Utah running back room features new faces, but plenty of options

Micah Bernard has the most experience as a Ute, but Power Five transfers Chris Curry and TJ Pledger have more careers

FILE – In this September 14, 2019 file photo, Idaho State defensive lineman Gilbert Varela hits Utah running back Devin Brumfield during the second half of a college football game in the NCAA in Salt Lake City. Devin Brumfield, Jordan Wilmore, Micah Bernard and Ty Jordan will go their separate ways this season. (AP Photo / Rick Bowmer, file)

From a strictly football standpoint, Ty Jordan’s death on December 26 left a major hole for the University of Utah running back.

Even before Jordan died, as the 2020 season was still playing out, University of Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham expressed the need to access the NCAA transfer portal to add more. depth at position. It has all to do with the defections, both before and during last season.

During preseason camp, TJ Green was the intruder in a four-man battle for five spots with Jordan, Devin Brumfield, Jordan Wilmore and Micah Bernard. On December 14, with one game to play in Utah’s abridged five-game season, Brumfield and Wilmore announced their respective transfers two hours apart. By the time those two were transferred, Jordan had a hammer in the position, eventually finishing his freshman season with 597 yards, six rushing touchdowns and the first-year Pac-12 offensive year honors of the year.

Between Jordan’s death and those three transfers, the legitimate options for the job were Bernard, with four-star freshman Ricky Parks only arriving this month, so Whittingham did something about the portal.

Ahead of spring training in March, the Utes marked the transfer from LSU Chris Curry and transfer from Oklahoma TJ Pledger. Behind those two, Tavion Thomas of Independence Community College signed up last month.

Pledger erupted last season at Norman as a junior, rushing for 451 yards and nine touchdowns, but still opted for a fresh start. Curry has had just 91 rushing attempts in three seasons with the Tigers, but has played in some high profile games, including finishing with 90 yards on 16 carries in a college football playoff semifinal victory. in 2019 against Oklahoma. Thomas led the ICC in the ground run in 2020, but has spent the previous two seasons at Cincinnati, including running for 499 yards and six scores as a true freshman in 2018.

With the additions, the Utah running back room is now set, and it looks a bit like last season. Instead of Bernard, Brumfield, Green, Jordan and Wilmore competing to succeed Zack Moss’ record, it is now Bernard, Curry, Pledger, Parks and Thomas all in the mix to succeed Jordan, who has come to the during the latter part of 2020 as a force of nature. Of his 597 yards in the freshman, 468 of them have been won in Utah’s last three games, all of them winners.

Whittingham’s biggest praise for the position at the Spring Ball went to Bernard, who he said ranked the best of the group in live situations in practice. Bernard’s 15 runs for 76 yards in five games last season belies the fact that this will be his third year in the program and his third year working with offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig and running backs coach Kiel McDonald. This level of experience is superior to that of the other four candidates combined, a factor not to be overlooked.

Whittingham called Pledger more of a scatback, his best comparison being former Utes backer John White, who recorded back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons in 2011 and 2012. Curry has been described by Whittingham as “more tackle-to-tackle ”, but with the speed and quickness to get out if necessary.

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