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UNC Football: Running Forward

Caleb Hood’s emergence and British Brooks’ upcoming mega-super-senior year puts Carolina’s rushing attack into focus.

North Carolina v Miami Photo by Eric Espada/Getty Images

Mack Brown fussed about UNC’s need for separation in the running back room going back to the first bye week. He wanted at least two of his running back stable to emerge from the pack. Against Miami, Caleb Hood and Omarion Hampton did just that — the duo didn’t just snatch all the snaps (no other running back took a hand-off), they showed separation, and in Caleb Hood’s case, had a feature back performance.

Hood’s only problem is one that has dogged him during his short career in Carolina blue: staying healthy. Hood took several hits in the game that kept him out for much of the fourth quarter. Hampton looks like a physical beast and has shown burst, especially against Georgia State, but he needs to churn out more consistent yardage. A lot of that will come with reps and experience, but he has shown more big play capability so far than freshman compatriot George Pettaway.

D.J. Jones may have seen his best chances pass by. After losing a fumble at Georgia State when Carolina needed to hold steady, he’s seen his opportunities evaporate. He had one carry in each of the Notre Dame and Virginia Tech games, and did not rush at all against Miami.

A foundation of Caleb Hood and Omarion Hampton looks promising, especially when you throw in a dash of Pettaway, who has talent, but just needs seasoning. Looking forward to next year, you have to be excited for this trio, especially when you bring back British Brooks.

Brooks was expected to be the starter going into the season, before his ACL injury. And with the way he closed out the season, it’s hard to argue against it. Brooks is best at doing what the young backs haven’t shown consistently yet, patience behind the line. Brooks is so well versed in the offense and blocking scheme that he knows when to hit the hole, when to pause or shift, and gets good chunk yardage as a result.

Once Hood and Hampton learn how to do this, we’ll start to see UNC’s rushing attack return to the heights established by Javonte Williams (heal up!) and Michael Carter. Add to that Drake Maye and his ability to escape pressure for first downs, and the Tar Heels should have a fearsome rushing attack. As if the ACC didn’t have enough to worry about with UNC’s offense.