Georgia State review/preview: Running backs

Georgia State running back Kyler Neal scores a 4-yard touchdown in the first quarter of a 31-19 win over Ball State on Saturday. (Georgia State)

Georgia State running back Kyler Neal scores a 4-yard touchdown in the first quarter of a 31-19 win over Ball State on Saturday. (Georgia State)

Georgia State’s football team recently wrapped up its most successful season under coach Trent Miles.

The Panthers went 6-7, that seventh defeat coming in their first bowl game. The team won its final four regular season games to earn that bowl berth.

Over the next few days, I’ll review each position group and preview what that unit may look like when spring practice begins sometime in March.

Here is the review/preview of the quarterbacks.

Running backs

Starter(s): Kyler Neal, Demarcus Kirk, Glenn Smith

Returning? Those three, as well as Taz Bateman and Kendrick Dorn, who missed the year because of an injury.

What’d they do in 2015? As a group, those who rushed for Georgia State averaged 3.1 yards per carry and averaged 96.9 yards per game. Though there seemed to be some improvement in the production of the rushing game during the four-game win streak, when judged as a whole there is still much work to do in this area. That’s not news to those who follow Georgia State. The team hasn’t been able consistently run the ball for years, even when it had Donald Russell, who is considered the best back in the program’s short history.

There is obviously talent. Smith, Bateman and Neal all had long runs during the season and showed flashes, when healthy, of what they can do.

One of the issues is there wasn’t consistently room to run, which is the responsibility of the offensive line.

Another issue the none the group actually played a full season.

Smith led the group with 356 yards on 89 carries. He didn’t start playing the position until midway in the season when injuries depleted the group.

Neal was second with 327 yards on 83 carries. He missed two games because of an injury.

Kirk was third with 320 yards on 75 carries in 10 games.

Bateman finished with 253 yards on 50 carries in seven games.

Who will battle in the spring? The group will be joined by Dorn, who was doing some light running during the practices for the Cure Bowl.

Neal has consistently earned the starting job each time he was challenged, but it seems that Smith may have the inside track. His big-play ability as a runner and receiver is hard to ignore.

Much depends upon the improvement of the offensive line, which we will get into later.

It likely won’t matter a great deal who starts because all four will likely play, just as they did last year.

Each has areas in which they need to improve: Neal must become a better short-yardage runner. On at least two occasions late in the year he couldn’t convert 1-yard situations.

Smith will need to work on his pass-blocking, as will Bateman.

Dorn will likely need to work on everything after missing the seasonn.


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