This is part of The Sun’s position-by-position preview of the football team.
Replacing a graduating senior who dedicated his college years to Cornell football is never an easy task. But when that graduate is one of the Red’s all-time greatest running backs Luke Hagy ’16, the task becomes even more daunting.
Despite the difficulty of this change, head coach David Archer ’05 believes that a four-man system at running back is the approach to fill the void left by Hagy’s departure.
This quartet will be composed of sophomores Chris Walker and J.D. PicKell, along with juniors Josh Sweet and Jack Gellatly. All have had in-game experience at the tailback position apart from PicKell, who spent his season last year on the special teams unit.
“Luke Hagy is Luke Hagy, you’re not going to replace him,” Archer said. “It’s really nice to have four people and not have to think about ‘Oh man, how’s Luke’s ankle feeling.’ Really, really happy with this group.”
Along with sharing class years, Archer believes each pairing of backs shares a similar skillset that compliment each other in certain situations.
“[Walker and PicKell] are similar, faster type running back,” Archer said. “[Sweet and Gellatly] are power strength run you over type guys. I think the four of them are a strength of the team, and a strength of the offense.”
During the 2015 campaign, the four aspiring backs amassed 365 total rushing yards, with Gellatly and Sweet accounting for an overwhelming majority of those yards. By comparison, Hagy rushed for 713 yards this past season.
Of the four backs, Sweet has had the most experience getting the ball with two seasons and 62 attempts under his belt. Though a fellow junior, Gellatly has had only one year of experience in the backfield as he was on a special teams assignment his freshman season. Still, he has impressed in his short tenure carrying the ball, averaging six yards per carry in 26 attempts.
Gellatly’s landmark game came last season against Brown, when he ran for 93 yards and received for another 52.
Walker was an all-state selection in high school and was awarded district MVP honors his senior year. He saw action in three games last season and rushed for 53 yards in 11 attempts. After suffering a concussion midway through the season, Walker was shut down for the rest of the 2015 campaign and he still maintains his four years of athletic eligibility.
While Archer did not rule out that one back may start to see a majority of handoffs as the season progresses, at the moment he plans to use them interchangeably and in specialized scenarios. He is also happy to have a large, reliable backfield, saying that if one goes down, another can pick up with slack.
“They’re definitely four guys that are going to touch the ball,” Archer said. “That’s huge because we play 10 straight games with no bye week and you have to be able to run the football at any level to win.”