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2021 UH football position grades: Running backs

The 2021 UH running backs made a tremendous turnaround from a season ago, nearly doubling the 2020 season's total yards rushing. | James Schillinger/The Cougar

The 2021 UH running backs made a tremendous turnaround from a season ago, nearly doubling the 2020 season’s total yards rushing. | James Schillinger/The Cougar

After starting with quarterbacks, we continue our 2021 UH football position grades by shifting focus to how the Cougars running backs performed.

Full turnaround

One of the biggest improvements UH football made in 2021 was in the run game. During the 2020 season, the Cougars managed just 1,145 yards as a team rushing led by Kyle Porter with just 424 yards.

In 2021, the Cougars nearly doubled the total rushing yards as a team with 1,992 yards and freshman running back Alton McCaskill led the way after finishing just shy of 1,000 yards alone to go along with his 16 touchdowns.

Junior running back Ta’Zhawn Henry, even while being a second option in the backfield, managed to surpass Porter’s total yards from a year ago with 513.

Seniors Chandler Smith and Mulbah Car carried the ball a total of 81 times for 317 yards between them. Smith was able to find the end zone twice.

Yards weren’t the only thing doubled in the run game from last year, the Cougars found the end zone 27 times on the ground in 2021, a tremendous improvement from 12 rushing touchdowns in 2020.

Freshman phenom

The success the UH football team found in the run game this season is largely due to the record-setting season from McCaskill. His 961 yards rushing were the most from a UH running back since 2015 and his 16 touchdowns led all freshmen across the country in 2021.

McCaskill alone more than doubled Porters team-leading rushing yards from a season ago.

His efforts got him named American Athletic Conference Rookie of the Year and to the All-Conference Second Team as he completely re-vamped the UH run-game.

Performance grade

Last season, the Cougars relied heavily on senior backs to carry the majority of the workload. In 2021 we saw a complete transformation that was led by a prolific season from a freshman back,

The run game was pivotal to the Cougars’ success. Relieving pressure off quarterback Clayton Tune and the air attack was something the offense desperately needed last season, but it just wasn’t there.

Turning the narrative behind the Cougars run game around earns this year’s running backs a solid performance grade.

Grade: A-

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