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Statesboro High looking for answers at RB, QB
Statesboro quarterback Colin Chances helps running back Akarri Williams celebrate his second quarter touchdown run against Burke County in this Friday, Sept. 20, 2013 file photo at Womack Field. Chance and Williams, along with three other running backs, are gone from the 2013 squad and need to be replaced. - photo by SCOTT BRYANT/file

SHS Intra-squad Scrimmage
Saturday, 10 a.m.
Womack Field

    It’s safe to say that football is a bit of an institution at Statesboro High.
    In addition to the Blue Devils’ five state championships and their seemingly perennial runs deep into the postseason, another staple of Statesboro’s game has been a relentless running attack that chews up yards and opponents.
    The Devils are intent on their success remaining at the usually high levels, but an exodus of running backs from last year’s squad and a shift in strengths is leading to a shift from the offensive style they’re accustomed to.
    Statesboro has long imposed its will with a wishbone backfield and tight offensive line sets. There was no shortage of ball carriers to shoulder the load, and the Devils seemingly gained momentum by continuing to grind out yards even when defenses knew exactly what was coming.
    This time around, the offensive yards will have to come in a different fashion.
    With Zach Grant, Sherrodric Rawls, Diquan Brunson and Akarri Williams all now graduated, finding anyone on the roster with running back experience at the varsity level is a nearly-impossible task.
    Throw in an offensive line that is a bit smaller than other lines from years past and a shift in schemes is in the works.
    “We’re going to be doing a lot of things with just one back,” SHS coach Steve Pennington said. “We’re going to have a lot of looks. We’ll be in shotgun and under center.
    “We’re going to find out what we can do best, but one of the big challenges will be for us to be able to block and run the ball without that extra back for support.”
    The Devils are taking the shift in stride, but have hit some hurdles in the form of the injury bug.
    Enough potential running backs have gone down that defensive players have started to sub in and Pennington couldn’t offer a definitive depth chart as of Friday’s practice.
    Once the ball carriers are lined up, there’s still the matter of calling and executing each play.
    Gone with the rest of the 2013 backfield is two-year starting quarterback Colin Chance.
    Sophomore Austin Kleinlein saw limited duty as a backup last season and is in the running for the starting role while fellow sophomore Donte Boyd and freshman David Wiggins are also in the mix.
    With plenty of players in the running for a starting slot, Statesboro coaches are seeing everything from smaller shifty runners to lanky quarterbacks and power rushers.
    In the end, the build of any given player won’t matter as much as the mental toughness and preparedness.
    “The size of our players won’t matter,” Pennington said. “It’s the confidence of each guy knowing what to do and being comfortable in his role that will determine what we do and who we do it with.”
    The Blue Devils will get a slightly more formal look at their squad this morning as they meet at Womack Field for an intra-squad scrimmage.
    Kickoff is just 14 days away as Statesboro takes on Burke County Aug. 23 in the Erk Russell Classic at Paulson Stadium.

    Mike Anthony may be reached at (912) 489-9404.