Jones Preview: Running Backs

ELLISVILLE – Jones County Junior College has some big shoes to fill at the running back position.

Mt. Olive product Reuben Duckworth rushed for 1,084 yards last year and was named an NJCAA Honorable Mention All-American. The Tennessee-Martin signee was also named the MACJC's South Division Most Valuable Back, All-MACJC South Division first-team and All-Region 23.

But Bobcat running backs coach Brad Reynolds is excited about the three players set to replace Ducksworth this fall.

Morton sophomore Justin Harris (5-11, 190), Purvis freshman Thamaz Taylor (5-9, 175) and Lumberton freshman Keshod Willis (5-9, 175) bring plenty of talent to the table.

"All three running backs have picked up the offense really well, scheme-wise," said Reynolds. "They know what we are trying to accomplish when we take the field. They all three complement each other very well. There is no decrease in talent when one leaves the field and another one goes out to replace him."

Harris played running back at Morton and was a wide receiver for the Bobcats last year. Reynolds is pleased with the way Harris has performed in the spring, summer and preseason workouts.

"Justin was a running back in high school and did a great job," he said. "He played slot receiver for us last year. We moved him to running back in the spring. He is a great athlete and can do a lot of things for us.

"He runs the ball very, very hard between the tackles. He is a very shifty guy when he gets outside on the edge. He is a good receiver out of the backfield and is a really good blocker when we ask him to block. He has a lot of great tools he can use. His experience really helps, especially when it comes to the receiving part."

Taylor was chosen to play in the Bernard Blackwell All-Star Classic last December.

"Thamaz came in and really took grasp of the offense," Reynolds said. "He is a very physical back for his size. He is very shifty and has an elusive running style. But he has the ability to lower his shoulder and deliver a blow when he needs to do so."

Willis was regarded as a top prospect in the Pine Belt last year.

"Keshod maybe not as elusive as the others, but he is very effective when he runs," he said. "He is effective with the cuts he makes and he sees the field well. When he sees the field, he seems to explode and get the yards we ask him to get.

"Both freshmen have come in, have had a good fall camp and have picked up the offense really well. They know what we want to do and what we are trying to accomplish."

Reynolds, who also coaches the JCJC special teams, is optimistic about the season when it comes to his running backs.

"To have three guys you can interchange and not have a decrease in talent is a really good thing to have as a football coach," he said.

The Bobcats of head coach Ray Perkins will open the 2013 season at 7 p.m. on Aug. 29 at Holmes Community College. The game will be audiocast on www.jcjc.tv with Mark Easley and Ed Smith on the call.


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