• 73°

Harrington leads stable of Lamar RBs

Harrington Leads Talented Stable of Running Backs

BEAUMONT, Texas – With every passing season more teams are shifting to a version of a spread offense. That shift has led some fans to believe that the running back position is less valued, or at minimum has become nothing more than an extra receiver. The Lamar University football team is an example of why the previous statement simply isn’t true.

Although, the LU backs have proven themselves as good receivers, they also can move the ball on the ground. Led by junior Kade Harrington, the Cardinals averaged nearly 190 rushing yards per game last season for one of the top offenses in the country.  After an impressive rookie campaign, Harrington quickly dismissed any potential fears of a “sophomore jinx.” He rebounded from an early season injury to lead the Cardinals, and finish fourth in the Southland averaging better than 82 rushing yards per game and 11 touchdowns. He also recorded three 100-yard rushing games, and is currently third all-time in school history with six 100-yard games.

“Kade is a machine,” said second-year running backs coach Brian Morgan. “I don’t know how to say it any better. He works in the weight room, works hard in practice and gives you everything he has during a game. In addition to everything the fans see on the field, Kade is also really smart. As a coach, I don’t have to worry about him missing an assignment. He may not always be the most athletic guy on the field, but he doesn’t do the things that can hurt a team.”

Harrington enters his third season with the Red and White eyeing some career records. Even more impressive than Harrington’s potential career milestones could be the overall depth of the program.

When Harrington went down with an injury last season, Harris stepped and filled in admirably posting two 100-yard rushing games. He tacked on a third 100-yard game before season’s end. A speedster, Harris is entering his final collegiate season, but he is not a lock for the second spot at running back.

One of the more athletic players Woodard has recruited to Lamar, junior Michael Handy has spent his career in a game of position tug-o-war. An individual who has the ability to be a weapon at running back or receiver, Handy has bounced back and forth between the two positions but coming off a strong spring Morgan hopes he’s found a home in the backfield.

“I’m fighting for him to be a running back,” said Morgan. “Right now, I’m counting on him right alongside Carl. If I can have three good backs heading into a game, I like my chances. I’m definitely campaigning for Michael to be a back. At this point he is, but the facts are he can do some things for us at receiver and we have to use him where he can be most effective.”

For most Southland programs, they would be satisfied with the first three players LU has listed at the top of its depth chart. The Cardinals enter 2015 with several other players pushing for playing time.

“Kade can do everything,” said Morgan. “Handy presents numerous matchup problems because of his ability to play receiver. Carl Harris has great field vision. We have a couple younger players that have displayed some skills on the field and bring some size to the position, and we’ve added a (junior college) guy who is 225 pounds. Each one brings something unique to the huddle.”

“Probably the most impressive thing about our group this year is our depth,” added Harrington. “We have the ability to have a fresh guy in the game at all times with really no drop off. I think we all have something special that we bring to the table, and that will add a punch to the offense. In the end that helps the offensive line and the passing game.”

Despite having two years of eligibility remaining, Harrington has seen his role on the team completely change from the day he stepped on campus as a freshman until now. He has gone from the rookie with a ton of questions, to the guy who is trying the help the new players make the transition to life at LU.

“Two years ago, I was asking all the questions, and now I’m doing the answering,” said Harrington. “I was fortunate to have Payton Ploch here during my freshman season and he really took me under his wing. I’m roomed with him on the road and got to learn from him. If I ever had a question he answered it and never gave me any grief. I really appreciated that, and want to make sure that I do that for our current freshmen.”

Whether the ground game can reach the same level of productivity as last year’s squad (188 rushing yards per game in 2014) really isn’t the focus of the coaching staff or players. Proving the nay-sayers wrong, again, and being in the mix for the 2015 Southland Conference race is the primary objective for this team.

“Being picked eighth gives us a little more motivation,” said Harrington. “I thought we played well last year – tying a school record for wins and finishing third in the standings. We have more depth on this squad, overall, than in previous years, and this is by far the most talented team since I’ve been here. Our goal is a Southland Conference title. I believe the sky is the limit for this team.”

For the Cardinals to achieve that goal, it will be done with someone new calling the offensive plays. Offensive line coach Chuck Langston has taken over as offensive coordinator following the retirement of Larry Kueck – a transition, as far as the running backs are concerned, that has been a smooth one.

“The offense will be primarily the same, but every new OC adds a few wrinkles to the scheme,” said Morgan. “As far as our group is concerned, the transition has gone well, but it really won’t change that much for us. I tell our guys playing running back isn’t hard – it’s a talent position. There are a few things we need to teach them but it simply comes down to talent.”

Fans will get their first look at the Cards’ stable of running backs Saturday during the team’s first preseason scrimmage. It is slated to begin at 9 a.m. from Provost Umphrey Stadium.