This is part of The Sun’s position-by-position preview of the 2017 Cornell football team. For a preview of each position, click here.
“It’s probably our deepest position on offense.” That’s how head coach David Archer ’05 described his team’s stock of halfbacks ahead of the 2017 season.
That may come as a surprise considering the Red finished last in the Ivy League in rushing just one year ago. Be that as it may, Cornell returns a host of talented ball-carriers who will look to climb the rankings in the league’s rushing stats this time around.
Junior Chris Walker, who earned a spot on the 2016 All-Ivy first team, led the team in rushing yards last season and will be the featured back in 2017. Archer said Walker spent the summer in Ithaca working to further improve his game and has been turning some heads.
“He’s looking faster and stronger than he has been in the past,” the head coach said.
Last year’s totals of 655 yards and three touchdowns, and an average over five yards-per-carry were solid, but Walker is looking to become a dominant force out of the backfield in 2017, a weapon the Red’s offense can count on consistently.
Senior captain Jack Gellatly, as well as junior J.D. PicKell, are two more prominent members of the Red’s run game who will supplement Walker’s carries.
“[Gellatly has] made some really good runs in preseason, and he’s definitely a guy we can give the football to,” Archer said. “J.D. PicKell is of the same category. He has made some explosive plays this preseason and has game experience. He’s been making plays out of the backfield catching the football, and he’s made some explosive runs.”
PicKell missed time with a concussion last season, but should get plenty of work in 2017 if he can stay healthy.
Classmates Walker and PicKell standout to Archer as two who have not only improved physically this offseason, but mentally, too.
What [PicKell] and Walker have learned is, ‘I am going to go ahead and let the play develop,’” Archer said. “Now that doesn’t mean slowing down, that doesn’t mean making a cut in the backfield, but [they] see it so much better [now].”
Now a senior, Josh Sweet will also look to get involved after playing primarily on special teams in years past.
“He’s a real ground-and-pound type of guy … like an unbelievable team guy, [I have] no problem putting him in the football game, we know he’s a dependable guy,” Archer said of Sweet.
Other players to note are the speedy sophomore Harold Coles and freshman S.K. Howard, both still developing and looking to earn varsity playing time.
Barring any injuries — and assuming the Red’s offensive line is able to neutralize opposing defenses — the running game could prove to be a weapon for Cornell in 2017.
Want to keep up with everything Cornell sports? Sign up for our biweekly sports email newsletter and stay up-to-date with the Red. Click here!