Rams look to reload 'gun' for next run

August 17, 2008|By BOB PARASILITI

SHEPHERDSTOWN, W.Va. - For years, Shepherd University has featured a high-caliber offense.

Just in the last three seasons, the Rams had Dervon Wallace as the bullet in the chamber at running back.

Now that Wallace has graduated, Shepherd might be faced with changing their ammunition for the 2008 season. Instead of squeezing off single rounds, per se, the Rams could be looking to invest in some scattershot.

Shepherd remains the team with a target on it's back, both in the West Virginia Conference and in the Northeast region, but the methods of hitting the bull's-eye might take a different aim now that Wallace and a major part of last year's offensive line are off the roster.

"Dervon gave us the home run," Shepherd coach Monte Cater said Saturday during the school's annual media day. "Every time he had the ball, he made people on the other team hold their breath. I can't say if we have someone like that now in the program."


Wallace represented what has been a mainstay at Shepherd almost as long as Cater has been there, making him the most successful coach in school and conference history. Wallace was the last of a string of dominating tailbacks that was hitched to Shepherd's wagon.

"We were talking the other day and I realized that we've had a first-team back in every year since 1996-97," Cater said. "We haven't had a lot of breaks in there. We have had some guys come in and been able to work in the zone scheme we have been running."

The list has been impressive, starting with four-time All-WVIAC first-teamer Damian Beane (1996-99), followed by Dalevon Smith (2000), Travis Lynch ('01) and Alex Herbert ('02-'04) followed by Wallace's three-year run on the list.

The next name on the list will probably be St. James' graduate Jimmy Sutch, who saw major action late in the season and carried the load for the Rams in their NCAA Division II playoff victory over Indiana (Pa.) when Wallace was injured.

"We lose Dervon and (Vincent) Riggs, but you have to look at Sutch," Cater said. "He played a lot and he found a way to get into the end zone."

Still, Sutch is a different style of runner than Wallace. With that, and the rebuilding process of the offensive line, Sutch could need help in keeping Shepherd's offense up to the accepted potency.

"We'll have to get the ball to everyone," Cater confessed. "We might have to throw the ball a different way."

That puts more of an onus on Shepherd returning quarterback Tyler Lazear. With the graduation of all-conference linemen Ryan Pope, Bubba Brady and Clark Lanzendorf, running yards could be harder to come by until the replacements get comfortable.

Lazear's role may become even more involved without Wallace, possibly forcing him to throw more to open up the running attack, instead of the opposite standard of the past.

"Tyler is back and we have our three main quarterbacks back," Cater said. "We will go as far as they can be consistent. We'll have to get the ball to (returning tight end Ryan) Lavin and to the fullbacks."

Lazear played his finest game in Shepherd's 58-38 loss to California (Pa.) in the Northeast Region final with 240 yards passing and three touchdowns. He will have returning receivers Nasser Muhammad, Nikkolai Norrell and Craig Tremel to become more of the "someone elses" in the Shepherd offense.

Just how good the offense could be may not be answered until Shepherd takes the field on Aug. 30 at Shippensburg University for the season opener.

"I don't know if we are going to be as explosive," Cater said. "We might be, but just in different ways."

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