Committee of running backs will split carries

By Tony McDaniel

Senior running back Malcolm Agnew will miss the next two weeks with an ankle injury, but SIU has a group of rushers to bridge the gap.

Coach Dale Lennon said four players, Seniors Mika’il McCall, Ken Malcome, Tay Willis, and redshirt freshman Cameron Walter will split the carries in the wake of Agnew’s injury.

Agnew has rushed for 836 yards and 10 touchdowns this season, the rest of the Saluki running backs only combine for 391 yards and 3 touchdowns.

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Agnew will miss at least the next two weeks with what he said is a low ankle sprain. He said that he is confident the committee of running backs can pick up where he left off during his injury.

“Those guys have worked hard this entire year,” Agnew said. “I’m excited for the group. I’m excited for them to have a chance to get more carries, and show the [Missouri Valley Football Conference] that they’re great backs as well.”

McCall had the second-most carries on the team behind Agnew, so he is likely to lead the Saluki running backs until Agnew returns. He has carried for 283 yards and 2 scores. He is averaging 6.0 yards per carry.

McCall declined to speak with the Daily Egyptian after practice Tuesday.

Lennon said in his Monday press conference that Willis, a wide receiver, could also line up in the Saluki backfield.

“Tay Willis is another one who is pretty effective at tailback,” Lennon said. “We’ll definitely be doing a running back by committee, so we’ll have Tay Willis involved.”

Willis has played mostly as a wide receiver this year, but was listed as a running back in 2013. Willis had 60 carries for 321 yards last season.

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This year Willis has 5 carries, but most of those have come from the wide receiver position.

Malcome had missed much of the 2014 season with a broken foot he suffered in the spring game on April 18. Malcome said the injury is healed, but still sore.

“Really excited to be back. It’s been a long time, but just excited to get my feet back with it,” Malcome said.

In 2013 Malcome had 277 rushing yards and 5 touchdowns. Malcome took his first carry of the 2014 campaign Saturday against Youngstown State.

He said he knows this year’s offense is different from last year’s, but thinks he can still contribute. Malcome said he thinks the committee of backs can fill in fine for his injured teammate.

“I feel like if a back goes down we don’t lose a beat,” Malcome said. “We’ve got a pretty good stable of running backs and we just need somebody to believe in us and just give us a chance and show what we can do.”

One running back who will get more of a chance to show what he can do is Cameron Walter.

Walter has been the third string running back this season behind Agnew and McCall. The freshman has run with the ball 22 times for 70 yards and a touchdown.

Walter said he expects more carries and is excited for the opportunity.

“I love being the underdog and playing with a chip on my shoulder,” he said. “Coming from a small school a lot of people still don’t know me. It’s an opportunity to make myself known so I’m looking forward to that.”

Walter said it has not been communicated to the running backs who will take the bulk of the carries.

Walter said he learns a lot from Agnew not only about things on the field but also off. He said Agnew was supportive of him after Agnew was hurt against YSU.

“He was the first one to encourage me as soon as my number was called,” Walter said. “He was cheering me on, I could hear him from the sideline.”

Agnew said despite not being able to contribute with his skills on the field he will still do everything to help his teammates from the sideline.

“I’m watching film this week. So just in case I see something one of the other backs might not pick up on, I can let them know what’s going on.” He said, “Maybe hit this hole at this time, or watch for the safety or the corner blitz or something like that. I’m making sure I’m preparing as a starter … so I can help them out.”

Tony McDaniel can be reached at [email protected], @tonymcdanielDE or at 536-3311 ext. 256

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