GSU RB 81607Running Backs in action.
Wide-open passing might be the most talked about facet of Georgia Southern’s new offense, but running the ball won’t be overlooked in the Hatch Attack.
“You’ve got to have a good running game if you’re going to have a good offense,” said first-year coach Chris Hatcher. “Anytime we’ve scored a lot of points has been because we’ve been able to run the football. Every good team we’ve ever had we’ve had a 1,000 yard rusher, so this year hopefully we’ll do the same.”
The Eagles will have a shot at the milestone thanks to a talented backfield headed by senior Lamar Lewis, who finished second on the team with 782 rushing yards and seven touchdowns in 2006, his first year at GSU after transferring from Florida State.
“Things are going really well, and I feel like we’ve got a good competition going on,” Lewis said. “We are out there working hard and trying to make each other better.”
Last year’s leading rusher, junior Chris Covington, has moved to defensive back opening the door for Lewis to take over as the top running back. He’s hoping for big things during his final season in blue and white.
“Everybody wants to go out with a bang their senior year, and I’m just working hard trying to help the team out the best way I can,” Lewis said.
Behind Lewis is junior Oklahoma State transfer, Mike Hamilton, who had seven starts and played in 12 games at OSU last year. He racked up 546 yards and four touchdowns before being limited with a knee injury. As a freshman, he was tabbed the Big 12’s newcomer of the year after gaining 961 yards on 193 carries.
Hamilton said he opted to come to Statesboro this spring because things “weren’t working out” at Oklahoma State, and he’s glad to be about 20 hours closer to his hometown of Melbourne, Fla. Lewis thinks Hamilton is a good addition to the team.
“He’s fast, gets to the hole quick, and he’s very physical,” Lewis said.
Hamilton’s optimistic about the Eagles’ depth in the backfield.
“We’re feeling really good, and we’ve got a lot of good running backs back there – Lamar, Zeke (Rozier) and (Chris) Teal,” Hamilton said. “Those guys are working hard just like I am.”
Along with Hamilton, the Eagles have also welcomed Bleckley County’s Zeke Rozier, one of Hatcher’s highly touted recruits. The 6-foot-0, 205-pound freshman is a strong runner who’s working on adjusting to the college game. Hatcher’s undecided on whether or not he’ll redshirt Rozier but has been impressed with the running back even though he “still has a lot of work to do.”
Said Hatcher: “We’ve got three or four guys back there that are capable of getting the job done, it’s just a matter of if we do our job up front and if we can do a good job blocking on the perimeter. If we are able to do that, we’ll be able to run the ball and we’ll have a chance to be successful on the offensive side of the ball.”
Running backs will play a significant role in the Hatch Attack where they’ll be asked to run, catch passes and pass block. Senior Dusty Reddick and junior Sean Gray have been used mostly in blocking situations in practice but have also had a few totes and caught a couple of passes out of the backfield.
“Those guys are going to be counted on to do a lot for us, and right now they’ve been up to the challenge,” Hatcher said. “We’ve just got to keep getting better just like at every other position.
“Those guys have been practicing hard. I’ve been real pleased. They’ve picked up the schemes. Lamar sees things really well, and Mike, he can be a workhorse for us there. Zeke is coming along and now Chris Teal is back there in the mix. He’s been a little banged up. We’ve got some players back there, and we’re going to have to have a good running game if we are going to be successful.”
Meet the ‘07 Eagles today
Georgia Southern will host a free Little Eagle camp and Meet the Eagles Day this morning at Paulson Stadium. The camp, slated for 9-11 a.m., is open to kids ages 5-12, and registration is from 9-9:30 a.m. with festivities to follow. Participants should enter the gates nearest the Bishop Field House. Seating on the home side of the stadium is off limits due to construction, but the visitors section will be open.
Beginning at 11 a.m., fans can meet the Eagles inside the Bishop Field House where the entire team will be available for autographs.
Alex Pellegrino can be reached at (912) 489-9413.