Though Tavion Thomas, who led Utah in rushing the past two seasons, has moved on, the Utes’ running backs room still has firepower.

“We’re working with three fairly known commodities,” said offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig.

“We all realize how limited his experience is at that position. So relative to the experience that he has and where he is and how he’s performing, it’s pretty incredible.” — Utah coach Kyle Whittingham on QB-turned-RB Ja’Quinden Jackson

There’s Ja’Quinden Jackson, who moved from quarterback to running back during the 2022 season. He ran 78 times for 531 yards and nine touchdowns. 

“Ja’Quinden Jackson is growing and developing into that position,” Ludwig said. “We all saw the transition take place for him and the improvement he made week after week after week as he settled into that position.” 

“He’s just becoming more polished and more adept at all the intricacies of the position and the finer points of it,” coach Kyle Whittingham said about Jackson. “That’s what you’d expect. Coach (Quinton) Ganther is doing a great job with him. We all realize how limited his experience is at that position. So relative to the experience that he has and where he is and how he’s performing, it’s pretty incredible.”

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Micah Bernard, who had 106 carries for 533 yards and four touchdowns last season, entered the transfer portal before deciding to return to the program. 

“Micah Bernard — we’re fired up to have him back. He’s such a versatile player for us,” Ludwig said. “His ability as a pass protector, as a route-runner and as a ball carrier, he’s super dynamic. He’s a player that can be utilized in a lot of different ways.” 

However, Bernard hasn’t been participating in spring practices due to an injury. Whittingham is hopeful that he’ll be back on the practice field soon. 

“He is week-to-week. Right now, as per our training staff, they don’t think it’s advisable to have him out here,” he said. “If we had a game today, he could probably play but we don’t have that need right now. We need to get him 100%. We need to do everything we can to get this thing completely healed.”

Bernard arrived on campus at the age of 17 and now he’s one of the leaders of the offense. 

“He’s been with us for five years. The system hasn’t changed,” Ludwig said. “Those guys are so special because it doesn’t take a big, long description of what you’re trying to get done. There are things he can draw back from. He sees it from a little bit different perspective and can add insight, which is invaluable.”

Jaylon Glover (1) of the Utah Utes runs away from Zyrus Fiaseun (51) of San Diego State on Saturday, Sept. 17, 2022.
Utah running back Jaylon Glover looks for yardage against San Diego State in Salt Lake City on Saturday, Sept. 17, 2022. As a true freshman, Glover carried the ball 78 times for 360 yards and four touchdowns. | Ben B. Braun, Deseret News

And there’s Jaylon Glover, who ran 78 times for 360 yards and four touchdowns as a true freshman. 

“Jaylon Glover is still growing into the program, still growing as a tailback,” Ludwig said. “Very excited about the opportunities he will have to show his wares this spring.”

Glover has been working hard during the offseason to take another step forward this fall. 

“For me, I just told myself that I don’t want to be in the same place I was last year,” he said. “I just want to continue to stack everything from being in, knowing how the program goes, knowing that I want to be the first guy in and the last guy out. That’s been my mentality because this season I want to make a stand. Those things I have to make sacrifices to do and I want to do that.”

Also on the depth chart is junior Charlie Vincent. 

“Charlie Vincent is a nice complement to Micah Bernard,” Ludwig said. “They have a very similar skill set. Then we have some young, walk-on guys that are scrapping and learning.”

Utah running back Ja’Quinden Jackson (3) celebrates after scoring a touchdown while playing the Penn State Nittany Lions in the 109th Rose Bowl.
Utah Utes Ja’Quinden Jackson (3) celebrates scoring a touchdown while playing the Penn State Nittany Lions in the 109th Rose Bowl in Pasadena on Monday, Jan. 2, 2023. The former QB continues to make strides at the running back position. | Ben B. Braun, Deseret News