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Does the Dissipating Depth at Running Back Matter?

Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports

With the news on Monday that Khris Francis is out for the rest of the season and Elijah Hood sidelined with an undisclosed but not season ending injury, UNC's once deep running back corps is now much thinner.  On Saturday, with Romar Morris serving a one game suspension for a DUI arrest, the Heels pressed fifth string running back Charles Brunson into service. Brunson proved to be serviceable against Pitt, scoring a touchdown on a 17-yard run and T.J. Logan had his best game of the season.

The question going into the final two regular season games is how much does the running back depth matter? Given the rushing attack relies heavily on Marquise Williams, perhaps not that much.

Player Games Rush Att. % of attempts Yards % of yards Rush TDs % of TDs YPA YPG
Marquise Williams 10 141 38.0% 623 44.4% 10 45.5% 4.4 62.3
T.J. Logan 10 82 22.1% 344 24.5% 2 9.1% 4.2 34.4
Elijah Hood 6 56 15.1% 199 14.2% 4 18.2% 3.6 33.2
Romar Morris 9 44 11.9% 162 11.5% 4 18.2% 3.7 18.0
Charles Brunson 10 11 3.0% 71 5.1% 2 9.1% 6.5 7.1
Others 10 30 8.1% 96 6.8% 0 0.0% 3.2 9.6

To no one's surprise, Williams is getting the most rushing attempts, rushing yards and almost half the rushing touchdowns. Some of that is owed to the fact Williams mobility creates opportunities to run the football, especially within an offense which, by definition, spreads the defenders out creating room to run.  Another factor is UNC's offensive line which hasn't been very good and doesn't control the line of scrimmage enough for the ball to be run effectively by traditional running backs.

That being said, UNC and Williams still needs a production from the running back position. Lost a bit in Williams' play on Saturday is the fact T.J. Logan did have 92 yards rushing. A capable running back means less risk to Williams but it also helps sell the run fakes out of the read option. On the 4th and 2 conversion during UNC's game winning fourth quarter drive, Williams really sold the hand-off to Logan which drew the defensive over then permitted Williams to pull the ball back and hit an open gap for the first down. If the UNC running backs aren't viable run threats then it hurts those types of plays.

In an ideal world, UNC would get even more production from the running backs but at the same time, Williams is clearly the Tar Heels' most effective weapon. In 2012, Larry Fedora said they would find as many ways to get Gio Bernard the ball as possible, including on punt returns because he was the best player  the Tar Heels had. This situation is no different providing UNC can get just enough production from Logan, Romar Morris and even Charles Brunson. Even then for UNC to get a win on Thursday, it may take another herculean effort from the Tar Heels' dual threat quarterback.