With Marquis Terry being the only healthy returning running back this season, the rising junior will be the featured back in Drew’s offensive attack. (Staff Photo: Derrick Mahone)
RIVERDALE — Coming into spring practice, Drew coach Jarrett Laws was comfortable with the running back spot.
The Titans were looking to return its four top leading rushers from a year ago. In compiling a 6-4 record, Drew used the foursome of Jordan Metts, Lester Knauls, Tracy Gaston and Marquis Terry to rush for 1,806 yards and 24 touchdowns.
But heading into preseason practice, that foursome is now down to Terry.
Knauls and Gaston sustained knee injuries that will likely keep them out for the season.
“Last year we were a running back by committee,” Laws said. “Now, we are just one soldier.”
And that soldier is 5-foot-9, 180-pound rising junior Terry, who was the team’s second-leading rusher last season.As a sophomore, Terry rushed for 570 yards on 88 carries with seven touchdowns.
Knauls led the foursome last season with 747 yards while Metts, who transferred to Riverdale before spring practice in May, finished with 322 yards. Gaston rushed for 167 yards, but had six touchdowns.
Depending on the situation last season, the coaches had the luxury of choosing the running back that they felt could get the job done. That will not be the case this season.
“Marquis is going to carry it for us,” Drew offensive coordinator Jamie Aull said. “It’s crazy we went from four running backs to one in less than a year.”
Knauls got hurt in spring practice and Gaston sustained his injury in a 7-on-7 tournament in College Park over the summer.
Aull said there won’t be many changes with the Drew offense although they will be returning only one from its stable of running backs from a season ago.
“It will be very similar, but we will tweak it a little,” he said. “There is no rotation of running backs. Marquis will get most of the carries.”
And that is fine with him.
“I’m ready for it,” Terry said. “I got the experience, and I know the offense. We have a lot of good chemistry on this offense. We are like family.”
Laws said that Terry worked extremely hard in the weight room in the offseason to prepare for the season. Terry might have been the most versatile of the group as he was a big contributor on the special teams. He had 847 all-purpose yards, which included playing on the kickoff and punt return teams.
He had two games with double digit carries. Terry’s best performance came in a 54-7 win over Forest Park in October. He had 17 carries for 174 yards and a touchdown in the subregion win. He also had eight carries for 91 yards in a loss to Union Grove.
“This kid plays years beyond his age,” Laws said. “He is one of our leaders on the team. We lost three good running backs, but we feel Marquis is capable of producing numbers similar to the one that the group combined for last season. He had a great summer in the weight room.”
Terry is also starting to garner recognition on a statewide level when he was chosen to participate in the Rising Senior.com Junior Bowl later this year. This game showcases the talents of the top juniors in the state.
“I definitely feel real bad for the guys that got hurt, because we were like family,” Terry said. “We have been together a long time. I’m going to try to make the most of this opportunity to help our team win.”