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The Daily Tar Heel

Positional preview: UNC rushing offense flashes dynamic backfield behind experienced line

Junior running back Elijah Hood is a formidable force by himself. He ran for 1,463 yards on 219 carries in 2015 — the third-highest yardage total in the ACC and second-best in UNC history.

“I feel like I’ve just started,” Hood said. “I’ve got more.”

People are already talking about the preseason All-ACC player, who enters his second season as a starter. How could they not? The 6-foot, 220-pound back from Charlotte averaged 6.7 yards per carry and scored 17 touchdowns in his sophomore season.

But Hood is not UNC’s only dangerous running back.

Senior T.J. Logan rushed for 400 yards and five touchdowns in 2015, adding another 151 yards and a touchdown receiving. He did this while splitting carries with Hood and former Tar Heel quarterback Marquise Williams.

“We just got a bunch of playmakers,” quarterback Mitch Trubisky said. “And it’s awesome to see them carry the ball, and it just makes it easier for me in the pass game.”

Of course, UNC lost some versatility with Williams graduating. Williams holds the school record among quarterbacks for career rushing touchdowns (35) and career rushing yards (2,458). In 2015, he ran for 948 yards on 158 carries — a feat that will be tough to replace.

Still, don’t dismiss Trubisky as a potential runner.

“Mitch can run,” Coach Larry Fedora said. “He can run. If those two guys got in a race, I don’t know who would be the fastest.”

What made Williams such a powerful runner was his physicality. Fedora noted Williams’ ability to motor through defenders and draw energy from hits.

“We don’t hit our quarterbacks in practice, so the jury’s still out on how that’s gonna happen (for Trubisky) as we go,” Fedora said.

“If he can do what Quise did, running the football, more power to him. We will take it.”

And for its backfield threats, UNC boasts a strong stable of capable blockers.

The Tar Heels’ offensive line is powerful and experienced, with three seniors projected to start. Every first-year on the line has redshirted and has an upperclassman teammate at the same position.

“We are a tight unit,” senior center Lucas Crowley said. “In the summer, we had a few different O-line events. We had a cookout, or whatever it may be. So we are a tight unit.

“In my mind, we are one of the tightest units on the team.”

That camaraderie will be crucial in games, where communication is the cornerstone of effective blocking.

With an experienced line and a dynamic backfield, the Tar Heels are set for a strong season on the ground. Hood said they just need to stay focused on the practice field.

“Everyone can do the stuff that we are coached to do out here,” Hood said. “We’ve just got to do it. It’s up to you and your mindset and overcoming your body with your mind at this point of camp.

“This is where champions are made.”

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