UNC Football 2022 Positional Preview: Running Backs

Oct 9, 2021; Chapel Hill, North Carolina, USA; North Carolina Tar Heels running back D.J. Jones (26) runs with the ball during the first half against the Florida State Seminoles at Kenan Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 9, 2021; Chapel Hill, North Carolina, USA; North Carolina Tar Heels running back D.J. Jones (26) runs with the ball during the first half against the Florida State Seminoles at Kenan Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports /

Our 2022 UNC Football positional previews continue, as we take a closer look at the team’s running back options heading into the new season.

QB | RB | WR | TE | OL
DL  | LB |  CB  |  S  | ST

Similar to last season, there are certainly some question marks surrounding the UNC football program’s running back depth.

After losing Javonte Williams and Michael Carter to the NFL, transfer Ty Chandler came in to help the program keep up its success on the ground. A late-season surge from British Brooks was also a very important factor in the team’s offensive success.

This year, there’s no Chandler (NFL) or Brooks (season-ending injury), and the Tar Heels did not bring in a transfer as they did a year ago. Instead, Mack Brown and company will rely on some in-house names and will look to some newcomers to help fill the void.

Our 2022 positional previews continue with the running back position, a group with some question marks that also features a ton of talent and potential.

What We Know

Just like the team’s quarterback situation, the running back position will be very different as well.

What we know is this: the UNC football program has a ton of talent at the position, but lacks college game experience.

Let’s put it into perspective: if you take the Tar Heels’ three returning running backs (D.J. Jones, Caleb Hood, and Elijah Green) accounted for just 93 carries for 373 yards.

Considering that Sam Howell and Ty Chandler ran the ball a combined 365 times last season, there are plenty of carries to go around.

The inexperience will be a factor early on, but this group has plenty of potential and talent to make it work. There may not be one clear-cut back, but expect the Tar Heels to mix and match in an effort to get the hot hand more carries.

The Key Players

D.J. Jones

Mack Brown announced that junior D.J. Jones will be the team’s starting running back out of the gate. This makes plenty of sense, given that Jones is the team’s most experienced returning back.

Jones is set to take on a bigger role in the team’s offense and should benefit from more opportunities to work with. The Tar Heels don’t need him to fill the void of Ty Chandler and British Brooks on his own- what they need is for him to be a steady back who can consistently get them yards from the line of scrimmage.

2021 Stats: 60 carries for 253 yards and 12 receptions for 55 yards

Elijah Green

2021 Stats: 11 carries for 39 yards

Similar to fellow sophomore running back Caleb Hood (who we’ll talk about in a minute) Green has dealt with injuries during the team’s training camp. As he’s been sidelined, it will be interesting to see how the Tar Heels use Green, and if his absence from camp will eventually hurt his future playing time.

Caleb Hood

Hood also dealt with injuries during training camp but may be in line for more carries than Green once he’s fully ready to take the field. With the injuries, expect the Tar Heels to be cautious with both sophomores, but again, their absence could lead to others getting (and securing) more opportunities down the road.

2021 Stats: 22 carries for 97 yards


Omarion Hampton

Brown told the media that the team does not have a clear No. 2 running back at this current moment. However, there’s a good possibility that we’ll see a ton of the team’s freshman running backs early on in the season.

Omarion Hampton is a player to watch, as he was described by one ACC Network analyst as “a legit freak.” Of course, it’s hard to tell what you’ll get from freshmen, but as they gain more experience, we could be in line to see the two form a dynamic duo of their own.

2021 Stats (High School): 161 carries for1,948 yards and 39 touchdowns

George Pettaway 

Pettaway is another incoming freshman that has the UNC football program excited. It’s not often that teams can bring in two of the top 10 to 15 running backs in one graduating class, but this duo has the makings of being something special in Chapel Hill.

Similar to Hampton, expect some early learning curves for Pettaway. Once they get settled in, Pettaway has the talent and potential to see a lot of carries in the Tar Heels backfield moving forward.

2021 Stats (High School): 129 carries for 1,683 yards and 23 TDs  as well as 30 catches for 547 yards and six touchdowns


The inexperience is there, but the talent is as well. This position is a major question mark for the Tar Heels offense, but it’s a group that has more than enough to fill the void and help the UNC football program’s offense succeed this season and beyond.

Depth Chart

BACKUPS: Omarion Hampton, George Pettaway, Caleb Hood, Elijah Green

dark. Next. Drake Maye named starting quarterback

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