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2019 USF Football Spring Practice Preview: Running Back

R.I.P. Halfback Dive

South Florida v Houston Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

Spring practice begins next week so we will breakdown each position group as we gear up for football season. Note: We will not guess on what impact freshmen who are not on campus yet will have on the team.

Running Back:

Key Losses: Elijah Mack (14 carries, 49 yards, 3.5 ypc); Duran Bell Jr. (28 carries, 148 yards, 5.3 ypc, 1 TD).

Returners: Jordan Cronkrite (184 carries, 1,121 yards 6.1 ypc, nine TD); *Johnny Ford* (115 carries, 787 yards, 6.8 ypc eight TD); Trevon Sands (11 carries, 39 yards, 3.5 ypc).

The era of the Sterlin Gilbert halfback dive is over (thankfully), and thus we move into the Kerwin Bell ‘Fun and Gun’ system. The unit gets its biggest contributor back, with Jordan Cronkrite returning for his senior year, foregoing the NFL Draft. However, Nathan Bond of The Daily Stampede has been able to confirm that Johnny Ford will be moving from RB to WR. This isn’t necessarily to say he won’t be utilized in the running game, but it looks like the new offensive staff wants Johnny to be getting his touches in space, rather than having to blast through an offensive line, defensive line, and linebackers to get to that space.

The issue is that there isn’t much proven depth (if at all) behind Cronkrite now, as Elijah Mack and Duran Bell Jr. were both dismissed from the team (Bell ended up at Alabama State, Mack is not on the roster). Trevon Sands and Dave Small are the only other running back on the roster that registered a stat last year for the Bulls, in which they accounted for less than 20 carries total between the two.

Sands was picked over Mack in 2016 when Darius Tice broke his ankle to suit up and not redshirt. However, Mack and Sands have had pretty similar careers. Some good moments (Sands on special teams in 2017, Mack’s 2018 spring), but have failed to prove it at their position when the games count. At least Sands is still on the roster and can change his course of history. It starts in less than a week.

Other guys on the roster include Odunayo Seriki, who primarily contributed on special teams last year and redshirt freshman JaJuan Cherry, who is transitioning from safety to running back. Come August, they will also have Josh Berry (from Ridge Community HS) join the running back committee, as Kelley Joiner (from South Lake HS) will be playing wide receiver (according to USF’s recruiting profile on him).

Redshirt freshman Brian Norris has transitioned to linebacker. He was spotted late in the year warming up with the linebackers pregame, and now The Daily Stampede has been able to confirm that.

The running back group was the strongest unit for USF last year, and will look to prove they’re not a one-man (or two) show. Cronkrite will now be the feature back, with a committee backing him up, similar to how the running back group looked like in 2015 (Mack had 210 carries that year, Tice had 88).

The group behind Cronkrite will have their chance to impress the coaches, as The Daily Stampede reported that Cronkrite has undergone surgery and will be missing all of spring football.

Position Battles to watch:

  • Backup running back

Previous Spring Practice Previews: