This unit has both excellent talent and depth, led by 6'2" 250 pound All-American junior James Conner. All he did as a sophomore was run for 1,765 yards and 26 touchdowns. That will be tough to duplicate, but new offensive coordinator James Chaney is smart enough to know that Conner has to get the ball a lot.
Because he is used so much, and there's only so many miles on every person's body, you'd have to assume that there's a good possibility that this would be Conner's last year in college. His heir apparent at the moment appears to be 5'10" 210 pound sophomore Chris James who had 437 rushing yards, a 5.0 average, and 4 touchdowns as a true freshman. He is different than the bullish Conner, and utilizes his topnotch speed and quickness. If he has developed enough over the offseason I can see Chaney giving him slightly more carries so that Conner could get some relief, but barring injury he will have to wait another year to get a large number of carries.
Last year's third down back, 6'1" 185 pound junior Rachid Ibrahim, is quietly impressive and should again play that role. Last season he had 263 yards rushing, an 8.0 average, and 11 catches. If the Panthers pass more this season Ibrahim may get more catches. That's a good thing because he usually makes a good play.
With three top players back at the position, it will again be hard for two redshirt freshmen, 6'2" 220 pound Qadree Ollison, and 5'10" 195 pound Dennis Briggs, to get any carries. Ollison has promise and could be in the mix to start when Conner moves on.
Incoming freshman Darrin Hall is solidly built at 6'0" and 205 pounds, and he's a good between the tackles runner with good speed and vision. He has a chance to be the starter some day but barring something drastic he will probably redshirt this season.
It remains to be seen how much Chaney will use a fullback. He did use one at Arkansas on almost half the plays, but that could be because he was running a very run heavy Bret Bielema offense. If he does use one, he may have the best one in the country in 6'2" 270 pound junior Jaymar Parrish, an athletic and brutish player who is a killer blocker. Parrish is athletic enough, especially if he loses some weight, that he can also move to tight end if Chaney wants.
Bottom line: What a wonderful unit this has become. Not only is there an All-American in the group, but James has big time ability, Ibrahim is always effective, and if he plays fullback, Parrish is at an elite level as a blocker. And Hall has the pedigree to be the main horse some day.
The staff will likely look for an elite running back to bring in because, why not? One possibility could be Aliquippa's Kaezon Pugh, though he could also project as a linebacker.