2017 Miami Hurricanes spring football preview: At RB, who’s backing Walton?

Mark Walton runs free against Florida State. (Getty Images)

Mark Walton was outstanding as a sophomore, but he can’t do it alone. (Getty Images)

Second in a series of position-by-position looks at the Hurricanes heading into spring practice, which begins March 21.

Previously: QBs

Mark Walton was internally praised last year, and perhaps externally undervalued. Entering the spring, there is no question who is the Hurricanes’ leading man in the backfield.

Quarterback questions and the loss of top pass-catchers Stacy Coley and David Njoku means Walton, who rushed for 1,117 yards and 14 touchdowns, finds himself with an even more important role. But we knew that. Walton is far and away the top returning running back in the ACC, with nearly double the rushing yards of the next one on the list.

For the Hurricanes’ running back unit, spring is about finding depth behind Walton (and supporting him after recent personal tragedy). When it comes to running the ball (and navigating life), no one can do it alone.

Projected spring depth chart (with fall class year listed)
1 — Mark Walton, Jr.
24 — Travis Homer, Soph.
32 — Trayone Gray, R-Jr.
22 — Robert Burns, Fr.

Expected starter: Walton, clearly.

Major storyline: After the unexpected defections of Gus Edwards (transfer to Rutgers) and Joe Yearby (early NFL draft entry), does Miami have enough skill and depth behind No. 1? Homer was praised by coaches for his work on special teams last year, but carried seven times for 44 yards and fumbled once. He has growing to do, but he’s fast and strong at 5-foot-11 and 200 pounds. He seems more likely to make an impact than Gray, who missed last year because of an ACL injury, and Burns, who enrolled early but had an injury-marred high school career. The Hurricanes are exploring the transfer market, too: Clemson fifth-year senior Tyshon Dye is an option. He won’t be here for spring, however.

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