UNC Football 2023 Positional Preview: Running Backs

Our 2023 UNC football positional previews continue with the running back position, with a lot of uncertainty about who will get the bulk of the snaps.
There’s a lot of unknown surrounding the UNC football running back group. The position last year got off to a rocky start when returner British Brooks suffered a season-ending injury before his season even began during fall practice. That trend continued throughout the year with the group having several injuries to battle through.
Now that group hopes to be back to full strength and healthy and provide another dimension to a Tar Heel offense that was essentially non-existent in 2022. Let’s dive in and see what we do know revolving around this position in the Carolina backfield.
What We Know
Elijah Green showed promise last year, leading the running back unit in rushing yards with 558 yards across 14 games and 131 rushing attempts. Unfortunately, he didn’t lead the team in rushing, that was Drake Maye.
It is assumed that Green will receive and earn the start in the season opener against South Carolina, however, nothing is guaranteed and will largely depend on how fall practice plays out who gets the start in the Tar Heel backfield.
What we do know is this unit has a lot of depth, if multiple players are able to hit their stride rushing the football, the Carolina offense may be able to rotate several players in and out and keep fresh legs on the field at all times.
The Key Players
Several players fall into this category. We’ve already discussed Elijah Green. Omarion Hampton was second in rushing with 401 yards and could continue to have another impact.
Caleb Hood could be a key impact player if he can stay healthy in 2023, which is a trend with several UNC football running backs. Hood played in seven games last year but wasn’t 100% in all of those. He only saw 43 carries but led the Tar Heels with his 5.8 yards per carry.
George Pettaway and DJ Jones saw limits attempts, 20 and 26 respectively, but both averaged over 4.6 yards per carry.
And we’ve touched on graduate senior British Brooks returning after last year’s season-ending injury. He was the special team’s captain and named the special teams MVP on the 2021 UNC football team. He saw 31 rushing attempts and averaged 9.5 yards per carry (IMPRESSIVE!). If Brooks could provide even close to that in yards per attempt, then this unit would be in great shape.
As far as the overall outlook for this position group, there are a lot of unknowns revolving around them, but also a lot of pressure. There is the need to develop a running game so that not all the pressure is on pre-season Heisman Trophy candidate Drake Maye to propel the offense just with his arm (and legs like last year).
If this unit can move the ball, then it could open up the offense a lot more for Maye and the wide receivers. Several candidates are in this group to breakout – we’ve covered six players in this position preview, any of which who could see important time at the position.
Ultimately, the goal is that your star quarterback also doesn’t have to be your leading rusher to move the football on the ground, not only for schematic purposes but to keep Maye upright and healthy. Too many times last year UNC football fans saw Maye go airborne and hold their breath that he got up okay – that can’t happen this year.
Depth Chart
Starter: Elijah Green
Backup: Omarion Hampton, Caleb Hood
Reserves: British Brooks, George Pettaway, DJ Jones

Latest Player Notes

If that really was Drake Maye’s last game in Chapel Hill, it provided a fitting full-circle ending

UPDATED NOVEMBER 13, 2023 2:49 PMHere was Drake Maye in the middle of it all late Saturday night, in the middle of the kind ...

Shedeur Sanders closing in on CU Buffs single-season records through pain of all the sacks and hits

PUBLISHED November 13, 2023 at 12:38 p.m. | UPDATED: November 13, 2023 at 12:40 p.m.BOULDER — Shedeur Sanders is closing ...

Tenth Anniversary of Kick Six: Inside video, "Official" look at Historic Iron Bowl Shocker

Published Nov. 13, 2023, 6:00 a.m.By Creg Stephenson See and hear history behind Kick Six (excuse the ads, but this is ...

Goodman: Jimbo Fisher is out and Nick Saban wins again

Updated: Nov. 13, 2023, 10:00 a.m.|By Joseph GoodmanJimbo Fisher is out at Texas A&M, which goes to show that even when a ...

Huard on Huskies: Why a win over No. 10 Oregon St would be huge

The No. 5 UW Huskies’ quest to make the College Football Playoff went through the two-time defending Pac-12 champions on ...

USC’s loss to Oregon exposes clear flaws in program-building up front

EUGENE, Ore. — In January, Lincoln Riley was on the sidelines at SoFi for the College Football Playoff championship game, ...

Two years after winning school-record 12 games, Brady Hoke out as Aztecs football coach

Brady Hoke is out as San Diego State’s football coach.SDSU released a statement Monday morning saying that Hoke is retiring, ...

Oregon’s Bo Nix named Pac-12 offensive player of the week for third time in 2023

Oregon’s Bo Nix earned his third weekly honor from the Pac-12.Nix, who went 23 of 31 for a season-high 412 yards with four ...

Oregon Ducks’ head coach Dan Lanning mentioned as a leading candidate for Texas A&M job

Oregon Ducks head coach Dan Lanning has been mentioned as a leading candidate to replace Jimbo Fisher as coach of the Texas ...

After ‘tough day,’ Boise State AD searches for a football coach; defensive analyst promoted

Boise State athletic director Jeramiah Dickey was on the job for less than a week the last time he began a search for a football ...
See More Player Notes