Indiana Football 2019 Position Preview: Running Backs

The Daily Hoosier is previewing each position group during the final days leading up to the opening kickoff of the 2019 Indiana University football season on August 31 against Ball State in Indianapolis.

Today we take a look at the running backs.

The outlook has changed dramatically at running back over the last year.

After Morgan Ellison left the program and Cole Gest was lost for the season during the first game, things looked dire.  IU was forced to turn to unproven true freshmen to run the football.

Here we are twelve months later, and the questions have changed from who is left to how do we keep them all happy.


Mike Majette and Ricky Brookins have both moved on due to eligibility.  Craig Nelson has transferred and is now at Southern.

Freshman running back Ivory Winters has entered the transfer portal.

Former Bloomington South running back Kristian Pechac is also no longer with the program.



Indiana has four legitimate Big Ten caliber running backs on this roster.

Stevie Scott has gone from around fifth on the depth chart at the start of the 2018 fall camp to the Maxwell Award watch list in a year.  A stunning freshman season saw Scott set Indiana true freshman records with 1,137 yards, 228 attempts, 10 touchdowns and six 100-yard games.  He actually looked faster and shiftier at the 2019 fall camp.

Sampson James is the top rated signed recruit ever in the history of the program.  The Indianapolis native flipped his commitment from Ohio State to IU and has added 30 pounds of muscle since arriving on campus.  James should get plenty of carries in his first year with the program.

Ronnie Walker, Jr. was the highest rated recruit in the 2018 class, and he showed flashes of his ability as a true freshman.  Walker appeared in nine games and rushed 32 times for 141 yards (4.4 average) with two touchdowns.

Cole Gest was the starter in last year’s season opener before he tore his ACL and missed the rest of the season.  As a redshirt freshman in 2017, Gest finished second on the team with 428 yards on 93 attempts (4.6 average).


Although it will be very difficult for anyone else to crack the rotation, Ahrod Lloyd did earn a scholarship this week.


Running backs coach Mike Hart discussed his group during fall camp.

(Video credit – Indiana Sports Beat / Jim Coyle)


Stevie Scott is the clear leader here.  The week one depth chart shows Walker and Gest as sharing the back-up role.  That is a bit surprising as many had James penciled into the number two spot.  Gest is also expected to return kickoffs.

The real questions right now are just how much of the load Scott will handle, who will be the first to give him a break, and who takes on the role of third down back.

All four backs are likely to see a meaningful role in the first two games against Ball State and Eastern Illinois.  It’s the week three matchup with Ohio State where we’ll find out the real plan going forward.

In any event, the running back position should be a major strength of this team and is probably the best in terms of talent and depth on the roster.  Offensive coordinator Kalen DeBoer has four highly talented running backs to work with this year, and it will be interesting to watch his plan to utilize them unfold.


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