Devine Redding is the about to be the next great IU running back.
Last season, the junior tailback rushed over 1,000 yards and nine touchdowns. Redding shared the workload with current Chicago Bears running back Jordan Howard.
Running backs coach Deland McCullough knew exactly what Redding was capable of last season.
“It was not a surprise,” McCullough said. “I remember saying (last year) that we had two 1,000 yard guys on the roster.”
With Howard gone, Redding is poised to be the workhorse and leader of the IU running back position group.
Redding improved significantly as he got more playing time last year. Early on, he struggled with efficiency as he only rushed for 3.5 yards per carry through the first ten games.
But, in the last three games, Redding’s efficiency took off – and so did the Hoosiers offense. He rushed for 130, 144 and 227 yards against Maryland, Purdue and Duke, respectively. With a new quarterback for the Hoosiers, he needs to continue to improve his efficiency so the offense doesn’t often face second or third and long.
McCullough said Redding is also working on the little things that would make him an even better back.
“He’s en route to doing it now in pass protection,” McCullough said. “He’s on his way to be an upper tier (pass protector). His run reads as far as getting north, he has plays where he lost yards.”
As Redding got more playing time, he started to slow down and make better reads out of the backfield. This was something he said he took away from former Hoosier running backs Tevin Coleman and Howard.
“Just the ability to stay calm and not be so frantic in the back field,” Redding said. They all taught me to slow down.”
Now, Redding is teaching this to the current stable of young backs.
It’s a talented group — they just haven’t had the production Redding has had. Sophomores Mike Majette, Ricky Brookins and Alex Rodriguez are solid, yet unproven options behind Redding.
The most talented player might actually be junior Camion Patrick who has been hyped up by IU Coach Kevin Wilson for more than a year. Patrick is coming off a knee injury and isn’t scheduled to return until the start of Big Ten play.
McCullough said he’s comfortable with the group of running backs behind Redding as they are a versatile group who all offer different skill sets.
“For us, we like the balance that we have,” offensive coordinator Kevin Johns said. “Our challenge is going to be how do we get them all on the field.”
It’s a good problem for Johns to have, but he can lean significantly on Redding. Redding showed great improvement over the course of a season and he can continue to grow as a back.
Redding might not get as many carries as last season due the depth of options at the position, but he should be a better back. IU has had two straight running backs drafted, and if he continues to improve, that number could become three.