UM coach Mark Richt said beyond blocking issues, UM’s running backs need to maximize their carries, and privately, Miami knows it must find an elite back.
Consider: Mark Walton is averaging just 3.0 yards per carry in 16 career games against opponents from Power Five conferences; he has averaged 3.0 or less in 12 of those 16 games.
That’s simply not good enough.
Conversely, FSU’s Dalvin Cook has averaged 4.6 or more in 12 of his last 15 games against Power 5 teams.
(UM’s Joe Yearby is averaging 5.4 yards per carry against Power 5 teams this season, but he obviously isn’t on the same level as Cook, his friend and former high school teammate.)
So how does UM find an elite level back, like Cook?
Here’s where things stand:
UM has just one running back committed for the 2017 class (Gulliver’s three-star Robert Burns), but ESPN has much higher regard for Burns than Rivals does. ESPN rates him as a four-star player, the seventh-best running back in this class and the 67th best player overall in this class.
ESPN has 10 running backs among its top 100 prospects for 2017. Only two of the 10 are not orally committed.
The bad news is that one of those two, Mississippi five-star prospect Cam Akers (rated the second best running back in this class) does not have UM in his top 10, which he released earlier this year. UM has offered him.
The good news is that Miami is strongly in the mix for the other top 10 uncommitted running back: Maryland-based four-star Anthony McFarland, a 5-8 back who’s rated the No. 8 running back and No. 70 overall prospect by ESPN. Rivals rates him as its No. 3 all-purpose back and 61st among prospects.
Our correspondent, Peter Ariz, tells me Miami is the leading contender for McFarland, who was recruited by UM offensive coordinator Thomas Brown when Brown was at Georgia last year.
And Ariz says UM is exploring the merits of pursuing Jordan Cronkrite, who left the UF program last week and was rated the No. 25 running back in the 2015 class.
The former Westminster Christian player averaged 4.3 yards on 26 carries this season and is deciding whether to play, according to UF coach Jim McElwain.
If you wondered, the top running back in the 2017 class, Najee Harris, is orally committed to Alabama. And two of the top 10 are committed to Richt’s former school, Georgia.
Yes, poor blocking is partly responsible for the disappointing running game. But offensive coordinator Thomas Brown said more is also needed from his backs.
"From a running back standpoint (take) what the defense gives you - at times they get too flustered, frustrated, force plays to happen," Brown said. "That's not how the game works - take what the defense gives you, stick to your keys and play full speed every snap."
• This was eye-opening today: Brown said “We lack some leadership on offense at times. There are some guys that are lead-by-example guys but there's no commanding voice consistently. We need more of that."
• UM gave up five sacks to a Notre Dame team that entered with six all season. So how in the world will UM protect Brad Kaaya against a Pittsburgh defense that has 28 sacks?
• Fox Sports Sun picked up the Nov. 12 UM-at-Virginia game at 2 p.m. and will air it statewide.
• Butch Davis, who is close with FIU athletic director Pete Garcia, declined to rule out interest in the FIU job. Asked if he would possibly take that job, he said: “I love kids and coaching and if the right opportunity came around, I would consider returning.”