Tom Allen had the look of a coach who may have found his number one running back on Monday.
The fifth year Indiana head coach was asked at a media availability who stood out from the running back room at the program’s closed scrimmage inside Memorial Stadium on Saturday.
Allen isn’t typically one to show restraint when addressing the media, especially when it comes to showering praise on his players. But with a bit of twinkle in his eye, Allen appeared to not want to go too far with what he saw from Stephen Carr over the weekend, while still making it clear that the USC transfer made a strong impression.
“Stephen Carr was pretty obvious,” Allen said. “He’s a good back. The thing about him is he does a lot of things well. He can obviously run the football, but he can pass protect and he has really good hands. He understands football. He’s played a lot of football and understands how to run. Some guys have that knack to them. Yeah, he did some good things for sure.”
Based on a video posted by the IU football Twitter account that was later deleted, Carr scored at least one touchdown in the scrimmage, a long run that highlighted his speed, power and ability to break tackles.
A former 5-star recruit from California, Carr chose to spend his fifth season of eligibility in Bloomington after four seasons at USC. When IU released its first depth chart a couple weeks ago, it was a bit jarring to see Carr, who is on the Doak Walker Award watch list, listed at No. 3.
At the time, and even more so now, that pre-fall camp designation seemed to be more about making a new guy earn it rather than granting him what was likely to be the ultimate outcome.
The first sign Carr was likely climbing the ladder came last week when Sampson James entered the transfer portal. His departure to Purdue leaves sophomore Tim Baldwin and junior David Ellis as Carr’s primary competition for the top job when IU opens the 2021 season on Sept. 4 at Iowa.
Ellis has also been ascending in fall camp, but his progress hit a snag this weekend when he suffered an injury.
“Lower leg injury for David in the scrimmage,” Allen said. “I don’t think it is anything serious, but he’ll be out for a few days. We’re kind of monitoring that one but I expect he’ll be back.”
What Allen didn’t mention about Carr that may also be giving him an edge is ball security. The 6-foot-1 and 215 pounder has fumbled just twice in 264 carries, 57 receptions and 15 kickoff returns at USC.
Carr is also no doubt highly motivated to reach the potential many saw coming out of high school. This will be his final season of college football, and he will look to put together a season that mirrors his combined production over the last four seasons to catch the eyes of NFL scouts.
Over four seasons at USC Carr has run for 1,329 yards on 264 carries (5.0 ypc) with 12 touchdowns, and caught 57 passes for 421 yards (7.4 ypc) with one touchdown.
Carr will need an offensive line that can create better running lanes than it has in recent years if he is to produce those kind of numbers this season. At least going head-to-head in the scrimmage, there is hope for that. Allen said the offense, including the offensive line, had the upper-hand on Saturday.
(Update: IU later published a modified version of the Carr touchdown video below.)
— Indiana Football (@IndianaFootball) August 16, 2021
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