Posted on December 13, 2020
Since 2014, the U has produced several NFL caliber running backs, some who are still in the league and some whose career didn’t pan out the way they hoped. Let’s jump into the guys whom I believe made it possible for Utah to don the title RBU.
Devontae Booker, 2014-2015
In only two years on the hill, Booker put up 2,773 yards and ended up being drafted by the Denver Broncos in the 4th Round of the 2016 draft.
Booker still holds quite a few records for the U and was both a Maxwell Award semifinalist and a Doak Walker Award semifinalist as well.
Now Booker is with the Las Vegas Raiders, and even though he is not the team’s primary back, he has been stepping up with Josh Jacobs being unavailable.
Booker was one of the first Utah backs to impress me. He has such a knack at bouncing off the tackles and finding the edge. Then he was off to the races.
Joe Williams, 2015-2016
After Booker left, fans weren’t sure who would take over the job. But the Utes had Joe Williams on the roster, who had been on the team the year before, making the transition somewhat easier.
After playing the first few games, Williams felt like it was all too much and slipped into retirement. But when he was asked to come back to the team a few weeks later, it was like he never left.
Who can forget Williams’ second game back? He laid it on the Bruins for 332 yards, a record that still stands. He came back from his brief retirement with a new fire, one that helped him wrack up 1,407 in his senior campaign.
But here is where his story differs from the other two backs on this list. After being drafted by the San Francisco 49ers in 2017, things didn’t go well. He suffered an ankle injury in September of that year and was placed on the IR. The following year he was cut and hasn’t played football since.
Zack Moss, 2016-2019
Moss backed up Williams in the 2016 season, and once he left, it became the Moss Show at Utah.
Even though his career in Salt Lake City wasn’t the smoothest, given his injuries, he was able to come out on top, as the all-time leading rusher in school history.
When he was drafted by the Bills, it seemed like a match made in heaven. Moss is a freight train, and it takes two or three guys to take him down.
Even though he is only a rookie, few doubt that he will be in the league for a long time.
What do They Have in Common, and Who’s Next?What is the common denominator between all three of these backs? Coaching and development.
Whether it be Dennis Erickson or Kiel McDonald, the running back coaches prepared these guys to play at the next level. And even in a situation like Williams, where he was only in the NFL for a season, Utah has gone three for three with their starting running backs getting into the NFL.
I don’t see it changing anytime soon.
Who will be the next great running back at Utah? There are excellent contenders among all four of backs currently taking reps for Utah. But over the past couple of games, Ty Jordan has stood out.
Last weekend against Colorado, before a national TV audience, the speedy freshman rushed for 147 yards and two touchdowns, averaging 8.6 yards per carry, including a breakaway 66-yarder. Against Oregon State the previous week, Jordan ran for 167 yards and another score.
With 443 yards in four games, you can bet he has the attention of Jake Dickert, the defensive coordinator of Utah’s next opponent, Washington State.
—More from Sammy Mora—
- Mora: The Unthinkable Death of Utah’s Ty Jordan
- Mora: 2020 End-of-Season Grades for Utah Football
- Mora: 2020 Midseason Grades for Utah Football
Mora: The Unthinkable Death of Utah’s Ty JordanThe sky was the limit for the 19-year-old Pac-12 Offensive Freshman of the Year - December 26, 2020
Mora: 2020 End-of-Season Grades for Utah FootballWith the season wrapped up, it's time to reflect on the good and the bad of 2020 - December 22, 2020
Mora: Why Utah Football is Running Back UThe evidence: Devontae Booker, Joe Willams, and Zack Moss - December 13, 2020