Malachi Maxwell couldn’t help but feel just a little underappreciated during his brief stay at Cumberland College.

After leading the state in rushing (2,451 yards and 22 touchdowns in 2002) during his senior season at Madison Southern, Maxwell had hoped to make an impact at the NAIA school.

Instead, the 5-foot-9, 179-pound running back saw very little action during his two years at Cumberland, rushing just 23 times for 121 and two touchdowns. Maxwell played in just six games in 2004 before eventually deciding to transfer.

“I felt like they never gave me a shot,” Maxwell said.

He’s hoping things will work out much different at Eastern Kentucky University.

Maxwell is joined by two other former Madison County high school standouts — Madison Central’s Phillip Herbst and Madison Southern’s Robert Dees — who are also trying to make the most of their first training camp at EKU.

“All I’m trying to do is work hard,” Maxwell said. “That’s all I can do.”

Maxwell, a junior, sat out last season after transferring and faces an uphill battle to earn playing time in a talented and deep Colonel backfield that features juniors Mark Dunn and Bobby Washington (a transfer from North Carolina State).

“He has excepted his role as a guy who transferred in,” EKU running backs coach John Revere said of Maxwell. “He’s got quick feet and he’s quick to learn. He’s kind of small and I think I’d like to see him out on the wing, but he has the mentality of a running back.”

Herbst, a 5-foot-11, 214-pound freshman, signed with Thomas More, but played very little during his one season (2005) at the school. The former Indian decided to transfer to EKU and was moved from linebacker to fullback during spring practice.

“It was more like a high school team than a college football team,” Herbst said of playing at Thomas More.

Herbst will not be eligible until next spring, but he has already made a big-time impression on the EKU coaching staff.

“He’s been a pleasant surprise,” EKU coach Danny Hope said. “I think once he gets eligible he can help us somewhere. I think he could be a heck of a lead-blocking fullback.”

Dees rushed for 1,388 yards last season at Madison Southern and was among the leading scorers in the state, finishing with 24 touchdowns. The freshman running back got an offer from Cumberland, now known as the University of the Cumberlands, but decided to walk-on at EKU.

“I like staying close to home,” Dees said. “I think EKU has more of a hometown feel. It seems like a good fit for me here.”

Dees was moved to safety in the spring and has also been impressive through the first four days of training camp.

EKU ranked 20th in first poll

The Colonels have been ranked 20th in the preseason edition of The Sports Network’s I-AA College Football Poll, which was officially released Monday.

Eastern Illinois, the defending conference champion, was the only other Ohio Valley Conference team ranked in the Top 25, coming at 14th. Jacksonville State, Murray State also received votes, along with Western Kentucky (179).

Appalachian State, last year’s I-AA National Champion, received 68 first-place votes and was picked as the preseason’s top-ranked team.

Bynes fails to qualify

Ervin Bynes was the only member of the Colonels’ 2006 recruiting class not to make it to training camp. The 5-foot-9 cornerback from Dilliard High School in Fort Lauderdale did not qualify academically.

Bynes is still working on improving his test scores and there is a possibility he could enroll at EKU for the spring semester.

The cornerback was ranked the second-best defensive player in South Florida at the Miami Dolphins Perfection Camp and had 49 tackles, four forced fumbles and three fumble recoveries during his senior season.

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