As he watched his players go through spring practices, Colorado running backs coach Darian Hagan couldn't help but smile about the talent with which he had to work.
Then, he thought about the fact that CU will add another talented tailback to the mix in the fall.
Even with the unexpected transfer of Patrick Carr (who left the Buffs this summer to be closer to his home in Texas), the Buffs have five different running backs they feel good about going into the season.
"It's a good problem to have," Hagan said.
The question is whether one of them will emerge as the lead runner, or if the Buffs will once again lean on the entire group to get the job done?
In his first year back on the sidelines, Hagan said he's not opposed to either option, but realizes the importance of one player being able to get in a groove during a game.
"I think as a running back, the better you get, the more carries, the more touches you have because you get a better feel for the game," Hagan said when he was promoted last spring. "By rotating guys, you get guys standing on the sidelines and they don't have a feel for it. You want a running back to be decisive in everything he does."
Hagan previously served as running backs coach from 2006-10, tutoring players such as Hugh Charles and Rodney Stewart. Under Hagan's direction, Stewart posted the only 1,000-yard season (1,318 in 2010) by a CU back in the last 11 seasons.
Head coach Mike MacIntyre has yet to have a single featured back during his three years in Boulder, but Hagan takes comfort in knowing the Buffs have several players capable of stepping up when needed.
Juniors Michael Adkins II and Phillip Lindsay have both rushed for over 1,000 yards during their careers, and the Buffs love the potential in junior Donovan Lee, redshirt freshman Dino Gordon and true freshman Beau Bisharat.
"I think all of them have a chance to be really good," Hagan said.
Before the start of preseason camp in August, Buffzone.com will take a look at each position group for the Buffaloes. In this installment, we take a look at the running backs.
Position: Running backs
Returnees: Michael Adkins II (Jr., 5-10, 210); Dino Gordon (Fr., 5-11, 200); Donovan Lee (Jr., 5-9, 180); Phillip Lindsay (Jr., 5-8, 190); Kyle Evans (So., 5-6, 180; walk-on); Joey Tuggle (Jr., 5-7, 185).
Additions: Beau Bisharat (Fr., 6-2, 220); Tanner Grzesiek (Jr., 5-10, 200; walk-on); Troy Lewis (So., 6-2, 220; walk-on).
Losses: Patrick Carr (transferred); Christian Powell (graduated).
2015 recap: Two games into the season, it appeared the Buffs had finally found their lead back, as Adkins racked up 209 yards and three touchdowns on 41 carries. He injured his hamstring on his first carry of Week 3, however, and didn't play again. That led to CU once again relying on a committee of backs. Lindsay had more carries (140) than any two other backs combined, and he led the team with 653 yards and six touchdowns, but the coaches never did settle on a lead back. Throughout the season, five different backs — Adkins, Carr, Lee, Lindsay and Powell — posted 100-yard games, the first time that's happened at CU since 1954. While some of the Buffs' rushing numbers looked good, they finished 10th in the Pac-12 with 156.2 yards per game, and it was only that high because they racked up more than half of their yards in non-conference play. They managed just 104.8 yards per game in Pac-12 play and finished below 90 yards in six of those nine games. The Buffs also lacked the home-run plays, with just 15 runs of 20 yards or more, seven of them coming against UMass or Nicholls.
2016 outlook: Despite losing Carr and Powell (who led the team in rushing three times from 2012-14), the Buffs have potential to be very good in the backfield. Better play from the offensive line will help, but the Buffs would also like to see more explosiveness out of this group. Trying to predict who will lead the team in rushing is difficult, however, because there isn't one who has stood out above the rest. Adkins has rushed for 1,145 yards during his career and when healthy he's been the best back the Buffs on the roster the last two years. Lindsay made the most of his opportunity to shine last year and is an exceptional receiver out of the backfield. He's a tough, physical runner, but the Buffs would love to see him avoid contact when possible. Lee is a dynamic runner who converted from receiver last year. He'll be used in the backfield and in the slot and can be a key weapon for the offense. After redshirting last year, Gordon had a solid spring, but an off-the-field incident has led to him being suspended this summer. If he returns, he'll give the Buffs another good option. Bisharat comes in as a four-star recruit and with his size, he could be a major asset to the Buffs this season. He's got the power to get tough yards, but also has the ability to break longer runs. Of the walk-ons, Evans may have the best chance to play. He had a good game against Nicholls last year and has shown flashes during practice.
Brian Howell: firstname.lastname@example.org, on Twitter: @BrianHowell33.