Despite Injury, Dukes Still Deep at Running Back

By: Damon Dillman Email
By: Damon Dillman Email

His starting tailback is hurt, and his top returning rusher from last year is now playing defense.

But James Madison head coach Mickey Matthews says he still isn't too concerned about the running back position.

Matthews says sophomores Corwin Acker and Scott Noble will move up the depth chart with starter Jamal Sullivan sidelined by a knee injury.

"As fans can see, Corwin's a big-time player," says Matthews. "And there's been times out here that we've though Scott Noble was our best back. He can carry the mail."

Sullivan held off the two sophomores to claim the starting tailback job entering the season.

The junior ran for 212 yards and three touchdowns on 48 carries through JMU's first three games. Those totals include a career-high 98 rushing yards and a score against Liberty last weekend, before Sullivan left that game in the third quarter with a bruised patella.

Acker took over as the Dukes' primary tailback, and made the most of the opportunity, rushing for 147 yards and a pair of scores in JMU's rain-soaked 24-10 win.

Acker says he's ready to assume Sullivan's starting role.

"I mean, I feel I've been prepared throughout camp and spring ball, and all that," says Acker. "This allows me to show the coaches that I'm reliable, and I can be consistent. And also make big plays, to allow me to get more touches throughout the season."

Noble has yet to get a carry this season, but he does have four catches 60 yards in JMU's first three games. Matthews also says Noble has contributed consistently as a blocker on offense.

"Yeah, I expect a couple more carries. But at the same time, if I don't it won't be too much of a disappointment," says Noble. "As long as I do my job in other phases of the game, I'll be happy."

The tailback trio of Sullivan, Acker and Noble allowed JMU to move junior Griff Yancey, the team's leading returning rusher from 2008, to free safety this past spring.

Matthews said earlier this week that, because of the emergence of true freshman Jakarie Jackson at safety, another injury at running back could prompt the coaching staff to return Yancey to offense.


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