The managing editors here must like me. They gave me the fun preview. UCLA is loaded at running back. The offensive line is finally healthy and experienced. UCLA should have its best running game in a long time.
The Overachiever. Going into last year I thought of Paul Perkins as the solid player. He was not going to make mistakes. He was not going to do the spectacular but he was reliable. He was not going to break big runs but he would be able to reliably grind out yards. Boy was I wrong.
Perkins broke runs of 92 and 81 yards and averaged a spectacular 6.3 yards per carry. Perkins did not rack these numbers up against the lesser teams either. The five games in which Perkins exceeded his 6.3 average were against our first ranked opponent ASU (14 carries for 137 yards),national runner-up Oregon (21-187), the double OT game at Colorado (19-180), the everyone else let down game against Stanford (17-116) and of course his career best in the Alamo Bowl (20-194).
Perkins was an elite running back who was also clutch. He even caught both his TD passes in the squeaker win against UC Berkeley.
The Potential. Okay, Sontonye "Soso" Jamabo had a bit of a rough time since committing to UCLA. However, he leaves Texas having made his mark in the land where high school football is king. Rivals ranked him not the number one running back, but the number one player in the state. Soso rushed for over 2000 yards and 44 touch downs last year in high school. Soso has been compared to fellow Texans Eric Dickerson and Adrian Peterson.
Part of me hopes he redshirts since he also a pretty good basketball player and could help there. But, of course, this year we have guard depth and I digress. The reality is Soso could be special and could really challenge Perkins right away.
The Overlooked? Perkins was a backup and not really an option that excited people. Yet he was the best runner UCLA had in years. Nate Starks was similarly to the Freshman Perkins. Solid but not spectacular. Starks had just 31 carries. Interestingly, he will be going home when UCLA plays UNLV. Will he take big advantage of a few extra carries in that game?
The Forgotten. Uclaluv and others who watched training camp last year raved about Craig Lee. Of all UCLA running backs he may be the fastest. However, the questions about Lee are on every other issue. At under 200 pounds is he durable enough? Questions about his blocking ability have arisen as well. Lee is an interesting prospect but he is a bit of gamble.
The Former Freshman of the Year. People sometimes forget that Myles Jack was Freshman of the year on offense as well as defense a couple years back. Myles primary focus is going to be linebacker this season. It is hard to say how much running back he may play. That said it is nice to have Myles available for goal line packages, and maybe more.
Myles Jack and Paul Perkins made the Walter Camp Award list for its "players to watch for its 2015 Player of the Year award." Perkins was also named to the Doak Walker and Maxwell Award watch lists. The official site said this about Perkins after he was name to the Doak Walker watch list:
UCLA junior Paul Perkins is a preseason candidate for the 2015 Doak Walker Award. The award is presented annually to the nation’s top college running back. Perkins, who is also on the Maxwell Award watch list, had a breakout 2014 season as he became the first Bruin to lead the Pac-12 in rushing since DeShaun Foster in 2001.
And the scary thing for UCLA’s opponents is Perkins may not be the best running back. With the offense line in the best shape in a decade, UCLA’s 2015 MVP may very well come from the running back position. So, yes, losing Hundley hurts, but the new quarterback will have an easier job than Hundley because UCLA should have a very good running game to take the pressure off.