UCLA Starting Running Back Competition

Who wants the #1 spot on the depth chart at the running back position for the UCLA Bruins? Could it be last year’s starter Jordon James? Maybe Paul Perkins, Steve Manfro, or former 4-star recruit Craig Lee want the job. This is a question that UCLA coaches and fans will be looking to find the answer to once training camp starts August 4th. There are four talented players who want the job, so lets take a look at each player’s case to be the starter come August 30th at Virginia.

Note: The Bruins will have true freshman Nathan Starks available once fall camp starts and he may have the most talent out of any running back currently on the roster. Personally, I think they will redshirt him this year and allow him to get bigger and accustomed to the playbook. Of course, he could come in and impress the coaching staff so much that they have to play him, but since I am assuming that he will redshirt, he was not considered for this article.

UCLA Starting Running Back Competition

Jordon James #6

Let’s start with who would seem to be the obvious choice to be #1 on the depth chart, 2013 starter Jordon James. Last season, as the primary back, James rushed the ball 101 times for 534 yards and five touchdowns. He started off the season with three straight 100+ rushing games and then got hurt Week 4 at Utah and missed several games. James was one of the national leaders in rushing early in the 2013 season and seems to have a hold on the #1 spot, assuming he stays healthy.

Paul Perkins #24

Paul Perkins is an interesting back who could very easily be the starter come Week 1. Last season, Perkins filled in nicely when Jordon James got hurt and rushed the ball 134 times for 573 yards and six touchdowns, as well as reeling in 24 receptions for 296 yards. His ability to both run and catch the ball effectively will allow Perkins to get plenty of touches out of the backfield and be able to compete for the #1 spot.

Steve Manfro #33

Steve Manfro is a very good kick returner, but he has a chance to get more involved in the offense in 2014. Last season, Manfro rushed the ball 24 times for 107 yards and one touchdown, as well as catching 9 balls for 113 yards and one touchdown. If Manfro can continue to prove that he is a solid dual-threat running back, he should be able to steal some carries in the backfield.

Craig Lee #21

After redshirting in 2013, former 4-star recruit Craig Lee will look to earn some touches in the backfield in 2014. He has the prototypical size for a running back, but he has some work to do to earn a lot of touches in 2014.

Keep an eye out on this battle during training camp. UCLA will probably platoon at least three running backs, so even if a particular back starts the game, that might not necessarily mean he will get the most carries during the game. Between these four running backs and the scrambling ability of stud quarterback Brett Hundley, the Bruins should have no problem improving on their very respectable 196.6 rushing yards per game in 2013.


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