RB Room (all returners): Cam Porter, Anthony Tyus III, Joseph Himon II, Caleb Komolafe
In 2022, 1500-all-purpose-yard running back Evan Hull was the entire Northwestern offense. But in 2023, the Incredible Hull will be suiting up in blue and white for the Indianapolis Colts, having achieved his NFL dream.
His absence creates a gaping hole for NU to plug. Hull was the team’s most productive skill-position player by a country mile and a consistent leader even at the end of a nightmarish 1-11 season.
His 55 receptions trailed only number-one wideout Malik Washington (by just 10), and his 221 carries accounted for 47% of all touches for Wildcat rushers and were the fifth most carries in the entire Big Ten. Cam Porter saw the next most action for the ‘Cats with just 87 touches on the ground. Hull’s 4.1 yards per carry led the team by almost a full yard.
As Hull looks to find similar success with the Colts (and it’s looking like his role might increase if a certain superstar running back’s trade request is granted), NU will look for others to step up. Without any established wideouts and with a questionable quarterback room, the program needs one of these running backs to emerge as an offensive threat and a team leader in 2023.
All four of these backs have been with the program for at least a season, but none of them jump off the page as obvious heirs to Hull. All eyes will be on Porter, but it’s hard to predict how productive the senior is really capable of being. Meanwhile, Anthony Tyus III and Joseph Himon II saw minimal action last season and Caleb Komolafe didn’t play at all.
Key Player: Cam Porter
Porter was a frustrating watch at times in 2022. He amassed 286 yards and two touchdowns in his junior season, earning just 3.3 yards per attempt. The 220-pound bruiser showed the ability to run defenders over, and that was exciting, but it also felt like he ran himself into trouble more often than not. With that being said, some of the negative energy surrounding Porter from Wildcat fans stemmed from the fact that him being on the field often meant Hull was sitting down.
The ‘Cats hope Porter has made strides this offseason, as he will take over as the lead back. Consistent reps also may help; his usage last season was sporadic and likely made it difficult to get into a rhythm.
To be clear, Porter doesn’t have to be Hull. Hopefully, he will get some help carrying the load from others in the room. But, he has to be more productive than he was last season. Otherwise, it’s going to be a long year watching a Skoronski-less, Hull-less rushing attack try to establish the run.
Will Tyus III or Himon II have an impact?
Both of these guys saw the field for Northwestern in 2022 but neither was all that relevant. With Porter as the starter, someone needs to slot into that second running back role he occupied last season.
Tyus III, a former three-star recruit entering his junior season, seems like the more likely candidate. The power-back has a year of experience on Himon, who saw just four carries last year as a freshman.
Tyus’s 2.9 yards per carry last year is a little disconcerting, but with a sample size of 19 attempts, it’s probably not worth taking stock in. It’s hard to know what 2023 will bring for him, but he should get the opportunity to dramatically increase his role in the Northwestern offense.
The question is whether he will snag that role or will the younger Himon II take a bigger leap. That remains to be seen.