Head coach Pete Mangurian is a man who preaches balance in his offense. While he was certainly pleased with his passing game from a year ago, it’s hard to control the clock and maintain a lead when your team is constantly going to the air.
Enter Evan Simmons, this year’s answer to Cornell’s running woes. The unknown junior could easily emerge as this year’s breakout player for the Red and lead the squad back towards a very potent balanced attack.
“I think [Simmons] is a different kind of back than we’ve had. We’ve kind of had a one speed guy, but Evan’s a guy that when he sees it, he’s got great acceleration,” said Mangurian. “That’s something we have not had.”
The “one speed guy” Mangurian is referring to is Deon Harris ’00, who brought the Red a very solid, if unspectacular, 60.5 yards per game last year. Harris, who at 6’0″, 217-pounds., was a big back who loved to run it up the gut, brought the Red a very respectable 4.1 yards per gain on the ground.
Simmons, on the other hand, is a speed back, who’s been brought in for a very different purpose.
“I think I bring speed we haven’t had at the position,” says the 5’8″, 194-pound back.
His coach echoed those sentiments. “Pretty much we’ve had the big back that can slam it up in there, but we’ve never really had a guy that can take a four yard play and turn it into a 50-yard touchdown,” Mangurian said. The coach hopes that Simmons can realize his potential and be that rusher.
If the preseason scrimmage was any indication, realizing his potential should be no problem for the speedster. He shocked the crowd by turning the corner on the second play from scrimmage and running for a 60+ yard touchdown. For a group of fans expecting the team to pass like crazy, this was a bit of a change.
Evan’s size and speed has refocused the offensive line and the offense this year. Rather than those runs up the middle, sweeps and pitches should be the bread and butter of the Cornell ground offense.
“You have to adjust your running game accordingly, you can’t run the same kind of plays with [Simmons as you could with Harris], so we’ll make those adjustments,” said Mangurian. “And, from that standpoint we’ve made adjustments.”
Don’t misconstrue Mangurian’s statements to mean his back is soft or afraid to take it up the gut.
“That’s not to say Evan is a finesse type back, he’s put together real well.” Mangurian said.
Simmons’ teammates have echoed those sentiments.
“He’s a good back and a great athlete,” said the man who will deliver the ball to him, junior quarterback Ricky Rahne.
But Simmons will be in the back to do more than just look athletic or pick up pass rushes.
“Last year we didn’t have an effective running game. I’m here to take the pressure off of Ricky [Rahne] and Joe [Splendorio],” the junior said. “I want to help us establish a good ground game.”
For a team facing a situation where everyone will be gunning to stop the aerial assault, establishing that good ground game will be a must. Mangurian hopes that a solid running game will open things up for Rahne and company to attack through the air.
If that happens, defenses beware. This Big Red machine may truly be unstoppable.
Archived article by Charles Persons