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IU football 2021 position previews: The running backs

The Daily Hoosier is previewing each position group during the final days leading up to the opening kickoff of the 2021 Indiana football season on Sept. 4 against Iowa.

Today we take a look at the running backs.

The roster has turned over, but Indiana hasn’t had a starting running back this talented since the Tevin Coleman and Jordan Howard days.

Former 5-star recruit and USC transfer Stephen Carr steps into the starting role for one season while the Hoosiers groom several young and talented backs behind him.


Sampson James immediately went from someone fans hoped would turn a corner in 2021 to public enemy number one when he announced an August transfer to Purdue.

Stevie Scott was a three-year starter who gave up his final season of eligibility for the NFL Draft.  He saw opportunities with the Saints and Broncos but is currently a free agent.

Ahrod Lloyd is no longer in the roster.



Tim Baldwin is in line to be the primary back-up.  As a true freshman Baldwin rushed for 141 yards on 22 attempts (6.4 average) in four games, including 16 for 106 against Maryland. Baldwin provides some quickness and a needed burst of speed in the backfield.

David Ellis is in his third season with the program and second in the running backs room.  He played in the final five games of 2020 after missing the first three with an ankle injury.  The versatile Ellis rushed 16 times for 61 yards, caught 11 passes for 137 yards with one touchdown, and returned one kick for 25 yards.  He is likely to start the 2021 season on the sidelines with an injury suffered during fall camp.


Stephen Carr has been named the starter and he has the look of complete running back.  He is fast, can make people miss, is a good pass catcher and strong in pass protection. He rushed for 1,329 yards on 264 carries (5.0 average) with 12 touchdowns in 35 games at USC.  He also caught 57 passes for 421 yards (7.4) with one score, and he returned 15 kickoffs for 321 yards (21.4).

David Holloman is a true freshman to keep an eye on.  He popped during fall camp and has game-breaking speed that Indiana will likely try to find opportunities for.

Trent Howland is another true freshman who brings a big, bruising downhill style to pair with Holloman.  He is coming off a knee injury.

Davion Ervin-Poindexter and Charlie Spegal are both walk-ons, and we are not in the predicting scholarships business — but it wouldn’t be a surprise if one or even both earned a free ride at some point after receiving consistent high praise from the staff.


Running backs coach Deland McCullough on how he will use the back-ups —

“I think my history is pretty well noted. Here at IU and USC and in the NFL, I’m going to play several guys. There is going to be a lead horse guy that is the main feature guy, but I believe you get diminishing returns when you burn a guy out. Whoever is the lead guy, he will get the bulk of the action, but I think people will be surprised how much the second guy and other guys supplement the main person.”

Stephen Carr on deciding to play for McCullough, who coached him at USC —

“It was a no brainer. I think it was just God’s timing. By the time I entered the portal, I found out he was coaching here. Having a good relationship with Coach McCullough has meant a lot. He has taught me more about the game than I’ve learned from any other coach. I did learn a lot from my coaches as USC, Coach [Mike] Jinks and Coach [Tim] Drevno. They were amazing coaches who taught me a lot, but it has been amazing reuniting with Coach McCullough because we have a lot of history. He is still holding me to that high standard like he did when we first met.”

Tim Baldwin on what he focused on during the offseason —

“I wanted to hit the holes faster and overall have a balanced attack in how I play: not being one- or two-dimensional but being whatever the team needs me to be. I have been growing and learning from every practice.”


Carr will be highly motivated for this one season audition for the NFL Draft.  If Indiana can get a healthy season from him the running game should see a boost in 2021, especially if the offensive line is improved as expected.

To this point quarterback Michael Penix has not had a talent like Carr in the backfield.  If Carr can force defenses to respect the running game it might open things open for Penix, which is a tantalizing proposition for his talented arm.

There are legitimate concerns about a lack of experienced depth, so there are multiple reasons why Carr’s health is paramount.  While they haven’t played a lot, Indiana really likes Baldwin and Holloman behind Carr, and both should see opportunities.  The same goes for Ellis if he can get healthy.


See also:  Indiana’s 2021 schedule | 2021 roster review | 2021 opponent previews

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