Homer Ready for Opportunity
By David Villavicencio
CORAL GABLES, Fla. – The running back tradition at the University of Miami is outstanding.
The Hurricanes have had 11 seasons with a 1,000-yard rusher, including Mark Walton in 2016. Edgerrin James, Clinton Portis, Willis McGahee, Frank Gore, Lamar Miller and Duke Johnson are just some of the more recent stars to run the ball for the Canes and they helped add to the legacy established by greats like Chuck Foreman, Ottis Anderson, Melvin Bratton, Alonzo Highsmith, Stephen McGuire and Danyell Ferguson.
There is no secret that Walton is expected to lead the running backs group after an outstanding sophomore season in which he earned All-ACC Third Team honors, scoring 14 rushing touchdowns and tallying 1,117 rushing yards. But sophomore Travis Homer will look to be a threat out of Miami’s backfield when he spells Walton at running back this season.
A four-star recruit out of Oxbridge Academy, Homer came to Miami as an explosive back with a lot of talent. But the Hurricanes had a deep backfield a year ago that featured Walton, Joe Yearby and Gus Edwards.
With four gifted backs available, Homer was limited to just seven carries for 44 yards in 2016. But the West Palm Beach, Fla., native was an ace on special teams, recording eight tackles and recovering a fumble while on Miami’s kick and punt coverage units. Miami offensive coordinator Thomas Brown believes Homer is in a position to emerge as a quality back for the Canes in 2017.
“Huge improvement from year one to year two,” Brown said. “He was good enough to play last year, but we just had a little bit more depth with a couple guys that left – one that went to the NFL and one that transferred on us…I think he has gotten bigger, he has gotten stronger, he has gotten faster, and he has always been a tough kid. I’m excited for what he’s going to do this year.”
Homer has climbed to No. 2 on the running back depth chart and he expects to play a much bigger role on offense in 2017. The sophomore spent the spring and summer working to improve all aspects of his game so that he can excel when his number is called.
“I know that I have to come in every day to take on that increased role and do what I can for the team,” Homer said. “I am definitely more comfortable reading the defense.”
Brown has been impressed with Homer’s growth as a player since he arrived at Miami a year ago, seeing improvements in a variety of areas.
“Understanding of the offense. I think being able to understand how to use his body better, and protecting yourself from hits. Finish better,” Brown said of Homer’s improvements. “I think his knowledge of pass protection has grown, which is probably the hardest part of playing tailback – when you come from high school to college, is coming to a system that’s going to be a pro-style system. We’ll run a seven- or eight-drop back protection, play action protection. That’s probably been the biggest improvement for him. He’s always been a tough guy.”
Homer has enjoyed working with Brown, especially in the film room. The talented running back believes his mental approach to the game has improved greatly thanks in part to his film study with Brown.
“When we are in the film room with coach [Thomas] Brown, we are watching everything to see what we can do and how to get better,” Homer said.
While Homer is preparing for an increased role on offense, he hopes to also participate on all four special teams units for the Hurricanes like did a year ago. A talented and versatile athlete, Homer will answer when his name is called.
“I am just ready to take on what they need me to do,” Homer said.
Miami opens the season at home on Sept. 2 against Bethune-Cookman. Kickoff is set for 12:30 p.m., ET. Click here for ticket information.