HELENA — The brightest spot on offense of the 2017 Carroll College football team was easy to find.
Behind four seniors, an All-American and an all-conference offensive linemen, the Saints ran the ball with authority all season long.
Behind only College of Idaho, with its dual-threat quarterback, the Saints finished No. 2 in the Frontier Conference in rushing yardage per game, piling up 210 yards each outing.
While the ability to run the ball didn’t always translate into the win-column as the Saints went 4-6 for a third consecutive season, Carroll made it clear that it still values a punishing ground game.
As 406mtsports.com continues to bring coverage of football training camp, today we’re looking at Carroll’s running backs — led by junior Major Ali.
Ali became a first-team all-conference runner as a sophomore a season ago. The 5-foot-7, 200-pounder bowling ball of a human averaged 98 yards per game last season, rushing for nine touchdowns. This season, Ali becomes the lead back, and only upperclassman rusher on the roster.
“Running backs we’re all trying to make sure we’re on the same page,” Ali said. “Making sure we all know the offense so when we’re out there on Saturdays it’s all thoughtless. We know our protections. We know our routes. We know our holes. We know the running plays. We know the audibles.”
As the oldest in his position group, he’s focused on working on his leadership this fall camp. With sophomore Ryan Arntson, who led Saints RBs in yards per carry at 6.9, back in tow, the two returning runners are polishing their games and helping the freshmen along.
“Major and Ry Ry are my lightning and thunder,” running back coach Reece Hack said. “We’ve got those two guys, and they’re both great players. I’m just trying to find a third to get on the bus to Rocky Mountain.”
Highly touted freshmen running backs Kaleb Adams out of Texas and Cameron Brown out of Utah are both early favorites to score the No. 3 spot on the depth chart.
Adams offers speed and agility out of the backfield with an ability to run it through the tackles as needed, according to Hack. Brown on the other hand brings the power and physicality to the position, more of a true bruiser than anything else.
“I have two really good older guys,” said Hack, who is in his first year as running backs coach at Carroll. “Amazing as far as teaching. They are bringing the younger guys along, which is honestly very helpful and beneficial for me. My two youngins I have are both extremely talented which is always helpful. They have a desire to learn and a desire to get it right.”
Jack McIntyre and Griphen Le are also pushing for playing time. Each have had their moments in drills over the past spring and fall. Saturday’s scrimmage will be important for every back, but could be paramount if either of these two look to make a push up the depth chart.
How all these backs do will certainly depend on Carroll’s rebuilt offensive line. But for their part, Carroll’s running backs could be the fiercest three-headed monster in the Frontier.