Entering the 2010 football season, sophomore running back Grant Gellatly was just a freshman, trying to balance the novelty of one’s first semester at college with the daily commitments associated with playing a Division I sport. Fast forward a year later and Gellatly now finds himself as the feature back for a Cornell offense with high aspirations in head coach Kent Austin’s second year .
In his first season with the Red, Gellatly got off to a blistering start, running for 87 yards on seven carries in the team’s season opening loss to Wagner. After an injury sidelined him for the team’s next two games and rendered him largely ineffective in a third, Gellatly found his footing again in the second half of the season, finishing the year leading Cornell in rushing with 437 yards on 96 carries. Now fully healthy, Gellatly hopes for even better production in 2011.
“It’s always good to be healthy and feeling good. Hopefully I can keep that up this season,” Gellatly said. “You always cross your fingers that you don’t get injured, but you never know with a sport like this.”
The Red will need Gellatly healthy if it wants to improve on a league-worst 2.4 yards per carry average from a season ago; however, the team’s rushing success will not rest solely on the sophomore’s shoulders. According to Austin, the unit’s depth will be its greatest strength moving forward.
“Grant is the feature back right now, but we feel like we’re starting to develop depth [at running back],” Austin said. “We certainly trust [senior running back Troy Lewis] as a returner — he probably understands the offense as well as Grant does. Both those guys know the offense in and out; the protection, the run scheme, all of it.”
Lewis was effective in limited playing time last year, rushing for 85 yards on 14 carries — an average of 6.1 yards per attempt. According to Gellatly, however, Lewis’ greatest contribution has come off the field.
“I couldn’t have come in here and played last year if it wasn’t for Troy and those older guys showing me the offense in the summer,” Gellatly said. “They’ve taught me so much. It’s a big difference coming to college ball after high school, and they’ve helped with that transition.”
Another one of “those older guys” Gellatly referred to who will not see time behind the line this year is senior Nick Booker-Tandy, who will be moving to the other side of the ball to play cornerback in 2011. Booker-Tandy, a running back for his first two years, was a versatile weapon on offense last year, rushing for 242 yards and one touchdown and catching 13 passes for 131 yards and an additional score.
Sophomore Dustin Dillard and freshman Ahmad Avery will be tasked with filling the void left by Booker-Tandy’s departure. Dillard had a strong summer camp and is in his second year with the Red, while Avery will need to get a firmer grasp on the playbook before taking to the field.
At fullback, the Red boasts three capable players, led by junior Nick Mlady.
“Mlady is as solid as there is in this league at fullback and overall, as a unit, we feel like we’ve got enough depth there to be productive,” Austin said.
Despite the team’s apparent backfield depth, the coach remains unsure of whether Cornell will be a run-first or pass-first squad in 2011.
“A lot of the ratio between the passing game and the run game is determined by the complexity of the game that is played out in front of you,” Austin said.
Original Author: Dan Froats