Scotland will be relying on two running backs with completely different styles to split the carries for tonight and the next few weeks after starting tailback Josh McPhatter had to leave last Friday’s game against South View in the final minute of the second quarter with an injury.
McPhatter sprained his ankle, and although the Scots expect to have him back this season, they will still be without the senior back for at least a few weeks. Stepping up to fill his shoes are seniors Tre Thomas and Quadrin Williams.
Scotland coach Richard Bailey said he is confident the two will let the team’s ground game keep rolling along. The Scots like to run a lot of read-option plays with quarterback Jaylend Ratliffe, so whoever is in the backfield with him will have a huge role.
“We’re pretty blessed with some other running backs who can carry the ball, so I don’t feel that we’re dead in the water without him by any means. Thomas and Williams would be starting running backs on probably 90 percent of teams in North Carolina. They were going to play a lot even when Josh was there, so it’s not too bad,” Bailey said.
Thomas will likely get the majority of the carries, but Bailey said the load will be split much more evenly than it was with McPhatter, who is more of a featured back.
“Where (McPhatter) was probably going to get 20-25 carries a game, with Williams and Thomas it’ll probably be 10-15 carries each, where those guys are more balanced,” Bailey said.
Thomas actually played inside linebacker against South View after having switched over to the defensive side during practice. Cory Johnson, inside linebackers coach, saw the defensive potential in Thomas at the start of fall practice and convinced him to try linebacker.
However, since Thomas is moving back to offense, someone has to replace him at linebacker. That duty falls to Tyquan Ingram.
“That’s the only thing I hate about moving him to offense. In a sense we lost a starting tailback and we lost a starting linebacker,” Bailey said.
It should not be a big adjustment for Ingram either, Bailey said. He said he is more worried about the team’s depth than the players who he’s using to fill the gaps.
Bailey said he would like for his offense to operate out of a two-back system, but that is too risky to do when there are only two backs on the team. So the Scots will try a few other options.
“We can’t be two-backs when you only have two backs. You don’t even have a backup at that point. So we’ll feature more of our one-back stuff in the next couple weeks here for sure and maybe use our tight ends in the backfield some. We did that a little bit against South View so that’s not exactly way out of the realm of what we’ve been doing,” Bailey said.
The two running backs could not have more different styles. Thomas is a power back, weighing in at 210 pounds. When he runs it’s obvious why the coaches wanted him at linebacker. He took several snaps during the second half of last week’s game, running over defenders who tried to tackle him.
Williams, on the other hand, will try to run around defenders, not through them. He is a lighter back at 160 pounds, and has the speed to leave defenders behind. Bailey described Williams as a “water bug” type of back with his quick cuts and moves.
For most teams, losing their starting running back would be a disaster, but it appears that Scotland has two replacements who will be more than capable of filling that role.
Scotland focused a lot on blitz pickups during practice this week. That is an area where Thomas can make another impact, as Bailey said the back is good at picking up blitzes.