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2021 USF Football Spring Practice Preview: Running Backs

What will the Bulls run game look like under new running backs coach Cam Aiken?

NCAA Football: South Florida at Memphis Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports

Spring practice begins this 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:

Position Coach: Cam Aiken (First season at USF)

Key Losses: Johnny Ford (189 carries, 1175 yards, 13 touchdowns), Josh Berry (DNP in 2020), Odunayo Seriki ( 7 carries, 22 yards)

Key Returnees: Darrian Felix (10 carries, 25 yards); Kelley Joiner Jr. (78 carries, 368 yards, 1 TD) Brian Battie (46 carries, 332 yards, 1 TD), Leonard Parker (22 carries, 98 yards, 2 TD)

Key Additions: Jaren Mangham (Colorado transfer, not on campus yet)

If the 2020 season proved anything, it’s that the Bulls are a team that has a long rebuild ahead of them. If they are to have a better season, head coach Jeff Scott and his staff are going to have to answer a lot of questions. One of the biggest question is going to be what to do at running back.

The 2020 season was a poor one for USF running backs. Not a single player had a statistically good season. And the struggles could get worse next season as not one but two players have decided to leave the team. Johnny Ford, arguably the Bulls best running back last season, is transferring to FAU and Josh Berry, who was a redshirt freshman this past season, has also entered the transfer portal, meaning we will never know what he could have done in a Bulls uniform.

The Bulls didn’t have a running back go over 100 yards in a game until the final game of the season when Battie, and Joiner both accomplished the feat.

The Bulls should be expected to utilize a rotation scheme this season as the majority of their returning rushers had similar stats last season and there is no clear superstar among them. Darrian Felix had only 10 carries and 25 rushing yards last season due to nagging soft tissue injuries . Kelley Joiner Jr. had 78 carries for 368 yards and one touchdown (and two critical fumbles). Brian Battie got 332 yards and a single touchdown off of 46 carries. Leonard Parker had 22 carries and ran for 98 yards and two touchdowns.

Despite the apparent challenges at running game, Scott is confident that the core will improve under Cam Aiken, who previously spent nine seasons as a member of the Clemson coaching staff. He was a major part of the Tiger’s successful seasons, which included winning two national championships. Scott, who has said Aiken has “an incredible offensive football mind” apparently wanted to bring Aiken to USF last season, but Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney, wanted to keep him around and gave him a raise to make sure he would stay. If one of the best coaches in college football likes a coach that much, it is fair to say that USF’s running backs are in good hands.