Q&A: Utah running back Devontae Booker

Devontae Booker was the Pac-12's second-leading rusher in 2014, and he's hoping to top the heap in 2015 after that 1,512-yard campaign. Utah has lost a solid share of receiving talent, so the Utes are expected to rely heavily on Booker moving forward. A hefty physical burden is nothing new for him: Last season, Booker racked up 759 yards after contact during the regular season, 159 more than any other Pac-12 player. The senior took time to answer some questions about his offseason preparation after a spring practice last week.

How’s spring practice going?

Devontae Booker: We’re just getting started. But that first day was pretty good. It’s good to be back.

Do you have any specific 2015 goals that are helping you push through this offseason?

DB: I just want get better overall at running back. So I’m focusing on blocking, I’m focusing on catching, and I’m focusing on running the ball. But as far as stats go, I’m planning on rushing for 2,000 yards and winning the Heisman. Those are my two main goals.

You led the Pac-12 by a wide margin in rushing yards after contact last year. That’ll be a key to accomplishing those goals. What kind of physical work goes into maintaining that tackle-breaking ability in the offseason?

DB: I just put it in my head that if I want to accomplish those goals, or even be mentioned as a contender, I just have to keep pushing every day in the weight room. Even if I want to skip a rep, I just put it in my head that I can’t skip a rep, because I want to be the best player on the field this year.

You’re shaping up to be the centerpiece of Utah’s offense. Do you enjoy that role?

DB: Yeah, it’s been pretty good so far. I just want to make plays for our team, and being that centerpiece of our offense puts me in a good position. I’m just continuing to work hard and prep my body for different types of hits, so that I’m ready to do everything that we do out on the field. When you’re getting the ball every other play, you have to prepare your body to do all of that.

You’re not the only Pac-12 running back expected to do big things next year. Do you feel that the conference features a particularly strong collection of backs?

DB: Yeah, absolutely. It seems that we face a great group of backs week in and week out during conference play. This conference is all-around good, period. But for me personally, I feel that since there’s such a great group of running backs in this conference, it’s really fun to go out there and compete with them.

Are there any other conference running backs in particular who you compare your game to or enjoy competing with?

DB: Well, Buck Allen isn’t at SC anymore, but Paul Perkins at UCLA and Storm Woods at Oregon State are two guys. And Myles Jack at UCLA, he can play some running back, too.

Do you feel that Pac-12 running backs don’t get the respect they deserve nationally?

DB: Yeah, I feel that way. You see a lot of guys from the SEC, they’re getting mentioned every week about awards, the Heisman watch, or whatever else. We don’t get that same respect enough, especially with the great group of running backs we have in the Pac-12. I think they should do something about it. They should make it out here and let us be recognized too.

Do you think that recognition will finally come this year?

DB: I think so, in my personal opinion. We just have to go week in, week out and keep doing good things. And hopefully we’ll get that recognition.