UND 2018 Position By Position: Running Backs

After taking a look at UND’s quarterback options for 2018, we’ll turn the series to the running backs. UND’s quarterback situation is full of unknowns, whereas the Fighting Hawks’ running backs are the opposite and stocked full of proven commodities.

I think it’s safe to say UND will have its deepest and perhaps best running back unit in school history in 2018. John Santiago is a three-time all-conference running back, Brady Oliveira has been an all-Big Sky back, James Johannesson has become a short yardage weapon as a transfer from Minnesota/one of the all-time best preps to come out of North Dakota … then add Austin Gordon back to the mix following a year-long suspension in 2017.

That’s four really legit running backs. The best way to keep all of them happy in 2018 will be to stay on the field longer and sustain drives. UND had a difficult time finding the right balance of carries for Santiago, Oliveira and Johannesson this season and part of that was the choppy offense that didn’t allow enough plays to even be run.

The UND fan base is also eager to see if the coaching staff can take further advantage of the stacked backfield. Many were irritated at the lack of the running backs in any passing scheme, as well as very few moments of Santiago and Oliveira on the field at the same time. Perhaps we see that develop in 2018.

If UND stays healthy in the backfield in 2018 like it did in 2017, it’s going to be interesting to see if Gordon can carve out a role. The former walk-on from Wayzata, Minn., played in eight games in 2016. He carried the ball 33 times for 243 yards. That’s good for 7.4 yards per carry (albeit sometimes in mop-up duty).

Gordon might have the quickest feet of any of the backs. His cuts remind me of Jer Garman of a few years ago. To Gordon’s credit, he handled his suspension well this season and worked his tail off on the scout team. He might not be a huge factor in 2018, but I think he’s got a future with the Fighting Hawks if he sticks with it.

UND doesn’t have a running back committed to the most recent recruiting class and the last signee at running back, Isaiah Secrest of Rice Lake, Wis., bolted before fall camp cranked up. It’s to be expected that it’s somewhat fruitless and difficult to recruit a running back with this many proven veterans at the position, but I’d bet UND is making a good pitch to a recruit running back in either the 2018 or 2019 class to be the man down the road.

In addition to the big four mentioned earlier, UND also has junior college transfer Teddy Sherva in the position group. Even more so than Gordon, there’s not a lot of chances for Sherva to get any carries. He’s a nice reps guy to have at practice, however, and he’s quick enough to possibly add something in the kick return game in 2018 and beyond.

This breakdown is a little light, but we pretty much know what UND has at running back, right? Thoughts?


3 Responses

    1. Tom

      Yeah, I think that’s a target. Some good young pieces up front with Mortel, Tobin, Nguon … but they’re young and right tackle, especially, remains a question mark in my eyes.

  1. Guest

    Total out there hypothetical here, but hey it’s the offseason. Imagine for a second that UND was a triple option team with this group of running backs. Pencil in Santiago and Olivera as your slot backs with Johanesson at fullback and top it off with Boltmann at QB. That’d be one heck of a challenge to try and stop all those guys out on the field at once. Obviously this isn’t a practical idea, but pretty fun to think about if you ask me

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