From the span of 2010-2014, Cornell football failed to clear 1,000 total rushing yards each year. Things are far different now.
The rushing offense experienced mild improvement over the next two years, but it hit a new gear once Harold Coles became not only lead back, but the centerpiece of the offense.
After helping Cornell record its most rushing yards since 2006 (1,561), Coles returns for his senior season. Through three seasons, the Erie, Pennsylvania native has piled up 1,233 rushing yards along with 354 receiving yards and 13 total touchdowns.
Coles saw little playing time as a freshman, only recording two rushing attempts. But he made a nice leap the following year as a sophomore, leading the team with 515 yards. And last season, Coles continued to improve, notching over 1,000 yards from scrimmage en route to second team All-Ivy honors.
In the leadup to the season, head coach David Archer ’05 heaped praise on his star player.
“On the field, I think he is as dangerous a tailback as anybody in the Ivy League,” Archer said. “I don’t think you can arm-tackle him. I’m not so sure one guy can tackle him. So, I think he is as good at running the football as any player that we have.”
Archer said Coles is best when he doesn’t try to do too much, and lets the offense work around his talents.
“Harold is able to kind of let the game flow to him. I think that’s when he’s best,” Archer said.
And what advice does Archer give to the running back?
“You’re a great player,” Archer said of his past advice for Coles. “You’re a great back. Trust your eyes. Trust your feet, and let the game come to you.”
Not only has Coles evolved as a player, but he has grown as a leader on the team.
“He’s becoming vocal, Archer said. “He’ll come in and ask, ‘What can I do to be a better leader?’ … He’s really not only raised his level on the field, but also off [the field].”
While Coles is the centerpiece of the offense, there are a number of weapons behind him in the backfield. Chief among them are sophomore Delonte Harrell and junior Jake Derderian. The two combined for 354 rushing yards as secondary options to Coles, and will hope to take a step forward and establish themselves as core pieces in the Red’s ground game.
“We’re trying to basically impose our will on teams, so I think that’s something big that we’re still trying to do,” Coles said of the team’s run-first offense.
With Coles and a bevy of backs in tow, it seems almost inevitable that the Red will better its total rushing mark from last season. Cornell will lean on its running game, with two inexperienced quarterbacks in senior Mike Catanese and junior Richie Kenney sharing time under center. If those two play well and if the offensive line opens up enough holes, the Red will batter its opponents with a ground-and-pound attack.
Coles and Co. will be unleashed against Marist in the season opener on Saturday.