Jay Ajayi, Sophomore, 6'0" 220 lbs
Aaron Baltazar, True Freshman, 5'10 215 lbs.
Charles Bertoli, RS Freshman, 5'11" 200 lbs.
Devan Demas, RS Freshman, 5'8" 172 lbs.
Jack Fields, Sophomore, 5'9" 195 lbs.
Jamel Hart, RS Freshman, 5'9" 195 lbs.
Derrick Thomas, Junior, 6'0" 208 lbs.
Wait…we have SEVEN running backs?
Projected Depth Chart
1. Jay Ajayi
2. Jack Fields
3. Aaron Baltazar
4. Derrick Thomas
Honestly, the only one to chisel into a block of granite here is Ajayi, who should get the bulk of the carries this year (he's also 220 lbs. so yes, pun intended). After him…that's a toughie. A few weeks ago I would've said that there was no way Aaron Baltazar cracked the top 3 and was a stone cold lock to redshirt. Well, then I saw Baltazar in action. Dude is legit. Some might even say 2 legit. Baltazar came into Fall Camp at a svelte 215 lbs. and according to sources, was much further along with his conditioning than his fellow frosh. To me, that suggests a kid hungry for playing time…and he looked the part in Sunday's quasi-scrimmage. I still think that Jack Fields gets a soft "2" at this point, but that might be due to his experience level. Thomas should round out the top four…he's a strong runner, but not overly flashy. If pressed to go 5 deep, I'd throw Bertoli in the mix. He should be a garbage time hero this year as he is built like Chris "I shotgun protein shakes" Santini.
Hype level: High
All eyes will be on Ajayi this Fall in his first season as starter. The glimpses we got from him last year were enticing to say the least. A year ago, the sophomore averaged nearly 7 yards/carry and seemed to never go down on first contact…then we were told he wasn't even operating at full capacity after his brush with the angry knee gods. The thought of a healthy Ajayi and a nasty O-line is enough to give any defensive coordinator in the country the night sweats, but when you factor in the fact that there are at least another 4 sets of fresh legs at our disposal to make sure he never gets worn out, we're talking full-blown night terrors. We have multiple backs that could have a 1,000 yard season and anything less than that from Ajayi would be considered a failure on multiple fronts.
The one to watch
Ajayi is primed for a grand introduction to the rest of the country, but locally, I think true freshman Aaron Baltazar is worthy of our gaze. He looked like Ajayi lite in the scrimmage (albeit against mostly 2nd teamers) and if he sees the field this year with the depth chart screaming otherwise, it will be quite a feat indeed. Personally, I think Baltazar gets some carries this year and some solid special teams time—of course, I thought the same of Ajayi during his eventual redshirt year, but his knee made that tough decision for the coaching staff.
Jay Ajayi will break Ian Johnson's single season rushing record of 1,713 yards…in the 2nd quarter against Tennessee-Martin.