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Irving's turn

Irving's turn

Irving's turn

Georgia Southern running back Irving ...


    Georgia Southern football coach Jeff Monken entered the season feeling pretty good about the B-back position.
    And why not?
    For starters there was junior Dominique Swope who had rushed for 2,269 yards his first two seasons. He was coming off shoulder surgery which has caused him to miss spring practice, but rehab had gone well, and there was no reason to think he wouldn’t be ready to go.
    Behind Swope was senior William Banks who had run for 442 yards in 2012 after spending the first two years of his career on the scout squad.
    Banks had gained the backup spot when Robert Brown’s career was ended by injury.
    Still the last two recruiting classes had produced some highly touted running backs including James Dean, Nardo Govan, Chris Jordan and Irving Huggins. That group looked to provide solid depth.
    Then, they started falling like redwood trees beginning with Brown.
    Huggins suffered a torn labrum in preseason, Swope was gone after three games,  Jordan was kicked off the team, Govan, too, came up lame in preseason, Dean was lost for the year due to an elbow injury, and Banks hasn’t played since the Samford game due to concussion issues.
    After just five games Monken was forced to move quarterback Jerick McKinnon to B-back, and he responded with 198 yards against The Citadel, and had a 9-yard touchdown run on the Eagles’ game-opening scoring drive last Saturday at Appalachian State.
    However, on the second series McKinnon went out with a sprained ankle and, although he carried the ball one more time, his day was done. Georgia Southern went on to drop a 38-14 decision to the Mountaineers.
    Huggins, a redshirt freshman who had missed the first four games of the season, played in McKinnon’s stead and had 70 yards on 17 carries. Going into the game he had two carries for one yard.
    Excluding McKinnon, the fullbacks the Eagles have used this season have a total of 599 yards rushing. Banks leads the way with 279, Swope had 174, Huggins now has 72, Dean had 39, Jordan had 28, and Govan has seven. 
    The Eagles will face Furman at 1 p.m. on Saturday at Paulson Stadium in the final meeting of the two bitter rivals, and McKinnon’s status is questionable at best, as is Banks’. That, of course, means Huggins will be shouldering the load, even if McKinnon is cleared to play.
    “I never want to get the opportunity to play because someone is injured,” Huggins said. “At the same time, it’s an opportunity, and I want to make the most of it for the team. I try not to look back, but it was very frustrating when I got hurt in camp. Even though it was a frustrating time I knew my time would come, and I did everything I could to be prepared when my number was called.”
    Huggins (6-foot-1, 220 pounds) came to Georgia Southern with impressive credentials.
    He played his senior year at Hargrave Military School where he ran for 702 yards. At a St. Cloud, Fla., high school, Huggins gained 997 yards as a sophomore, and 1,389 as a junior when he was ranked as the 10th best player in the area on the Orlando Sentinel’s Super 60.
    Huggins is a power runner in the fashion of the typical B-back, Monken said.
    His biggest problem this season has been getting practice reps, which normally are going to go to the top two backs during practice that week.
    “He was having a good camp before he got hurt,” Monken said. “He didn’t play in the first four games, and we weren’t sure if he was going to play at all this year. Frankly, Huggins was buried on the depth chart behind Swope, Dean and Banks. We prepared McKinnon (last week). We spent a lot of time there. Jerick has a different skill set. He’s a lot faster, more elusive, not a power runner like Dominique Swope. Things changed when he went out.”
    If McKinnon is not healthy, and Huggins should go down, then what?    
    Well, the coach is just going to have pull a rabbit out of a hat.

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