BOZEMAN — Building depth at running back has been a consistent need for Montana State over the last few years.
While the Bobcats did lose All-American Isaiah Ifanse this offseason to the transfer portal, the state of this year’s running back room appears to be stronger than ever.
However, instead of having only one guy carry the burden of the backfield, this fall they’re embracing a by-committee approach.
“We've got more numbers than we've ever had, and we've got guys with experience that we'll be able to rotate," senior running back Lane Sumner said. "We run the ball a lot, so we're gonna need everybody.”
It’s a different situation compared to last fall when the Bobcats were already down four running backs by the second week.
Ifanse entered the fall of 2022 still recovering from offseason knee surgery, while San Diego State transfer Kaegun Williams suffered a neck injury during fall camp. Jared White endured a season-ending leg injury in Week 1 against Morehead State to become the third running back ruled out. Sumner was added to the list shortly after, suffering an elbow injury during practice leading up to the Bobcats' Week 2 game against McNeese State.
Now, to their luck, they did have a pair of mobile quarterbacks in Tommy Mellott and Sean Chambers that had no problem running the ball, accounting for 1,753 yards (43.1%) of last year’s rushing attack.
“We have weapons everywhere on the field so it's not necessarily that the spotlight is just on the running back," junior running back Julius Davis explained. "We like to run the ball a lot, but we have weapons where you have to respect the rest of our offense.”
However, with an emphasis on fewer designed QB runs this fall, the Bobcats bolstered its already talented running back room by adding Davis, a transfer from Wisconsin.
“He's got good size, and he carries that size well," Sumner described. "I think that'll be a good one-two punch. He's almost like a Sean Chambers kind of kind of runner but like I said he also has good lateral quickness. He'll be a good player.”
Offensive line coach Al Johnson had a hand in that offseason addition as the Badgers' former running backs coach, but this year’s freshman class isn’t a group to gloss over either, with guys like Scottre Humphrey expected to be in the mix early.
"I mentioned Scottre [Humphrey], but then we have Lane [Sumner] and Elijah [Elliot], Jared White, Garret Coon, and then we add Julius Davis, so really excited about the talent in that room and excited to see how that plays out over the course of the next few weeks," Bobcats head coach Brent Vigen said.
Montana State opens its 2023 season on Sept. 2 versus Utah Tech.