The Richmond Register

Sports

April 15, 2014

OVC FOOTBALL: EKU has plenty of talent in backfield

RICHMOND — The Colonels opened spring practice a couple of weeks ago with concerns about depth in certain areas.

But, running back was not one of those positions.

The Colonels had four backs split carries last season (Jared Sanders, J.J. Jude, Thomas Owens and Caleb Watkins) — and they are all back. EKU added a pair of transfers (Dy’Shawn Mobley and Channing Fugate) and also have a talented redshirt freshman running back (Kentayvus Hopkins) who could make an impact as well this season.

“We’ve got our No. 1 running back (returning). We’ve got some fullbacks who can play running back, like Caleb Watkins,” EKU coach Dean Hood said. “Then we added Dy’Shawn Mobley and we have Kentayvus Hopkins.”

That collection of talent in the backfield has allowed the coaching staff to make some moves that should help solve some issues at other positions.

Owens and Sanders combined to have 171 carries for 736 yards and five touchdowns last season, but both have been shifted to defense.

“We made several moves and some of them are turning out to be very good,” Hood said. “Thomas Owens moved to inside linebacker and he is looking really good. We are real excited about him helping us at that position. He can really contribute.”

Owens was moved to linebacker at the start of spring practice. But, Sanders wasn’t converted over to the secondary until just a couple of weeks ago.

“We tried him at slot for three or four practices, then moved him to corner,” Hood said of Sanders. “He’s made some plays.”

Sanders and Owens were the team’s third and fourth-leading rushers last season, but the addition of Mobley, Hopkins and Fugate made it possible to make some changes.

Mobley is the highest-profile new addition to the EKU backfield.

The Powell, Tenn., native announced in December he was transferring from the University of Kentucky to EKU. He will be a junior this season.

The 5-foot-11, 209-pound running back carried the ball 43 times for the Wildcats last season, racking up 300 yards and a touchdown — a 69-yard run against Georgia — as a sophomore.

“He came in right away and has looked really good,” Hood said of Mobley. “If we had a game tomorrow and we had to make a decision on who was going to start, it was would be Dy’Shawn. He’s been accepted by our team because he’s a hard worker. He’s tough. He’s picked up the offense rather quickly. He makes us better as a football team.”

Mobley will likely compete for the starting spot with Jude into fall camp. Jude had a team-best 637 yards rushing on 160 carries with six touchdowns last season.

Hopkins had a tremendous career at Bourbon County High School. He was redshirted last year and has been impressive so far this spring.

“He was a great high school player and he looks better out there for us every day,” Hood said of Hopkins.

Fugate was at the University of Tennessee the past three seasons after graduating from Breathitt County High School. The 6-foot-1, 268-pound fullback should provide the Colonels with some much-needed toughness and strength up front.

“He gives us a physicality that we didn’t have last year,” Hood said of Fugate.

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