Led by running backs coach DJ Mangas, the sky is the limit for this year’s Tribe RBs. Already one of the deepest position groups on the team, they are led by returning First Team All-CAA selection Mikal Abdul-Saboor. I mean, what is not to like about this guy? Last season, he ranked 13th in the country in rushing yards per game (at a hefty 115.1 ypg), recorded the 6th best single season rushing total in school history (1,266 yds), and was recently selected as one of the four captains for this year’s squad. Oh, and did we mention that he was also selected to the CAA Academic All-Conference team for the third consecutive year?
Abdul-Saboor is a mammoth on the field, checking in at 5’11’’ and 215 pounds, and he is the true leader of the Tribe’s running backs. As you may infer from his size, he gains the majority of his yards running downhill, piling over defenders, and hitting the gap between the tackles. However, Abdul-Saboor is also deceptively fast, and if he gets in open space, he is very hard to bring down. Needless to say, we expect big things out of “MAS” in his senior season, and we know he won’t disappoint.
Behind MAS, the Tribe boasts a talented stable of backs in Kendell Anderson, Jonathan Dunn, Mike Yankovich, as well as incoming freshmen Brehon Britt and Albert Funderburke.
The Tribe possibly has the best running back duo in the conference in MAS and Kendell Anderson. With another year under his belt, Anderson, now a Junior, continues to grow under the tutelage of Coach Mangas. Last year, Anderson ran for 314 yards and 5 touchdowns (an average of 4.8 yards per carry), and also hauled in 10 catches for 127 yards and a touchdown. Anderson is a good complement to MAS, as he checks in at 5’9” 200 pounds; this duo will make opposing defensive coordinators’ heads spin this coming Fall.
After the duo of MAS and Anderson are sophomore Jonathan Dunn and junior Mike Yankovich. While neither have seen any in-game action at running back, both showed plenty of potential in the 2015 Spring Game. Yankovich, a recently converted running back from the quarterback position, appeared poised in the Spring Game. On one play, Yank ripped off a 22 yard run when running with the “twos;” he would later pile drive into the endzone on a one yard run later in the game–showing how much he has already adapted to the position.
Adding to the Tribe’s stable is Jonathan Dunn, who was named the QB Club Scout Team Offensive Player of the Year in his freshman season. We remember coming away very impressed with Dunn in the 2014 Spring Game a year ago. He will look to fill the third back role and provide quality production if either MAS or Anderson go down.
Filling out the roster at the running back position are freshmen Brehon Britt and Albert Funderburke. Brehon is a 3-star recruit and brother of former Tribe basketball star Brandon Britt. Brehon served as a team captain and recently finished his high school career with a school-record 4,260 rushing yards on 567 carries (7.5 yards per carry) with 52 touchdowns at Atlantic Shores Christian. He was also ranked as the No. 40 prospect in Virginia according to Rivals. This was a very good get for Tribe recruiting, and we can’t help but think his brother Brandon played an instrumental role in the process–we are “One Tribe, One Family,” are we not?
Last but not least, we have freshman Albert Funderburke, a shifty running back from North Carolina. He rushed for 2,000 yards in three consecutive seasons in his career, including 2,365 yards and 22 touchdowns as a senior. He finished his career with 7,080 yards and 82 touchdowns, and also earned multiple all-academic awards. Albert already sounds like a prototypical William & Mary scholar athlete, who should be able to learn from those in front of him this year and gear himself up for the season’s to come.
And let’s not forget that the lead blocker for these running backs is senior fullback Andrew Weidinger. A former linebacker checking in at 6’0” and 245 pounds, Weidinger is a bowling ball on the field. He will look to provide key blocks for the likes of Abdul-Saboor and Anderson throughout the year. Weidinger is a hard working and vocal player, and earned the John A. Stewart Winter Warrior award for his work on the field and in the off-season training program. We are excited to see what he will do in his first season as a true full time starter.
In the end, this position unit is one that head coach Jimmye Laycock will not have to worry about (barring injury, knock on wood). It is not a question of whether the unit will produce or not, but rather how much will they produce. Senior captain Abdul-Saboor could be in for a career year, and Kendell is improving every season. It will be exciting to watch this talented group of running backs this year. If the offensive line stays healthy, there is no reason the Tribe couldn’t be the top rushing team in the CAA–much akin to last year in the NFL when the Dallas Cowboys’ stellar offensive line play led to DeMarco Murray’s league leading 1,845 yards on the ground. Only time will tell, but we’re one Saturday closer. ROLL TRIBE ROLL!!!