While names such as Stephon Masha from South Cobb, Eddie Printz of Lassiter, Anthony Jennings from Marietta and Parker McLeod of Walton continue to get the buzz among quarterbacks, Walton running back Tyren Jones is being joined by a large list of outstanding ball carriers who could also eclipse the 1,000-yard mark by season’s end.
Jones was one six players who rushed for more than 1,000 yards last season. He carried the ball 319 times for 2,375 yards and 33 touchdowns. The only other player who’s returned from that list, Walker’s Evan Kasian, rushed 221 times for 1,247 yards and 13 scores.
Jones has already totaled more than 1,000 yards rushing at the season’s mid-point, coming in at 1,313 on 196 attempts and 13 touchdowns, and Kasian is right there with him with 89 carries for 930 yards and 13 scores as well.
Surprisingly, six other ball carriers — Campbell’s Darius Harris (638), Osborne’s Robert Cooks (602), Allatoona’s T.J. Herron (574), Mount Paran Christian’s Kyle Trammel (532), Whitefield Academy’s Richard Sherrell (505) and South Cobb Chauncey Ingram (502) — are more than halfway there at the midpoint of the regular season.
Four more — Pope’s Ronald Woods (498), Allatoona’s Josh Beautista (483), Masha (472) and Wheeler’s Kahlem Looney (468) — are close, and another dozen could reach the 1,000-yard mark if they would play in one or two postseason games.
After having only six 1,000-yard rushers a season ago, why are teams having success running the ball this year when spread offenses are so popular?
“I think it goes in cycles,” Allatoona coach Gary Varner said. “And, when you have quality quarterbacks, a lot of these guys are athletes that can run the ball.
“It’s what you have in the backfield. There are some good running backs, but when your quarterback can run too, the backfield is even more dangerous.”
Improved use of the spread offenses has also contributed. According to Varner, teams are or have figured out how to stop or slow down spread offenses, so coaches have adapted and are handing the ball off more to maintain an offensive balance.
“Spread offenses open up space along the line of scrimmage,” McEachern coach Kyle Hockman said. “You don’t have to have a great offensive line that can block giving the quarterback time to throw. The quarterback can just run more now, and open spaces is also helpful to running backs to get into the lanes quicker and move the ball.”
Hockman also speculated that changes in personnel from one year to next can be attributed to the blossoming talent among strong running schemes.
“Success is based on the personnel you have,” he said. “You get the playmakers the ball and let them execute. You do what your personnel is good at doing.”
McEachern’s personnel contains several playmakers, and Hockman makes a point of getting them the ball.
“What we try to do is spread the ball around and use they guy’s abilities,” he said. “We don’t want just one guy doing everything.
“We have close to four guys averaging eight yards a carry, so the increased number of big-time rushers is based on a lot of different things.”