Heading into last season, there was major concern surrounding the Cincinnati Bearcats about how they would replace 1,000-yard rusher Isaiah Pead after his departure to the NFL. They got their answer when George Winn stepped up and rushed for 1,344 yards in 2012, leading the Bearcats’ 30th ranked rushing attack. With Winn now gone, will Ralph David Abernathy be the next Cincinnati running back to eclipse the 1,000-yard mark in 2013?
Abernathy finished 2012 as the second-leading rusher on the Cincinnati roster behind Winn, though he didn’t get a lot of touches in the running game. He finished the season with 69 carries for 366 yards and three touchdowns, only reaching double-digit carries once during his sophomore season. He also proved to be a valuable weapon in the passing game out of the backfield, catching 28 passes for 341 yards and scoring four touchdowns.
He will be asked to shoulder much more of the load in 2013 if he can hold off the advances of Tion Green and Dionte Buckley this spring. Green saw minimal playing time during his freshman season, tallying carries in just three games, gaining 70 yards on 16 attempts with a touchdown. Buckley saw even less action during his freshman season, carrying the ball in just one game for 32 yards on four carries. New signee Rodriguez Moore will also push for playing time after being signed as one of the top JUCO running backs in the 2013 recruiting class.
Whoever wins the job will have the benefit of running behind an excellent offensive line that returns all five starters from last season, including first-team All-Big East selections Austen Bujnoch at guard and Eric Lefeld at tackle. New head coach Tommy Tuberville will have his choice of strong running back options to lean on in the running game as he transitions the Bearcats’ to his offensive system.
If Abernathy can win the job and assume the role of primary running back, he should be able to use his explosive playmaking ability to continue the Cincinnati tradition of 1,000-yard rushers next fall.