Hornets look to revive their running game

Jamaal Jackson paced the Hornets in rushing yards last year with 493. He took the starter’s job about halfway through the season and rushed for more than 100 yards in a game twice. (Delaware State News file photo)

Jamaal Jackson paced the Hornets in rushing yards last year with 493. He took the starter’s job about halfway through the season and rushed for more than 100 yards in a game twice. (Delaware State News file photo)

DOVER — Kenny Carter was given Kesselly Tyler’s highlight tape in the afternoon during the winter recruiting season.

Later that evening, the first-year Hornet head coach called Tyler with a scholarship offer for Delaware State. Tyler accepted right away.

When Laray Smith was looking for a new school after deciding to transfer from Indiana University, he first met Carter on a visit to Dover. Like Tyler, Smith decided that DelState was where he wanted to be.

Carter’s commitment to running the ball attracted those two running backs who are projected to see a bulk of the carries this season, along with leading returning rusher, senior Jamaal Jackson.

Carter, hired as DSU’s coach in January, has extensive experience in the run game. He was the running backs coach at a handful of major Division I programs, including Florida, Louisville, Vanderbilt and Pittsburgh.

“I like his mindset and how he wants to run the ball,” Tyler said. “Coach Carter has a lot of experience and I like that. He’s coached with Charlie Strong and Urban Meyer. I feel like he and Delaware State are the right fit for me.”

The Hornets need someone like Carter and some new blood to spark their running game.

DelState ranked 114th nationally among 121 FCS teams in rushing at 96.7 yards per game a year ago. The Hornets haven’t averaged 100 yards or more per game rushing since the 2009 season.

Tyler, Smith and Jackson all saw carries with the first team offense in last Saturday’s scrimmage.

Tyler had offers from Savannah State and Eastern Kentucky out of Mays High School in Atlanta, who he helped lead to a state championship his senior season. He was also offered by UAB, but that fell through when the Blazers announced they were dropping their football program in December.

Tyler was also being recruited by Georgia Tech, but the interest waned after Tyler hurt his knee his junior year of high school. Carter discovered Tyler because he was in the same fraternity with Tyler’s high school coach, Corey Jarvis.

Smith’s route to Dover was a little different.

He was rated the No. 2 recruit in New York in the class of 2013 by 247Sports.com. He reportedly chose Indiana over offers from Tennessee, Purdue. Connecticut and Syracuse but featured primarily on special teams while at Indiana for two years.

The chance to help Carter try to turn around the Hornet program after a 2-10 season appealed to Smith.

“He seemed like a really genuine guy,” Smith said. “I feel like he’s trying to build a program here and I want to be a part of that.”

Jackson paced the Hornets in rushing yards last year with 493. He took the starter’s job about halfway through the season and rushed for more than 100 yards in a game twice.

Carter said those three along with freshman Sika Bendolph from Caesar Rodney High will all be worked into the running back rotation.

“We’re going to play multiple backs,” Carter said. “It’ll be a combination of guys. All four of those guys are doing a good job and we can always run certain guys in multiple positions.”

“Our kids understand what we need to do as far as running the ball,” Carter added. “We’ve got to run the ball. We’re learning how to be more physical in the run game. The backs are adjusting a bit in terms of making the proper reads but the transition has been good.”

Carter said there will be multiple back offensive sets at times and also praised the versatility of some of his backs.

Senior Nagee Jackson, who was one of the backup running backs last season, will probably be rotated in at running back, fullback and tight end.
Freshman Kyle Taylor, a member of Hodgson Vo-Tech’s state championship team last year, will also see time at fullback and tight end.
There’s also a chance of some of the running backs lining up at wide receiver for some plays.

“People will have to adjust to all the things that we do,” Carter said.

“I just want to be a team player,” Smith said. “If everybody has an opportunity to play, that will help us out. We can all get rest and show what we can do because we all know that coach Carter wants to run the ball a lot.”

Above all, the running backs like the new system Carter and his staff has installed.

“It’s real north to south and that fits a lot of the backs,” Tyler said. “I run with speed and power and I like this scheme.”

Reach staff writer Tim Mastro at tmastro@newszap.com

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