As we continue to get you ready for the 2023 Tar Heel football season with our in-depth position previews, it’s time to break down the running back room. This is one of the deepest rooms on the entire team and has five running backs that are more than capable of contributing this season, meaning another camp spent trying to find separation. Brown pointed to some signs of separation in the spring with certain guys in the room on the shelf or limited, but with everyone a full go for fall, you have to wonder if that remains the case.
The two backs that took the majority of the snaps in the spring are the two that many expect to lead the unit this season. Junior Elijah Green is the leading returning rusher amongst running backs after running for 558 yards and eight touchdowns in 2022. The bulk of that production came in the final six games once he became the starter and he brought a level of consistency to the room after a rollercoaster start to the year for the group. With the steady production that he was able to bring to the team late last year, he should be secured as a part of the rotation this season.
The other guy that seems to be entrenched in the rotation this year is sophomore Omarion Hampton, the team’s second leading rusher amongst the running backs. He ran for 401 yards and six touchdowns with the majority of his production coming early in the year when he had two 100-yard rushing games. The hope is that he can recapture that early success from a year ago and form a nice 1-2 punch with Green for an offense that is expected to run the ball more this season.
While those two will likely lead the charge, there is a push by Mack Brown to find a third to be a part of the rotation this year with all of the talent that is in the room. Seventh year senior British Brooks is the favorite to assume that role after missing all of last year with a lower body injury. Brooks was a difference maker for the team in the final three games of the 2021 season and was set to be the starter for the team last year before the injury. He has proved himself more than capable of being a contributor and will have a good chance to play his most substantial role yet.
There are a couple of other talented options that will challenge him for those carries, though, in fall camp. Junior Caleb Hood did a nice job when he got a chance to start last season for a couple of games before suffering a season-ending injury of his own. He ran for 250 yards on 43 carries and caught 13 passes for 119 yards and one touchdowns in 2022, by far the most productive season of his career thus far. His ability to catch the ball out of the backfield might be the best on the entire team and that could be what allows him to unseat Brooks here. The most important thing for him is that he stays healthy which just hasn’t happened for him so far in his career.
Sophomore George Pettaway will also be looking to break into the rotation in his second year with the program. He made a huge impact for the team on special teams a year ago with his speed and he could be a nice change of pace option who can also catch the ball. Health will be important for him, as well, after the last two preseasons have seen him get banged up. Talent-wise, though, he has what it takes to win this battle.
True freshman Jordan Louie looks like the future of the position, but with the depth ahead of him, it’s hard to see him being a major contributor this year. A transfer in front of him could shake things up a bit, but giving him a year to settle in isn’t a bad thing.
Redshirt freshman Kellan Hood will be the lone walk-on in the room. With all of the depth that is in front of him, a lot of things would have to happen ahead of him, but he showed in the spring game that he has enough talent to make something happen if he was needed.
Projected Depth Chart
#21 Elijah Green, Jr. OR
#28 Omarion Hampton, So.
#24 British Brooks, Sr.
#23 George Pettaway, So.
# 4 Caleb Hood, Jr.
#25 Kellan Hood, RFr.