That monster comes in the shape of Nate Starks, Soso Jamabo and Bolu Olorunfunmi. All three are excellent backs that have their own individual talents that can be used in many different situations.
Starks is a wrecking ball that grinds for extra yards after contact. Jamabo is a speedster who is also elusive. Bolu is a combination of both and is quickly developing into a top tier back.
Sep 3, 2016; College Station, TX, USA; UCLA Bruins running back Bolu Olorunfunmi (4) celebrates his nine-yard touchdown run against the Texas A&M Aggies during the second half at Kyle Field. Texas A&M won in overtime 31-24. Mandatory Credit: Ray Carlin-USA TODAY Sports
To have three RBs with this kind of talent is something any coach would love have to. The only problem is that they have not all played in the same game this season.
Starks was out for the first two games. He did not travel to Texas A&M and did not see any time against UNLV. UCLA Head Coach Jim Mora gave no reason for this.
This past weekend against BYU, UCLA’s leading rusher Jamabo was on the sidelines and was not suited up. Mora’s explanation, “he did not play.”
Olorunfunmi has played all three games, but is only averaging 7.3 carries per game. That is significantly lower than Jamabo (17.0) and Starks (15.0).
Instead of giving more reps to the experienced Olorunfunmi, Offensive Coordinator Kennedy Polamalu has opted to play a few freshman.
Brandon Stephens and Jalen Starks have done well for themselves so far, but they have also had some freshman moments.
Stephens is second on the team in yards per carry with 4.7, but most of that occurred against UNLV. Against BYU he was stuffed behind the line a few and only gained four yards in five carries.
At this point, it is a mystery at what the rhyme and reason is to the running back rotation. It is great experience for the freshman to get carries against UNLV, but Starks and Olorunfunmi should have carried the load with Jamabo out at BYU. In my humble opinion.
With UCLA only gaining 50 yards against BYU, it stands to reason that they will have an even tougher time against Stanford this Saturday. If the Bruins continue to experiment, the Cardinal defense will find a way to exploit that.