Virginia running back Perry Jones came tantalizingly close to a 1,000-yard rushing season last year, falling just a few yards shy of the coveted mark.
If Jones was the lone featured back for the Cavs, running backs coach Mike Faragalli estimates his star player probably would have had 1,500 yards rushing.
But given the wealth of talent and depth in the backfield, Virginia does all it can to get as many rushers involved. Last season, the Cavs were one of two ACC teams and one of 10 teams among the automatic qualifying conferences to have three running backs with 72 or more carries. Maryland was the other from the ACC.
Though the distribution plan remains the same this season, with Kevin Parks, Clifton Richardson and Khalek Shepherd in the mix, the quest for a 1,000-yard rusher continues. Jones once again is the most likely candidate.
"I think we'll have a good shot at it this year," Faragalli said on a recent conference call with reporters.
Jones goes into his senior season as one of the most valued members of the offense. Not only is he the starter at running back, he is invaluable out of the backfield. Combined, he had more than 1,400 yards of offense last season. His role in the pass game will not change this year as the Cavs once again attempt to take advantage of his versatility.
"You name it, he does it," Faragalli said of Jones, who has made 24 starts over the last two seasons. "For his stature, he's probably the toughest, most physical player I've been around. They don't call him Superman for nothing. The guy can do it all."
Jones is not the biggest player on the field at 5-foot-8, 195 pounds. That may have had some schools overlooking him out of high school. Faragalli was asked to assess Jones' pro potential, given his small stature. He noted players like LaDanian Tomlinson and Darren Sproles. Both thrived in the right type of NFL system. As noted above, Jones is versatile like those two backs and that should make him an asset.
"He'll test out well," Faragalli said. "They'll probably look at him and say he's too short, he doesn't have 4.3 speed. But he plays 6 foot 2 and he takes a lot of pride in that."