October 9, 2008

Injury Leaves Vacancy At RB for Sprint Team

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You hear NFL coaches say it all the time — unlike a similar dilemma at the quarterback position, a running back controversy is a good thing.
It may then be a case of “too much of a good thing” for the sprint football team.
Hindered by injuries, although fortunate to have a variety of personnel options, the state of the Red’s backfield is still in question heading into this weekend’s contest against conference foe Princeton at Powers Field.
The big hit came this week when it was announced that junior running back D.J. Schiavetta would not be playing tomorrow due to a knee injury sustained in last week’s 31-25 loss to Navy in Saratoga Springs, N.Y. A team source confirmed for The Sun that it appears as if he has not torn any ligaments, and hopes to not miss more than this week.[img_assist|nid=32569|title=Hey Mr. DJ|desc=Junior running back D.J. Schiavetta will sit this weekend against Princeton with an injury, leaving the team unsure who will pick up the carries.|link=node|align=left|width=|height=0]
“Right now, it looks like Schiavetta will not play and will be rehabbing this week, and we’re going to look for him to be ready next week against UPenn,” co-head coach Bart Guccia told The Sun yesterday afternoon before his team took the practice field.
“We’ve been discussing it, and based on [Tuesday’s] practice, either [senior Ryan] Smith or [freshman Doug] Famularo will get the start,” said Guccia.
“[Famularo] is young, but he’s a good player, and has come along well. He has been running the ball well in practice.”
In practice this week, Smith received a majority of the reps with the first-string offense, and appears to have the edge in getting the nod on Friday.
“I’m scheduled to step up and play,” Smith confirmed.
“It’s unfortunate what happened to D.J., but I feel like I’m ready to step up and play. I don’t want to make any mistakes, but I’m not too nervous,” said Smith.
“The [offensive] line’s been looking good in practice, so we’re hoping the offense will get going.”
The running back position on the depth chart was hazy coming into the season, with Schiavetta, senior Frank Lalezarzadeh and senior Brandon Stoller as the front-runners for the two backfield positions.
Lalezarzadeh, who usually plays fullback, got the majority of the carries in last week’s game and played well, rushing the ball eight times for a total of 27 yards.
“Frank played really well in last week’s game. That was definitely his best game,” said Guccia.
“We always have Franky, and we know he can flip over to the tailback position.”
After yesterday’s practice, it appears as if Lalezarzadeh will return to his role as lead blocker.
“It’s great to have that support back there,” Smith commented on Lalezarzadeh’s consistent, quality play at fullback.
“He’s a great guy, and we’ve been working well in practice.”
Without a dominant starting running back, the Red’s ground game has been helped out tremendously by its versatile dual-threat quarterback, senior captain Zak Dentes.
This season, perhaps in response to the question marks at the halfback position, the offense has modified its strategy to allow for even more option plays for its talented and veteran signal-caller.
“This year, part of the design of the offense has been Zak running the ball well,” said Guccia.
And run well he has. Through three games, Dentes has 97 yards rushing — more than any other player on the team. Dentes’s success running has been so compelling, it has even encouraged the coaching staff to look for more ball carriers down through the QB depth chart — “We’ve been toying around with the idea of the second quarterback playing as a running back,” Guccia commented.
Although having to shoulder the load in offensive production for the Red so far this season, Dentes says the team has a good plan to get the running game going in general against the Tigers.
“Princeton’s been doing a pretty good job at stopping the run, and they’ve really been blitzing a lot,” Dentes said. “We’ve been working on our blocking in practice, and what we hope not to do is run against the blitz.”
Princeton (0-2, 0-1 CSFL) has had similar difficulties getting consistent production out of their backfield, with its leading rusher, junior Robert Addis, having recorded only nine carries for 19 yards.
In northern New Jersey tomorrow, both teams will look to right the ship in their respective backfields and pick up a first conference win on the year.