Jared McClain certainly has the athletic ability to be a very effective dual-threat quarterback.
But, that’s just not his natural instinct.
“I would prefer to sit in the pocket and make throws,” the EKU junior QB said at Tuesday’s press conference. “That’s what quarterbacks do. That’s the position I play. But, if I have to run, then that’s what I have to do. If coach wants me to run the ball 30 times or throw the ball 30 times, then that’s what I’m going to do.”
McClain has had to run it quite a bit so far this season.
Through the first three games, the junior leads the team in rush attempts (33), rushing yards (164 yards) and rushing touchdowns (two).
He’s had the longest run of the season for EKU (40 yards) and has the best yards per carry average on the team (5.0 ypg).
McClain had 93 yards rushing in Saturday’s loss at home to Coastal Carolina. No other player had more than 23 yards on the ground.
“It would concern me if all those rushing yards were scrambles,” EKU coach Dean Hood said of McClain running the ball. “That’s what we were into here the past two years and I was really uncomfortable with it. We were a spread team that didn’t and couldn’t run the football. We’d end up with 119 yards rushing, but 70 of it would be (quarterback) T.J. (Pryor) because they were all scrambles.”
The past two seasons, Matt Denham carried the load for EKU run-oriented offense.
But, with the All-American gone, the Colonels came into training camp with four running backs competing for playing time in the backfield. None of them was able to win the outright and they have basically split time and carries through the first three weeks of the season.
Redshirt freshman Jared Sanders has 94 yards on 29 carries (3.2 ypc), redshirt freshman J.J. Jude has 73 yards on 19 carries (3.8 ypc), junior Caleb Watkins had 67 yards on 21 carries (3.2 ypc) with one touchdown and redshirt freshman Thomas Owens has 66 yards on 18 carries (3.7 yards a carry).
The Colonels are averaging 166 yards a game rushing, which ranks seventh in the Ohio Valley Conference.
“I have full confidence in all the backs who come in,” McClain said. “I think they are all great and talented. It’s just more than the running backs. It’s me. It’s the receivers. It’s the offensive line. It take a unit to move the ball.”
The Colonels have only three runs of more than 15 yards this season and all three are by quarterbacks — two by McClain (40 yards, 17 yards) and one by backup quarterback Kyle Romano (17 yards), which came in the closing minute of the loss to Coastal Carolina.
Led by Denham, EKU rushed for more than 205 yards a game and out-rushed their opponents 2,263 to 1,190.
This season, the Colonels have out-gained their opponents just 498-472 on the ground.
“We’ve got to find ways to run it and we’ve got to be smart. We can’t just say, ‘By God, we are going to run the football’, but then you’ve got someone who is playing this position or that position and just can’t get the job done for you. You’ve got to find ways to be creative and take advantage of your players skill set.”