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2023 NC State football preview: The running backs

What’s a running game?

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 17 Texas Tech at NC State Photo by David Jensen/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

NC State’s running game last season was so bad and so totally excitement-free that I still bear some emotional scarring from it. Watching a handoff in progress and knowing with near certainty that nothing is about to happen, and having to do this many many times over, is something I’d prefer not to go through for another fall, if possible.

Key Losses

Player 2022 GP-GS 2022 Plays RushAtt RushYds YPC RushTD
Player 2022 GP-GS 2022 Plays RushAtt RushYds YPC RushTD
Demi Sumo-Karngbaye 8-1 153 55 305 5.6 3
TOT/AVG ... 153 55 305 5.6 3

Demie flashed playmaking ability in 2022 but also never really got going, thanks to injury. It would have been nice to see what he could do with a full season in the red and white, but alas, that was not meant to be.

He was the only running back to score a rushing touchdown for State last season—the Pack had only eight total, and five were scored by quarterbacks.

Returning Production

Player 2022 GP-GS 2022 Plays RushAtt RushYds YPC RushTD
Player 2022 GP-GS 2022 Plays RushAtt RushYds YPC RushTD
Jordan Houston 12-12 478 136 544 4.0 0
Michael Allen 7-0 159 53 268 5.1 0
Delbert Mimms III 13-0 76 27 113 4.2 0
Demarcus Jones II 13-0 121 24 68 2.8 0
TOT/AVG ... 834 240 993 4.1 0

Jordan Houston is as steady as steady can be, which definitely holds value; he’s logged nearly 50 games in his college career and we can trust that he’ll be capable on the field. A man doing yeoman’s work if ever there was one.

It’s great to have that guy in your pocket if you’re a coach, but probably not so good if he’s your leading rusher, as Houston was last season. The explosive plays were non-existent: Houston’s longest rush of 2022 was 16 yards. You’d think, over the course of 130+ carries, a dude would crack one 20+ yard run just by accident. Missed tackle, blown assignment defensively, whatever. Nope.

Not that this lack of explosive plays was entirely on Houston, or that he was an outlier among the team’s backs. NC State had just five runs of 20 yards or more all season, ranking dead last in FBS. It had only one run go for 30 or more.

It’d be super helpful if the running game could take just a wee bit more pressure off of the rest of the offense in 2023.

Maybe Michael Allen can be the guy to do it. Allen looked pretty good once he started getting more consistent playing time in the second half of the year, and it wouldn’t surprise me if he ends up the Pack’s leading rusher this fall. I’m guessing Houston will still be the Week 1 starter, though, especially with that being on the road.

It feels unlikely that we’ll see significant production from anyone other than those two, but who knows, maybe freshman Kendrick Raphael or junior Delbert Mimms work their way into the picture. I do know this much: Demarcus Jones is going to be a force on special teams. From his bio:

Yes, I’m calling it now: four years in a row!