Shaun Draughan, Ryan Houston, Jamal Womble.
Repeat those names over and over because any one of these three could be called upon to carry the load in the running game this season. Throw Anthony Elzy into the mix as a potential threat as a receiver out the backfield what you have is a whole slew of options behind T.J. Yates.
Shaun Draughan returns as the presumed starter having piled up almost 900 yards in 13 games played. Draughan averaged 4.4 yard per carry but only tallied three TDs. The low TD count could be attributed to several factors, the primary one being Ryan Houston getting the bulk of the carries at the goal line leading to 8 TDs for him last season. Still, Draughan did the lion's share of the work with the biggest knock on him being his ability to take care of the football. Draughan had five fumbles in 2008, four of them coming in the final three games against NCSU(2), Duke(1) and West Virginia(1). The other fumble came versus Virginia Tech and like the one in the bowl game, it came at a crucial point near the end of the game which ultimately gave the opponent a chance to seize control of the game. Overall, five fumbles is probably not that atrocious, especially with two of them coming in the vortex of suck known as the NC State game, but when they happen at the wrong time, it will destroy your chances of winning. Draughan can be a 1000 yard rusher if he gets the carries and if he holds onto the football.
If Draughan is not effective to that level, there is something to be said for RB-by-committee with Draughan and Houston providing a nice punch-counterpunch of speed and bruising. Houston worked on his weight last season and got himself into excellent playing shape. He ultimately can to be known as a short yardage option for his ability to open his own holes in the line. If he can show more dimensions than that, UNC can effectively rotate two solid backs and give an opposing defense pause.
The X factor will be RS freshman Jamal Womble who was highly touted out of high school and has the skills to be an effective runner. The presence of Womble provides some depth and if needed another back to run the football. In short UNC has three good, young backs in their running game. In addition, AnthonyElzy stands to be a key ingredient in the backfield mix though probably not as a runner as much as a receiver.
The real question becomes the offensive line, which is thin and potentially depending on younger players to create the holes for the runners. The guys being handed the football might be called upon to be creative at times if the offensive line is not up to the task.