Wesley notebook: Running back Lee emerging for Wolverines

In his first four games, E.J. Lee has run for 178 yards on 30 carries. (Wesley sports information)

In his first four games, E.J. Lee has run for 178 yards on 30 carries. (Wesley sports information)

DOVER — E.J. Lee was a high school star.

This is a kid who ran for 197 yards and a pair of touchdowns at Baltimore’s M&T Bank Stadium to lead Northwest High to the Class 4A state title as a senior.

“Two years ago, that’s the biggest name in the state of Maryland when it came to running the football,” said Wesley College coach Mike Drass.

It’s taken Lee a little bit longer to get his name known around the Wesley football program.

But now, as a second-year freshman, the 5-foot-8, 185-pound running back is starting to emerge for the Wolverines.

With Wesley (2-1 NJAC, 2-2 overall) hosting the College of New Jersey (0-3, 0-4) on Saturday at 1 p.m. for Homecoming, Lee is coming off a three-touchdown game in the Wolverines’ 63-9 victory over Southern Virginia last weekend.

Lee was named the ECAC Rookie of the Week after running for a career-high 91 yards on 14 carries.

Probably the only reason that Lee has had a quiet college career so far is that he sat out last season with an ankle injury and, this year, he’s playing behind three-year starter Jamar Baynard.

“As far as stop and go and being able to move, he’s as good as anybody,” said Drass. “He’s a great cut-back runner. Maybe he doesn’t run a 4.2/40 but we don’t see a lot of people catching him.”

“E.J. is very shifty,” said Wesley linebacker Mike Sabino. “He’s a hard guy to tackle and wrap up. He’s a smaller target and he moves so quick; he’s got good field vision. We all expected him to do very well.”

Working with Baynard the last two years has been a good thing for Lee, too.

Lee said the Middletown High grad has taught him a lot of details of what it takes to be a good college running back.

“He taught us about finishing the run in practice,” said Lee. “Don’t just go five yards, go 25 yards and run further down the field.

“It’s much faster, it’s more intense,” Lee said about playing college football. “You have to get your assignments down. If you don’t get them, you’re not going to be on the field.”

In his first four games, Lee has run for 178 yards on 30 carries. He also pulled in a 28-yard TD pass against Southern Virginia.

While Baynard and Lee have different running styles, Drass said there are some similarities between the two.

“They’re two of the best teammates you’re ever going to find,” said Drass.

With Baynard graduating, Lee should be getting a lot more carries in the years to come.

Until then, he’ll learn as much as he can and wait his turn.

“I knew that he (Baynard) was going to get tired sometime,” said Lee. “So when I got my opportunity, I was just going to have to take advantage of it.

“Sometimes I do (think about the future) but, then again, I’m just trying to worry about this season right now.”

Sabino always ready

Lake Forest product Mike Sabino overcame an illness to collect six tackles, including two for losses of 11 yards, with a pass breakup in his first start of the season for Wesley last Saturday. (Wesley sports information)

Lake Forest product Mike Sabino overcame an illness to collect six tackles, including two for losses of 11 yards, with a pass breakup in his first start of the season for Wesley last Saturday. (Wesley sports information)

Mike Sabino wasn’t feeling too well last week.

But the Lake Forest High grad wasn’t about to miss a chance at his first start of the season.

“He was sick as a dog last week,” said Drass. “But you would have to drag him off the field.”

Whether he’s starting or not, Drass always expects a lot out of Sabino.

With starting middle linebacker Samer Manna sidelined by a hip injury last week, Sabino collected six tackles, including two for losses of 11 yards, with a pass breakup.

“Every time that kid steps on the field, he plays well,” said Drass. “As a coach, you want people that are going to give everything they have. He does that — whether he’s in for three plays or whether he’s in the entire game. … He will do everything he can to help the team win.”

A junior, Sabino has now played in 24 career games for the Wolverines. He said there’s no better teacher than experience.

“Your IQ just goes up every game,” said the 6-foot-2, 220-pounder. “You’re just learning more and more about offenses and their reads.”

Homecoming

Drass usually worries about Homecoming activities distracting his players from the actual football game.

But Sabino says it really helps motivate the players.

With all the alumni back on campus, he said the Wolverines know that more of their former teammates will be on hand, as well.

“We can show them what we’re doing now,” said Sabino. “They saw us when we were younger. Now we want to show that we’ve stepped up for them.”

Wesley hasn’t lost on Homecoming since before 2004.

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