For the time being, at least, coach Lane Kiffin doesn’t seem to mind that a clear No. 1 hasn’t emerged.
“It’s a good problem to have,” Kiffin said. “It’s our deepest position. Safe to say, it’s our most talented position.”
Redshirt junior James Charles emerged from spring practices atop the depth chart and hasn’t done anything to hurt his standing this fall. Charles has run, caught and blocked with aplomb all fall.
“I think he just does everything well,” Kiffin said. “I think that he doesn’t have a weakness in his game, Pass protects well, make guys miss. Does a good job.”
Former Alabama running back B.J. Emmons has been Charles’ primary backup during the fall.. Emmons continues to show a knack for getting into the end zone during goal line situations. In both fall scrimmages, the 6-foot, 225 pounder grew stronger as the afternoon progressed.
But it’s another back with Alabama ties, true freshman Larry McCammon out of Hoover High School, whose stock has risen the most this fall. McCammon saw early action in both scrimmages, running powerfully and catching adeptly.
Following the first fall scrimmage Kiffin quipped that the 5-foot-11, 200-pound McCammon would have been coveted by Power 5 teams had he been few inches taller. He’s almost certain to get come carries when the Owls open their season against a Power 5 school, No. 5 Ohio St, on Aug. 31.
The pecking order behind beyond that remains murky.
Malcolm Davidson entered the fall third on the depth. The redshirt freshman with elite speed raced to a 99-yard touchdown during practice last week, but he struggles at times with pass protection. Within this group, Davidson profiles as more of a third down back, but the talent certainly exists for a larger role,
“You’ve got a guy like Malcolm that’s arguably as talented as all of them when he puts things together,” Kiffin said.
Kiffin called Tyrek Tisdale a prototypical NFL back when both arrived prior to the 2017 season. A knee injury early that year prompted two surgeries, essentially erasing most of the 2017 season and all of 2018.
The 6-foot-2, 220-pound Tisdale says he finally feels 100 percent, and he’s beginning to return to the form that made him one of Kiffin’s prized 2017 recruits. The Owls are looking for more ways to keep Tisdale involved in the offense. Both he and Chauncey Mason, who ripped off a 40-yard touchdown run in Saturday’s scrimmage, have taken snaps at slot receiver.
And the Owls continue to be impressed with true freshman Kelvin Dean. While Dean has shown the talent to play at this level, sheer numbers might dictate a redshirt year.
With Devin Singletary and Kerrith Whyte providing a potent one-two punch last season, no other running back exceeded 11 carries on the season. The year prior, with Buddy Howell joining Singletary and Whyte in the backfield, all three current NFL backs received at least 55 carries, with Singletary carrying the ball a whopping 301 times. That’s an average of 21.5 carries per game.
With the current level of depth in the backfield, Kiffin said he wouldn’t be surprised if no single back averages more than 15 carries per game this season.
“We could very easily be splitting now with three guys,” Kiffin said. “If you’ve got good players you are going to play them. It will figure itself out. It always does.”