SEC Country is breaking down each of Texas A&M’s position groups as the entire 2016 roster begins reporting to College Station.
Continuing with the series, we take a look at the running backs. Tra Carson joined the 1,000 yard club last season, but has departed for the NFL. A new group of athletes are ready to take his place.
Names you need to know: Keith Ford (junior), Kwami Etwi (sophomore), Kendall Bussey (redshirt freshman) James White (junior), Trayveon Williams (freshman)
On the way: Rakeem Boyd
Analysis: Carson accounted for 1,165 yards and seven touchdowns in his final year with the Aggies in 2015, but it took 242 carries to get there. From 2014 to 2015, the team’s rushing yards per carry dipped from 4.6 to 4.35. The drop in production combined with a variety of other factors led to the termination of offensive line coach and run game coordinator Dave Christensen after just one year with the Aggies.
The offensive line and run game issues have been addressed from an X’s-and-O’s standpoint with the addition of new coach Jim Turner, but the workhorse Carson is no longer on the roster to rack up carries.
Former Oklahoma running back Keith Ford will be available after sitting out the 2015 season, per NCAA rules. The Sooners transfer missed the Maroon and White spring game due to injury concerns, but should be ready to handle a huge chunk of the workload when the 2016 season kicks off. In prime shape and after a year off from constant in game contact, he could be the spark the Aggies need in the rushing game. Etwi and White will be in the running for carries as well, as the season moves along, with health issues once again being a factor to keep an eye on.
Bussey tallied 46 yards on 12 carries in the spring scrimmage after redshirting his first year on campus last season. Williams has been the talk among players and coaches alike since arriving in College Station as an early enrollee, with coaches praising his work ethic and focus on continued improvement.
To top things off, Boyd will soon arrive at College Station as part of the 2016 recruiting class. The 3-star back out of Stratford in Houston, Texas, held 23 offers before signing with the Aggies in February.
Key question: What role will injuries play for the Texas A&M running backs in 2016? Should the group remain healthy, their combination of size and speed will allow fresh legs and continued success throughout the season.
Bottom line: Injuries can quickly turn a strength into a position of weakness for the Aggies. White and Etwi were limited to just 75 carries in 2015 and could have provided both a mix of speed and a breather for Carson. If the former Sooners, Ford and quarterback Trevor Knight, can find a rhythm together in the Texas A&M backfield, the Aggies’ offense could be set for a big year in 2016.