The USF backfield entered the year with only one running back with collegiate carries in their career (Darius Tice). The Bulls had added talented recruits to the roster, but they were unproven freshmen that no one knew how they would respond during the year. Let’s review the pre-season grade and see how the unit did overall in 2014.
Preseason grade: C
The grade was low entering the year due to the lack of experience in the backfield. Only Darius Tice had carried the ball in a collegiate game. The rest of the roster was freshmen. Yes, Marlon Mack and D’Ernest Johnson were highly touted recruits in the 2014 class, but no one knew how they would do and who would even get the first carry to start the year. Even at fullback, we had a talented player in Kennard Swanson, but he had never played in a college game. So to me, the grade had to be low and average just not knowing what the Bulls had in the backfield. Let’s see how all of the players did this year.
#42 Corian Hamilton – 6′ 231 lbs. – Junior – Did not play this year, converted to fullback from linebackers
#47 Kennard Swanson – 6′ 253 lbs. – Redshirt freshman – 9 carries for 28 yards, 14 receptions for 207 yards
#33 Tye Turner – 6’3″ 259 lbs. – Junior – 1 reception for 10 yards
#32 D’Ernest Johnson – 5’10” 207 lbs. – Freshman – 46 carries for 156 yards, 8 receptions for 107 yards, 1 touchdown
#5 Marlon Mack – 6′ 195 lbs. – Freshman – 202 carries for 1041 yards, 9 touchdowns, 21 receptions for 160 yards
#28 Sta’fon McCray – 5’11” 215 lbs. – Redshirt freshman – Did not play this year
#31 Darius Tice – 5’10” 200 lbs. – Sophomore – 40 carries for 104 yards, 8 receptions for 68 yards
#37 Rodney Watson – 5’11” 185 lbs. – Senior – Did not play this year
Let’s start at fullback. Kennard Swanson was a huge surprise this year for the Bulls, primarily as a pass catcher. He became a big threat in the passing game. The biggest story though was the emergence of Marlon Mack. The true freshman became just the 4th player in program history to rush for over 1000 yards in a single season and led the AAC in rushing yardage (AAC rookie of the year). While D’Ernest Johnson had his moments (a few from Darius Tice as well), Mack was the real story. Mack became the feature back as the year went on and the offense could rely on him to carry the rushing burden.
Postseason grade: B
The unit gets a full letter upgrade at the end of the year. I thought I might add it a little higher, but aside from Mack and Swanson, the rest of the ball carriers were fairly quiet. Johnson and Tice had their moments, but the numbers were limited. Mack was the big story for the offense and if it wasn’t for him, the grade would still be low. I think a B is fair enough for the unit and they have the potential to be even better in 2015.