UCLA Football: Is 2017 the year of Bolu Olorunfunmi?

PASADENA, CA - SEPTEMBER 10: Running back Bolu Olorunfunmi
PASADENA, CA - SEPTEMBER 10: Running back Bolu Olorunfunmi /

With the running game non-existent last season, the UCLA Football team needs someone to step up this season… could that be junior Bolu Olorunfunmi?

2016 was not the best year to run for the UCLA Football team. Last year, the Bruinsr’ running backs had a difficult time moving the ball on the ground. Their 84.2 rushing yards a game was second worst in the nation.

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This season UCLA is looking for someone, anyone, to step up and grab the number one running back spot. So after two seasons at UCLA, is Bolu Olorunfunmi finally ready to have a breakout year?

Coming to UCLA out of Clovis North High School (CA), people might have known the name Bolu Olorunfunmi but not the ability that he brought with him. It didn’t help that Olorunfunmi was coming in with a recruiting class that included five-star players like Soso Jamabo, Keisean Lucier-South, and of course Josh Rosen.

While at 5’10”, 215 lbs Olorunfunmi didn’t have the typical running back size. He was a power back who could be used in either short yardage or to show a different look. Also for his size, Olofunrunmi had decent speed (4.5 40-yard dash) so after busting through the line, he had the ability to run for big yardage.

UCLA knew that Bolu was talented, evident from the 1,830 yards he gained his senior year at Clovis North. But would there be enough playing time for him?

Fellow freshman and five-star recruit Soso Jamabo was also coming in to challenge the already established running back Paul Perkins for any leftover carries.

In his freshman year for the Bruins, Bolu Olorunfunmi carried the ball just 35 times for 190 yards. Quite a contrast from his last year in high school. But still, he was able to make the most of his situation gaining 5.4 yards per carry.

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That year Jamabo received a majority of the backup carries but it didn’t rattle the back from Central California.

His sophomore year, with Perkins gone, the battle was on for the top running back spot.

That year Nate Starks ended up leading the Bruins in rushing attempts, but Olorunfunmi almost doubled his carries (from 35 to 71). He also showed the ability to get into the end zone with a team-high four rushing touchdowns. In fact Olorunfunmi tied for second most touchdowns on the team last year.

Coming into this season, the former three-star recruit has slimmed down in both pounds and body fat. According to an OC Register article by Ben Bolch, Olorunfunmi is down to about 9% body fat. While keeping his power, Olorunfunmi should be more agile, running around defenders instead of trying to run through them.

Sunday night after the Bruins’ first game, everyone will know the name (and how to pronounce) Olorunfunmi.

Without an established running back this year, Bolu has a great chance to continue his pattern of increasing his carries. With more playing time, Olorunfunmi can also showcase his ability to catch the ball out of the backfield.

In 10 games last year, the running back originally from Lagos, Nigeria caught 8 passes for 36 yards and a touchdown. Nothing spectacular but if he can have the added element of catching the ball out of the backfield, it’s just another reason for Bolu to get more time on the field.

I’m a big advocate of running backs catching the ball out of the backfield on this team. It can be used in place of handing the ball off if the running game still isn’t working. Josh Rosen can also use it to ease back into the offense.

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In the beginning of the season, the first running back to have a great performance may be in line to take the starting job. A 100-yard, two touchdown performance against Texas A&M might propel Olorunfunmi from short yardage specialist to starting running back for the Bruins. Then Sunday night after the Bruins’ first game, everyone will know the name (and how to pronounce) Olorunfunmi.