Following the graduation of two running backs, the Purdue backfield is looking youthful and showing a lot of potential.
Former running back D.J. Knox led the Boilers in rushing the past season with 883 rushing yards and 180 receiving yards. He posed a threat not only from the backfield but also as a receiver, a trait that can be hard to find in running backs.
Markell Jones also graduated following last season, and his talent will leave another gap in the team that needs to be filled. Jones rushed for 537 yards and produced 119 yards in the passing game. The dynamic duo of Jones and Knox leaves the Boilers pondering: who’s next?
Luckily for Purdue, the team is loaded with top talent in the backfield, ready to step up and make an impact for the team. One frontrunner is sophomore Zander Horvath, who appeared in every game last season as a reserve, rushing for 42 yards and a touchdown. Horvath was also named Academic All-Big Ten due to his work inside the classroom.
“We’ve been competing every single day out here,” Horvath said. “We’re all hoping that carries over.”
Working alongside Horvath is redshirt freshman Alfred Armour, a 6-foot-1 running back weighing in at 230-pounds. Armour played both sides of the ball at Warren Central High School in Indianapolis, Indiana, as a running back, linebacker and defensive end. The physicality he showed in high school on defense is now evident in college, as he trucks defenders in practice and does not go down easily. Armour recently squatted 600-pounds in the weight room in preparation for the coming season.
Armour’s downside is experience, as he did not rush the ball last season and will have to learn on his feet in the coming year. He does have the advantage of learning from Horvath, however, which should prove valuable to Armour’s rushing game.
Fellow redshirt freshman Evan Anderson will be another young player who will split reps this spring. Standing at the same height as Armour but weighing 30 pounds less, Anderson is more of a speedy back. Also like Armour, Anderson did not rush the ball last season and has very little to no in-game experience.
The most experienced player returning for the Boiler backs is fifth-year Tario Fuller. Fuller has seen action in 24 games in his career, rushing the ball 67 times for 325 yards. Fuller as the veteran will most likely see a decent portion of time during the season but will also have another job on his hands: becoming a leader.
Fuller will have to lead the young players like Armour, Horvath and Anderson, who have all been with the team for a significantly shorter amount of time. The quartet will continue to split reps in practice leading up to the spring game.
“They all have great things that they do,” said running backs coach Chris Barclay. “But it’s really a neck-and-neck race right now.”