IU likes its options at running back #iufb

Deland McCullough sits at home some nights and lets his mind wander.

The Indiana running backs coach jots down notes and ideas, devising ways to find carries for his charges in a loaded Hoosier backfield.

“I’m like, ‘Man, he can do this, Devine (Redding) can do this, (Mike) Majette can do this, Cole (Gest) can do this.'” McCullough said. “… You got a lot of good things going on and it’s exciting.”

Sustained depth at running back is a welcome luxury as Indiana introduces a new starting quarterback. As many as eight players could factor into the Hoosiers’ ground attack this fall, and while such a situation is ripe for a logjam, McCullough is confident he can make this work.

With Jordan Howard now in the NFL, IU appears set to hand the reigns to Redding, who finished strong and rushed for 1,012 yards as a junior last year. Redding, too, will have help at the position.

Majette also has the skill set to fill a variety of roles, while Gest is a dynamic runner and a pass-catching threat out of the backfield. Devonte Williams, who played corner as a freshman in 2015, is built similar to Gest and will rotate onto the field.

Then there’s IU’s newfound power game, which will feature 280-pound freshman Tyler Natee and 225-pound linebacker Clyde Newton, who will play both ways in situational roles.

IU also likes walk-on Alex Rodriguez, who scored a touchdown in last December’s Pinstripe Bowl, and the team is looking forward to the debut of Camion Patrick, who could enter the fold by the start of Big Ten season in October. An ACL injury has sidelined Patrick since the spring, but Indiana coach Kevin Wilson has called the junior college transfer the best player on the roster.

So how does IU manage such a crew? It could all depend on the situation.

“We have some bigger, thicker guys. We have some slasher guys,” offensive coordinator Kevin Johns said. “For us, we like the balance that we have. Our challenge is going to be how do we get them all on the field? Those guys are slugging it out on the practice field trying to determine who should get the bulk of the reps. I think we have some good one-two punches.”

With that, there’s the potential that IU could deploy elements of a more traditional Big Ten offense. Kevin Wilson acknowledged as much during a recent appearance on Big Ten Network.

While the Hoosiers aren’t abandoning their no-huddle spread attack, they can deliver a higher workload to the running back corps while feeling confident and comfortable doing so.

Don’t be surprised if Indiana’s Sept. 1 opener at Florida International is particularly run-heavy. It would be a safe and strong approach, especially considering factors like Indiana’s quarterback situation and the unpredictable South Florida weather.

“I think it’s a great opportunity for the backs to get more opportunities to be lead guys, as far as our offense and spinning things off of our running game a little bit more than maybe in the past while we bring the quarterbacks along,” McCullough said. “In some of these packages, (there are) opportunities to get these other guys in. That’s why I’m pushing for these two-back packages because they can feature Cole Gest, they can feature Natee, they can feature Devonte. Then, some of your guys on the top part of the rotation, you don’t need Devine on that. You have other good guys who can play those roles.”

So there should be plenty of fresh legs at IU’s disposal.

And plenty of potential to incorporate different styles and approaches.

“It’s tough,” McCullough said about finding carries,” but it’s exciting, too.”