Whether you hate it or love it, Courtland’s Wing–T offense has produced an enormous amount of success from the backfield.
In order for one to accumulate the success that head coach J.C. Hall has conquered heading into his 16th season, you’ve got to inherit some talented running backs.
Last fall’s explosive trio—Zin White, DJ Jones and Kam’Ron Taylor—are returning for their senior seasons.
And for their final season in a Courtland uniform, they share one common goal—to obtain a state championship trophy at the end of the year.
“I want to be able to cry ’cause I got a trophy in my hands after all the work we put in over the summer—over the course of three years,” Taylor said. “This is supposed to be our year. Everyone believes in us; we just have to believe in ourselves.”
“This season, what we’re trying to do is channel what we did in middle school—we won everything that you could. We’re trying to do that same thing here,” White said.
A trip to the state championship game, however, is not where their share of common interests comes to a halt.
“We’re not about personal stats,” Jones said. “We’re about the collective team.”
Typically, in a Wing–T offense, no one running back shines; the ball is distributed sparingly. Hall has operated out of this system since his coaching tenure began at Courtland.
“You can’t key on one back. You keep the defense balanced in so many ways,” Hall said. “Three threats are better than one.”
This Cougars core resembles its tradition but is unlike any combination Courtland has exemplified in previous years.
White, who averaged 8.9 yards per carry and rushed for 1,641 yards during his junior campaign, is the shortest of the three backs. However, White’s 5-foot-11 193-pound frame undoubtedly presents the most power out of the backfield.
“He’s a beast,” quarterback Shyheem Lewis said of White. “He has that top-dog ranking in him.”
On the other hand, Jones, who is the shiftiest of the bunch, is one of the taller backs. At 6 feet, 183 pounds, he tends to utilize his speed to bounce to the outside.
Then, Taylor, also 6 feet, 240 pounds, believes he is a mixture of both Jones and White.
“I feel like people sleep on how fast I can actually be. I got power. I’m still going to lay you out,” Taylor said. “We [running backs] used to be faster than guys, but now, we got power in the middle and speed on both sides, or speed and power on one side, too.”
But what keeps this three-back system closely knit?
The unselfish aura of this group ignited in the sixth grade and has only strengthened since White transferred to Courtland from Spotsylvania High School following his freshman year.
“We’re like family,” White said. “It’s a tradition thing. When I transferred here, you’d look at Vic [Victor Greene] and George [Cheetham]—they were here together. Before them, it was Anton [Jenkins] and Blair [Lawson].
“It helped us gel together because he [coach Hall] showed us they were tight-fisted, and how they were playing for each other. We saw the example that they set.”
Nevertheless, the talent in the backfield does not equate to success unless you have a quarterback to alleviate the pressure off his running backs.
In the Cougars’ offense, the senior Lewis is the perfect element of the equation.
“When you have a quarterback in the backfield with you that is such a threat running and passing, the defense having to worry about him carrying out a fake and keeping it, it’s a double threat with what we already have in the backfield,” Jones said.
Lewis has his sights set high this fall in order to relieve the pressure off his backfield.
“I want to try to hit 1,000 yards passing. Rushing, I’d like to hit at least 300 [yards],” Lewis said.
Hall admits the Cougars are going to have to throw the ball more this year.
But, if Lewis’ arm proves to be as operational as his legs, opposing defenses could be in for a long season.