September 23, 2010

Running to the Rescue

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When head coach Kent Austin and the Red arrived at camp this summer, the least of their worries was depth on the offensive side of the football. In fact, the first-year coach acknowledged that the team’s depth would be one of its greatest strengths heading into 2010. However, that strength quickly disappeared in the Red’s season-opening loss at Wagner, when junior quarterback Adam Currie and standout freshman running back Grant Gellatly had their seasons cut short due to injury.

With inexperienced freshman Jeff Mathews at quarterback and Gellatly out, most of the burden in the backfield will be on senior Marcus Hendren and junior Nick Booker-Tandy.

“[At tailback] we thought we had good depth, now we’re down to two that we feel comfortable playing,” Austin said. “We’re going to still platoon [Hendren and Booker-Tandy] to keep them fresh. … Obviously if one back is playing very well, we’re going to keep him in and go with the guy that’s hot.”

While Hendren has been labeled the starter on the official depth chart, he acknowledged that success will likely come from the two backs using their different running styles to develop a two-headed attack.

“I like to watch [Nick] run because he hits the hole a lot faster than I do. … So when I watch him run I try to take the things he does well and integrate it in my game,” he said.

Last week Hendren and Booker-Tandy split the carries out of the backfield and combined for 50 yards on 14 carries after Gellatly left the game. The freshman tallied an impressive 87 yards on seven rushes before his day — and season — was abruptly put to an end. With the absence of Gellatly, the remaining backs will place their trust in Austin, whom both described as a welcomed presence after last year’s regime change.

“We’re both from the South,” Booker-Tandy said. “The coaching style is different from what I’ve seen from my coaches from the North. One thing that he’s trying to instill in our players is physicality. … We have to be a more physical team.”

“It’s been a lot better than it was before,” Hendren added. “[Coach Austin’s] an intense guy but he knows what he’s talking about, and you can really respect him as a leader because he brings to the table a businesslike attitude more than they did before.”

Original Author: Evan Rich