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Runners flock to Shepherd

August 21, 2005|By BOB PARASILITI

bobp@herald-mail.com

SHEPHERDSTOWN, W.Va.

Success has its privleges.

When you are good at something, usually everyone wants to be part of your crowd.

It used to be that linebackers wanted to go to Penn State. The University of Maryland had a run of top quarterbacks in the 1980s.

And now, on the NCAA Division II level, if you are a running back, Shepherd University is the place to be.

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Bryan Wright and Dervon Wallace were in the market for a place to play in 2005 and all roads led to Ram Stadium.

"I'm a football player at heart," Wallace said recently at Shepherd's media day. "I'm coming to a program that wants to run. I knew that coming in ... and it's an instant upgrade."

For years, Shepherd running backs were homegrown. They were recruited into the program and burst onto the scene to shock the West Virginia Conference. But this season, after the graduation of Alex Herbert, there wasn't a quality back waiting in the wings.

That's left the door open for Wright and Wallace to come in and become instant impact performers.

"They like to run here a lot," Wright said. "They've had (Damian) Beane and Herbert here and now it's going to be me and Dervon."

The names have stacked up over the recent years for the Rams. There has been Billy Adams, Anthony Crenshaw, Dalevon Smith, Travis Lynch and Herbert over the last 15 years to lay the foundation to Shepherd's lore.

Wright and Wallace have come from diverse places to add the next bricks.

"Shepherd is a solid program with a history," Wallace said. "They always do well in the (West Virginia Conference). It's a running offense and if you are a running back, you want to run the ball."

Wright comes to Shepherd after spending two years at West Virginia, where he walked on after graduating from Hampshire (W.Va.). The 5-foot-7, 195-pound junior got some playing time in backup and special team roles for the Mountaineers, but knew that if he came to Shepherd he would see the ball more consistently.

"I almost came here out of high school," Wright said. "Coming here is not all that tough. WVU had a good running back tradition. They wanted to put me in the mix. But I could step in here and contribute."

Wallace is a transfer from West Virginia State, one of Shepherd's conference opponents. The 5-foot-8, 174-pound sophomore didn't feel right about his freshman year with the Yellow Jackets and looked to move.

"I was coming out of high school where we were winning a lot and went to a school where they didn't," Wallace said. "The mentality didn't fit me. I sat out last year and went to a community college because I had grade issues, but I was searching for some schools that would fit my style."

Wright and Wallace give Shepherd a combination coach Monte Cater loves to use. Wright is more of the inside runner with breakaway speed while Wallace is the outside runner.

"The thing that has helped us is the addition of two runners," Cater said. "Wallace was here in the spring and has great speed. He's not big, so we are going to have to give him some space to run. Wright is a spark plug guy. He's exceptionally strong and wants to play."

Although both players are on the smaller side, they bring distinctly different styles to the Rams backfield, like Lynch and Herbert before them. That gives Shepherd that "anything can happen" edge.

"I'm more of a finesse back," Wallace said. "I try to mimic Barry Sanders where there is a lot of motion and not much to hit. I'll leave the power stuff to B-Wright."

That's fine with Wright, who is predicting stormy times ahead for Shepherd's opponents.

"That's what it is ... Thunder and Lightning," Wright said. "They know what we can do. Get us the ball and let's make it happen."

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