going to need to get 2-3 recruits at this position. They are going to be able to sell all the usual BC selling points, along with immediate playing time. Clearly the gem they are targeting is AJ Dillon, a local 4*, but he might be a stretch, especially after an offer from Notre Dame (where his father played).