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.
Position Coach: Cam Aiken
Key departures: Darrian Felix (34 carries, 104 rushing yards)
Key returnees: Jaren Mangham (160 carries, 671 rushing yards, 15 touchdowns), Kelley Joiner Jr. (78 carries, 480 rushing yards, two touchdowns), Brian Battie (57 carries, 316 rushing yards, one touchdown), K’Wan Powell (Missed 2021 season with knee injury)
Key additions: Michel Dukes (Clemson transfer)
Heading into spring practice, the running back room for USF football will stand to benefit from continuity as the group returns their top three rushers from last fall. They showed what the could do when setting the single-game program rushing record against Temple and will have a few more bullets in the chamber to work with.
Senior Jaren Mangham will look to build on what was a solid first season in Tampa in 2021. At 6’2”, 221 pounds, the Colorado transfer bouldered his way onto the scene and became a red-zone playmaker with 15 touchdowns on the year. Junior Kelley Joiner once again showed flashes of explosiveness at times as did sophomore Brian Battie, who earned consensus All-American status as a kick returner last season.
Darrian Felix was the sole transfer portal departure from the group, but Jeff Scott and RB coach Cam Aiken reached into their bag of Clemson connections and brought down former Tiger running back Michel Dukes. By all accounts, Dukes has fit right into the program and the Charleston, SC, native should be getting a good amount of run in the spring. Also present is redshirt freshman K’Wan Powell, who went down with a season-ending knee injury during fall camp. Scott had specifically mentioned Powell in a few media sessions in the buildup to the 2021 season so he was definitely someone the coaching staff were really high on prior to the injury.
An area that can definitely be improved on is incorporating the backs into the passing game. The running backs didn’t record a single receiving touchdown in 2021 and none of them got any more than eight receptions for the season. Easy screens and catches out of the backfield would make the life of quarterback Timmy McClain (or whoever wins the starting job) a heck of a lot easier.