Heading into the season, Johns Hopkins had hoped to develop a three-headed monster at running back. It appears one has emerged as the primary tailback.
Sophomore Stuart Walters leads the No. 8 Blue Jays (8-0 overall and 7-0 in the Centennial Conference) in rushing attempts (108) and yards (604) and has just as many starts (four) as junior Brandon Cherry. His eight combined touchdowns (six rushing and two receiving) are tied with sophomore running back Dionisio Roman for the team lead in that department.
Coach Jim Margraff chalked up Walters’ success to his grasp of the offense’s zone blocking strategy.
“I think he’s done a much better job of being disciplined with the zone schemes, understanding how we’re blocking things,” Margraff said Wednesday. “A lot of backs want to cut way too early. He’s gotten into the line of scrimmage and while he maybe doesn’t have some of the exciting bounces to the outside, he’s really maximizing a lot of his plays. If we have a play blocked to get seven yards, he’s getting all seven of those yards. So he’s been doing a nice job.”
Margraff said the 5-foot-11, 200-pound Walters is “the middle ground” between the 5-6, 174-pound Cherry and the 5-11, 195-pound Roman.
“I think all three of our guys have similar skill sets that if you were to assign them, you’d have Brandon being the smaller scatback, Dionisio being the goal-line, bigger, short-yardage back, and Stuart being the guy right in between,” Margraff said. “The great thing is all three can catch the ball, all three block very well, and they’re all good players.”
Cherry, a Parkville resident and Boys’ Latin graduate, ranks second on the team in carries (81) and yards (409) and has scored four times. Roman ranks third in attempts (51) and fourth in yards (217).
Margraff said Cherry, who led Johns Hopkins in rushing last season with 140 carries and 986 yards, has been battling a foot injury that has cut into his playing time.
“His reps were reduced the last couple of weeks, but he seems to be 100 percent right now,” Margraff said of Cherry. “They all trade off a bit. Sometimes [it’s about] game plans, too. One guy will just tend to be a stronger candidate for plays than the others, but Brandon played a ton [in Saturday’s 42-14 win at Ursinus]. He had a couple of big blitz pickups on some long touchdowns. So they all play important roles.”