Marquez Grayson is one of multiple talented running backs East Carolina offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley has at his disposal. The running back by committee approach has worked out for Grayson as he has scored a touchdown in four of his last five games.
In an offense that is oriented around quarterback Shane Carden and the passing game, Grayson has capitalized on the opportunity to show his skill. Most recently, he had seven carries—which ties his career high from the home opener versus North Carolina Central—and finished with 39 yards.
Grayson’s found himself a niche as a red-zone threat. Take, for example, ECU’s game at Temple. Grayson only had two carries in the 20-10 loss, but was able to find paydirt on one of those attempts.
“It gives everybody a chance,” said Grayson of the committee approach. “For me, I just kind of needed that chance to get myself going. It helped me learn from the other guys by just watching them and seeing what they’re doing.”
One of those backs that Grayson has studied is senior Breon Allen, who leads the team with 808 rushing yards and eight touchdowns on the season. He’s also added another 228 yards in the air and another score.
“We are really great friends,” said Allen. “He’s probably one of my favorites because he was my freshman buddy when he first came in. We formed a really good relationship. He’s a big guy and he can run that ball through those tackles and he’s got a little wiggle to him. He’s a complete back in my eyes.”
Grayson hasn’t always been that well-rounded. The talent has been there since he joined the scout team in 2013. He made a case for himself this past spring. He led the ground game with seven carries for 58 yards in the first spring scrimmage.
All it took was refining himself. Grayson has been consistently refining himself since becoming a Pirate and now it’s earned him an opportunity to shine.
“He’s grown a lot. He’s always been talented and had the measurable you’d like—size, speed and quickness,” said Riley. “But he was… Raw isn’t even the right word. It took him a long time to get to raw…He’s started to become that bigger back for us. He’s running with power right now.”
One of the things Grayson had to work on was his blocking. In high school, he wasn’t asked to do much besides run away from the defense. At 6-foot-1 and 200 pounds, blocking is something he’s capable of, but it just took mental adjustments.
“Coming from high school, I really didn’t have to block a lot,” said Grayson. “Coming here, I’ve seen linebackers that are 240 or 260 pounds. I’ve never seen that before. I’m thinking in my head ‘Maybe I can block this guy, maybe I can’t.’ So, when I got up there, I hesitated a little bit and I got knocked on my back. It was a learning experience.”
If Grayson can continue to learn and develop, he will continue to be one of the threats that makes up an effective running back corps.