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September 29, 2023

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Running backs inherit ‘rifle’ after loss of Samuel


Eric Harrell is one of nine running backs fighting for playing time in the backfield this season.

“Pick up the rifle” is a saying that’s going around the running backs at camp this year. What that means is that when one person goes down the next person has to be ready to step up and that is what running backs coach John Hunter said needs to be done after the loss of Anthon Samuel this summer.

On July 17, running back Anthon Samuel announced that he was transferring to Florida International for the 2013 football season on his personal Instagram account.

Samuel led the Falcons in rushing attempts, rushing yards, average yard per rush and touchdowns this past year.

“Anthon was like a brother to me. I felt he made the right decision for him and his family,” sophomore Travis Greene said. Samuel’s family including his young son lived in his home state of Florida while he attended the University.

Samuel’s departure left a team striving for a Mid-American Conference championship with a big question mark at running back, which was before thought of as a strength. It was originally thought that it would be a collaboration of Jordan Hopgood and Jamel Martin to fill Samuel’s presence.

“Everybody plays here at running back it doesn’t matter if you’re the first, second or third string,” Hopgood said. “We are all still going to learn from each other and be friends because we all want to win a MAC Championship at the end of the day.”

On Aug. 20, it was announced that wide receiver turned running back Travis Greene will be the starter opening day against Tulsa. That announcement came as a surprise as Greene was converted to running back during this year’s spring practice.

“The playbook came really easy to me and I know the holes so it’s not a problem,” Greene said. “I’m not worried about blocking, I’m little but I can hold my own.”

Hopgood, a fifth-year senior, is not worried about not being the starting running back going into his final season. Hopgood is going to be used as the first back up in short and 3rd down situations.

“Jordan is the focal leader of our room,” Hunter he is a tough kid, plays hard and is a great example to the other men on how to approach the game every day,” said running backs coach John Hunter. “I’ve been blessed to have groups of guys who are all competitors, yet they play for each other.”

One worry about having Greene at the running back position is the fact that he is not used to pass-blocking in the backfield. Greene comes in a bit small standing 5 feet 10 inches tall and weighing 181 pounds. Greene will be guarding against the bigger linebackers that may come through on a blitz. Hunter is not too worried about this being a problem.

“There is no worry about Greene pass blocking, he is doing well at that and he has been doing it all spring,” Hunter said.

The running back core will not be limited to Greene and Hopgood. There are also other running backs such as sophomore Andre Givens and true freshmen Fred Coppet and Marcus Levy, who have been competing well throughout camps.

“Our goal is to protect the ball, protect the passer and play hard— that is what we do,” Hunter said.

The Falcons will look to continue their success from the past few years with their season opener at home against Tulsa on Aug. 29 at 7 p.m. Greene will earn his first start as the Falcons running back and will look to start out the season 1-0.

“I’m just going to take it easy,” Greene said. “I’ve been doing this all my life so it’s just another game for me. As a team we are saying we are going to win a MAC Championship and go undefeated. Yes, Anthon left but we are past that.”

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