2014 Preview: Running Backs

Senior Jarrell Cooper
Senior Keith McBride vs. UMD

In my opinion, this may be the Tribe’s deepest positional unit on on the entire team. Jimmye Laycock loves his running backs, and this group is certainly not short of talent.

The current trend in the NFL and for several college teams today is a running back by committee approach, where several running backs carry the ball throughout the game—opposed to having a single, every-down workhorse back (we’re looking at you, Terrence West). Ever since the graduation of Jonathan Grimes to the Houston Texans, the Tribe has tended to lean toward this running back by committee (RBBC) approach.

Junior Mikal Abdul-Saboor will primarily lead this year’s RBBC. The team also features Senior Keith McBride, Senior Jarrell Cooper, and Sophomore Kendall Anderson. But while Abdul-Saboor will garner the majority of carries, make no mistake, this is still a RBBC—and a lethal one at that.

To start, the Tribe boasts a Senior tailback and former transfer from the Naval Academy, Keith McBride (don’t commit the mortal sin of confusing him for wide receiver, Tre McBride!). Since transferring from Navy after his Redshirt year, McBride enters his fourth year as a member of the Tribe football squad. In his Sophomore season, McBride ranked 8th in the CAA in rushing on 139 carries, 689 yards, and three touchdowns. Last season as a Junior, McBride was used less in the offense, as the team shifted toward the RBBC approach—he gained just 166 yards and one touchdown. Nonetheless, McBride has more than proven himself in the past as a capable runner with great in-game experience.

Moving on, we have Jarrell Cooper, the speedster of the bunch. Coming in at a (possibly generously listed) 5’11’’ and 190 pounds on Tribe Athletics, the Senior looks to play a big role this year’s committee. He had the second most carries on the team last year and gained 425 yards and 2 touchdowns. Cooper is a very quick and shifty running back, and is often seen juking defenders when carrying the ball. While he might not run between the tackles as much as a typical back, he is very effective on short throws to the outside, where he can use his speed in space.

Then we have Kendell Anderson. He is the most intriguing prospect in my eyes— a back who played a ton last season in what was only his Redshirt Freshman year. In his first ever collegiate game (against the West Virginia Mountaineers), Laycock let Kendell tote the ball multiple times, showing his trust very early in the young running back. Last year, Kendell logged 297 yards on the ground and rushed for 4 touchdowns. We here at the WM Sports Blog love his potential and see him as a breakout candidate for the Tribe this year, in what will only be his Sophomore season. Fun Fact: Kendell’s brother, Jordan Anderson, played for the James Madison Dukes not too long ago—a player who true W&M fans will remember always packed a punch with RB-mate Dae’Quan Scott against the Tribe.

Finally we have Mikal Abdul-Saboor. Abdul-Saboor is a mammoth on the field, coming in at 5’11’’ and 215 pounds, and he is the true leader of the Tribe’s RBBC. As you may infer from his size, he gains the majority of his yards running downhill between the tackles. However, Abdul-Saboor is also deceptively fast, and if he gets in open space, he is very hard to bring down. In only 9 games last year, he garnered 824 yards and 6 touchdowns. Abdul-Saboor finished 4th in the CAA in rushing yards, which was good enough to earn him a third team all-CAA selection. We expect Coach Laycock to use him substantially in the season opener against Virginia Tech and beyond into the FCS schedule. The sky is the limit for Abdul-Saboor, and we here at the Blog are excited to see what kind of numbers he puts up behind what looks to be another great offensive line this season (be on the look out for this unit’s positional preview article, coming soon!).

Finally, you didn’t think we would forget about the fullback, did you? Senior Darnell Laws, a running back turned fullback, played a very large role in the game against West Virginia last year. In that game, Laws had 45 receiving yards and scored the Tribe’s only receiving touchdown of the game. He stands an imposing 6’0” 235 pounds, and figures to be the lead blocker for this year’s running back group. And who knows, maybe Laws will play a large role in this year’s season opener against Virginia Tech!


As always, thanks for reading and ROLL TRIBE!





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