UNT running backs outlook art

North Texas running back DeAndre Torrey (3) breaks away from Rice defensive tackle Elijah Garcia during the Mean Green’s win over the Owls last season at Apogee Stadium.

The well of great running backs never seems to run dry at North Texas, a school with quite the history at the position.

Kansas City Chiefs Hall of Famer Abner Haynes played for the Mean Green as did Patrick Cobbs and Jeff Wilson, who both also went on to play in the NFL.

One of the interesting aspects of Seth Littrell’s tenure as UNT’s head coach that began ahead of the 2016 season is that he has kept that history going while employing a spread system.

Wilson played the final two years of his college career under Littrell and is now with the San Francisco 49ers.

The Mean Green have a host of players who have picked up where Wilson left off, including DeAndre Torrey and Oscar Adaway III. That duo is expected to lead the Mean Green in 2021.

Here’s a look at both and the rest of UNT’s running backs in the latest installment of our annual outlook series on the Mean Green’s roster on a position-by-position basis.

Key returnees: DeAndre Torrey, Sr.; Isaiah Johnson, Fr.; Ikaika Ragsdale, Fr.; Oscar Adaway III, Rfr.; Caleb Osuofa, Jr.; Dawson Nobriga, So.

Key losses: Tre Siggers, Nic Smith, Evan Johnson

Newcomers: Keith Jackson, Fr.

Biggest unanswered question: UNT’s coaches have spoken highly of Adaway since he signed with the Mean Green.

The reason why became obvious at the beginning of last season. The 6-foot, 215-pound back burst onto the scene when he rushed for 118 yards and two touchdowns on just five carries in a season-opening win over Houston Baptist. He came back the next week to rush for 104 yards in a loss to SMU.

Adaway’s season was derailed a short time later when he broke his hand. He ended up playing in seven of UNT’s 10 games and finished with 572 rushing yards and three touchdowns.

Adaway will be back in 2021. The question is if he can stay heathy this year and form a one-two punch with Torrey, who led UNT with 656 rushing yards and six touchdowns.

Why 2021 production could be better: UNT is loaded with talent at running back. Torrey is among the better running backs in C-USA and Adaway has star potential.

UNT also has a host of talented players behind that duo. Johnson and Ragsdale were both highly recruited.

Littrell tends to ride the hot hand at running back and will have plenty of options.

Why 2021 production could be worse: While UNT has plenty of talented running backs, it did lose a key contributor in Siggers. The former Duncanville standout posted two games with at least 100 yards last season and had a 94-yard outing in a win over UTEP.

When UNT needed a spark offensively in its loss to Appalachian State in the Myrtle Beach Bowl, it was Siggers who came through with 120 yards.

Siggers entered the NCAA transfer portal after the season and landed at SMU, the Mean Green’s bitter rival. UNT will have fewer options with Siggers out of the picture. That could prove costly if UNT has a run of injuries.

Overall outlook: UNT’s running backs have the potential to be among the Mean Green’s biggest strengths this fall.

Torrey elected to return after the NCAA granted seniors an additional year of eligibility and Adaway is a budding star. That duo will be UNT’s best asset offensively.

Torrey has 2,013 rushing yards in his career and should make a run at 3,000, while Adaway will emerge as one of the better running backs in C-USA.

Here’s our series so far:

Quarterbacks — Ruder joins fray as UNT’s situation improves from a year ago

BRETT VITO can be reached at 940-566-6870 and via Twitter at @brettvito.

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