Hawks counting on experience at running back

Running backs Dontavion Cunningham (left), Eric Thomas (center) and Kobe Smith (right) combined for 1,980 rushing yards and 20 touchdowns last season.
Running backs Dontavion Cunningham (left), Eric Thomas (center) and Kobe Smith (right) combined for 1,980 rushing yards and 20 touchdowns last season.

Head Coach Mike Turk on the second day of preseason camp: "We have had some guys doing some good things and we have some younger guys who seem to be figuring things out quickly and that is always encouraging. But it's hard to tell during the first two days when we are in shorts.

"We have installed a lot on both sides of the ball during the first two days. Hopefully when we put shoulder pads on this weekend and get after it a little bit, we'll have a better idea about where we are."

                           

 

Position Spotlight – Running Backs

Projected Starter:  Eric Thomas (Jr.)

Others to Watch: Dontavion Cunningham (Sr.), Kobe Smith (Sr.), Holdan Wilson (So.), Ray Trimble (Sr.), Jalen Martin (Jr.), Malachi Harvey (Fr.), Jalen Pugh (Fr.), Khalil Nettles (Fr.)

 

A Closer Look: Junior Eric Thomas and seniors Kobe Smith and Dontavion Cunningham return to lead the Hawks at running back. The trio combined for 1,980 yards and 20 touchdowns last season,

Thomas, a first-team all-conference performer in 2018, became the Hawks' third 1,000-yard rusher last season with 1,020 yards and 11 touchdowns on 142 carries. He set a program record with 113.3 rushing yards per game and also set the Hawks' season record with 1,554 all-purpose yards.

Smith averaged 8.2 yards per carry and rushed for 644 yards and six touchdowns last season and Cunningham added 316 yards and three touchdowns.

Sophomore Holdan Wilson, senior Ray Trimble and junior Jalen Martin should provide additional depth and experience. Among the newcomers, freshmen Malachi Harvey, Jalen Pugh and Khalil Nettles are showing early potential.

 

Turk on the Hawks' returning running backs: "Eric, Dontavion and Kobe are very solid and are all proven players for us. Eric was a first-team all-conference selection last year and rushed for more than 1,000 yards in nine games. Eric, Dontavion and Kobe are guys who have played a lot of football for us.

"Holdan, Ray and Jalen have all been around our program and they know what to do. That's nice to have as well. We feel really good about the position. We probably have more depth there than any other position on our team."

Turk on emerging newcomers: "We have some young kids who are showing us some good things. Malachi Harvey, Jalen Pugh and Khalil Nettles are three of those guys. They played pretty good ball at a high level in high school and they have the potential to be pretty good."

Turk on the experience at running back: "In our system, the running back has to do so much. Obviously he has to be an effective runner, but we also throw the ball to him and ask him to pass protect. He has to have a really good grasp of what is going on with our offense. Having guys who have been around and have played a lot of ball does make a difference."

Next Practice: The Hawks return to the field at 9 a.m. on Saturday. Practices are open to the public.