Last season, Kyle Dobbins was forced to redshirt due to the number of Temple University running backs ahead of him on the depth chart.
Now, the redshirt freshman will battle the six other running backs for the starting spot as Temple looks to replace its fourth all-time rushing yards leader, Ryquell Armstead.
The Owls plan is to use a running back by committee approach until one stands out, offensive coordinator Mike Uremovich said.
No one emerged as a clear starter during spring practices, coach Rod Carey said. But, Dobbins is taking advantage of his opportunity to impress the Owls’ staff, Carey added.
“Kyle Dobbins really jumped off the page to me as far as just development and what he’s done this spring,” redshirt-senior running back Jager Gardner said after the Owls’ Cherry and White Fan Fest on April 13. “He’s stepped up a lot.”
Gardner is expected to compete for the starting running back position with Dobbins, among others. The Owls will also look to redshirt-junior backs Tyliek Raynor and Tayvon Ruley to replace Armstead, who ran for 2,812 yards and scored 34 rushing touchdowns in his four seasons at Temple.
Armstead is projected to be selected in the sixth round of the NFL Draft this weekend, according to CBS Sports.
The Owls also have redshirt-sophomore Jeremy Jennings and redshirt-junior Jonny Forrest at the running back slot.
Temple’s running backs are largely inexperienced, as Gardner is the only Temple running back on the roster who had more than 15 carries last season. Still, Temple has multiple players to choose to fill the position, which ensures that it will be productive when regular season starts, Uremovich said.
“Having depth is a real good thing,” Dobbins said. “But obviously we need to push each other this summer to make sure each all of us are improving and getting down the offense.”
Freshman running back Onasis Neely will miss part of the season due to injury, and Gardner had a minor injury at the beginning of spring practice, Carey said.
“We’re rotating a lot,” Carey added. “We’re trying to find some answers there, to be honest with you. I think we have enough talent. I don’t know if we have a good grip on what that’s going to be or who that’s going to be or how many that’s going to be.”
In high school, Dobbins amassed 4,804 rushing yards and scored 57 touchdowns and was ranked as the No. 32 recruit in New Jersey, according to Rivals.com.
Dobbins was a four-year letterwinner in high school and played at St. Augustine Preparatory School before transferring to Timber Creek Regional High School in Sicklerville, New Jersey, Dobbins was a three-time first team all-conference player and earned two all-state selections.
Despite being a three-star recruit, Dobbins had to redshirt his freshman season.
This helped him become more comfortable with college football, Gardner said.
“[Dobbins is] understanding what college football is now,” Gardner added. “It’s not high school. You just can’t do certain things as you did in high school, and he’s just realizing that now and being more patient as a player.”
Running back coach Gabe Infante said Dobbins learned from watching Armstead and took advantage of his redshirt season on the sidelines, he said.
“What’s struck me from the get-go with Kyle is his maturity,” Infante added. “He’s a mature young man, he goes about his business in a very professional manner. His film study, his attention in meetings, his willingness to compete, all those things.”
Summer practice begins in August, and Dobbins said he isn’t getting complacent.
“I’m not even close to reaching my full potential,” Dobbins said. “This summer I plan on giving 150 percent to put my name just in the conversation, but I’m not getting my hopes up.”