There are very few non-option offenses in the Mountain West that feature a more running back-centric offense than Nevada. Over the past decade, the patented Pistol Offense uses a dual-rushing system; Either a quarterback and running back take the majority of the carries, or a pair of running backs.
Last season, the tandem of Don Jackson and James Butler were the 1A and 1B rushers. While Jackson started the season as the more prominent back, he was overtaken by Butler at the end of the season. Together, they rushed for 2,423 yards and 18 touchdowns.
Even though Jackson was lost to graduation, Nevada will be reloading their backfield yet again. Rising junior James Butler returns after ending last season on a high note, rushing for 100+ yards in five of their last six games. He helped lift the Wolf Pack over Colorado State in the Arizona Bowl with a ridiculous 189 yards on 24 carries, good for a 7.7 yards-per-carry average.
His new running mate this season will be Akeel Lynch, a graduate transfer from Penn State. His performance last year was hampered by injuries, which caused him to sink on the depth chart. He missed four of their last nine games, and only ran the ball six times during the five games he did play.
It’s unlikely that Butler and Lynch split the carries like the backs did last season, but it should be a rather fair split. Butler should get upwards of 250-300 carries while Lynch sits around 150 carries, barring injury.
Behind these two, the remaining running backs on the roster are very green. Outside of Butler and Jackson last season, sophomore Blake Wright was the only other running back on the roster to even touch the ball, running it a mere four times for eight yards. Besides those aforementioned, the remaining running backs on the roster are freshman.
If injuries were to strike, Wright would likely be the first backup off the bench, with Kelton Moore and Maliek Broady next in line. The Wolf Pack really need to stay healthy at this position, otherwise they could be in serious trouble.
Overall, Nevada should once again have a strong running attack. Butler is primed to have a monster season, as he finished fourth in the Mountain West in rushing yards. He was named to the Maxwell Award watch list. Lynch should be at least capable, and more importantly give Butler some rest throughout the game. If they stay healthy, there’s no reason Nevada shouldn’t be one of the top rushing offenses in the Mountain West again.