(Editor's Note: This is yet another in my series of players who I will be especially interested to see in action this fall.)
Moise Plancher has been at USF a long time, but he's always been on the periphery of the discussion about running backs. Ever since he tore up his knee in his first college game back in 2006, it's always been "oh, and we have Plancher too, is he healthy?" (It took him two full seasons to rehab his torn ACL, and he received a sixth year of eligibility this past spring.) When people wanted to discuss USF's running game the last few years, it was Mike Ford and Jamar Taylor and Matt Grothe and B.J. Daniels getting all of the attention.
This year, Ford, Taylor, and Grothe are all gone, and Daniels is (presumably) going to be running less often than he did last season. On top of that, Skip Holtz has said he would love to have a regular, featured running back if anyone can prove themselves worthy. With Plancher listed at the top of the depth chart going into fall practice, this could finally be his big chance to shine. However, it's hard to tell if he can handle that kind of role, because the data from the last three seasons is mixed and quite possibly incomplete.
God knows I've harped on the way the skill positions were handled on Jim Leavitt's watch, with running backs and wide receivers shuttled in and out of the game so quickly that no one ever got into a groove. That applied to Plancher as well - in fact, last year was the first time he had ever had 10 touches in a game, and he's never had a game with 20 or more touches. Part of that was the overdone rotation at running back, but it might have also been because of inconsistency. For every game against Miami (15 carries for 78 yards), he had a clunker against Syracuse (9 carries for 19 yards) or Northern Illinois (5 carries for 11 yards, padded by a 12-yard run). And there's a chance I'm misremembering this, but I don't think Plancher has ever been a tackle-breaking, push-the-pile kind of back… the kind of runner you would have no trouble giving 300 carries in a season. We really don't know whether he could have handled that kind of workload all along, or if that's just not his style.
There are certainly plenty of contenders for the starting running back job. Plancher, Demetris Murray, juco transfer Michael Hayes, and possibly incoming freshman Marcus Shaw could end up with the role. For now, though, it belongs to Plancher, and soon we'll see if it's finally time for him to dominate our conversations about the running game.