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The student news site of Eastern Illinois University in Charleston, Illinois.

The Daily Eastern News

The student news site of Eastern Illinois University in Charleston, Illinois.

The Daily Eastern News

    Editorial Cartoon: Joe Biden

    Eastern head coach Bob Spoo said in late July junior running back Ron Jordan intended to use his red-shirt season after off-season shoulder surgery. That is, if the Panthers’ backfield stayed healthy.

    “If we get some injuries, maybe Ron will have to be activated again,” Spoo said at the time. “We’ll see how it goes.”

    Now Jordan is in the mix to start in the Eastern backfield along with red-shirt seniors Norris Smith and Travorus Bess and red-shirt sophomore Chevon Walker sidelined with minor injuries. Joining Jordan as healthy backs include freshmen Desmin Ward and Bobby Earnest – who is listed on the Eastern roster as a strong safety.

    The Panthers are a running team, and with their full complement of backs healthy provide a serious offensive threat to opposing teams’ defenses.

    “We’re still going to be in a two-back offense,” Spoo said. “We’re going to be a power team a lot of the time.”

    And Spoo will have several different two-back combinations to choose from. Smith said Eastern’s running backs love to run the ball, and the Panthers are going to run the ball regardless of the defensive front the opposing team uses.

    “This running back group, we’re going to be damn good,” Smith said. “I’m going to run somebody over before I try to run around them. I’m going to do whatever it is so I can get a yard.”

    The Panthers backfield is also an experienced one. Smith, Bess and Jordan have all taken snaps for Eastern in the past. It was Walker, a transfer from Florida, though that made the biggest splash during spring practices.

    “When you add to the mix, a guy like Chevon Walker, who because of his speed is a home run hitter so to speak, is a big play guy,” Eastern offensive coordinator Roy Wittke said.

    Smith said Walker’s speed is “crazy.”

    He said Walker runs a 4.2 or 4.3-second 40-yard dash, and with the combination of Walker’s speed and power, Smith said Eastern would have a good backfield.

    “Norris is going to be wanting to go up the middle,” Walker said. “When it comes to the speed stuff, they’ll put me or (Bess) in back there. (Opposing defenses) won’t know who to key on. It’s going to be kind of hectic.”

    Wittke said Eastern’s backfield depth and experience is something the Panthers can use to their advantage.

    He said the running backs’ contrasting running styles would also be something the Panthers could exploit.

    “You have a big-back type in Norris Smith and Desmin Ward,” Wittke said. “You have a little bit more of a smaller scat back – change direction guys – in Bess and Jordan. Then with Chevon you’ve got a guy who may have the whole package for you – a guy who has good size but also has tremendous speed.”

    Ward has been the biggest surprise of fall camp after getting more snaps because of the injuries to Smith, Bess and Walker.

    Ward had one of the longest runs in the first fall scrimmage with a 27-yard gain on a counter play and then scored two, three-yard touchdowns in the second scrimmage. Wittke said Ward is a freshman that “gets it” and could be a good contributor this season.

    “He actually reminds me of myself,” Smith said about Ward. “He’s probably like 15, 20 pounds away from my size. He’s a strong back. He runs very hard. He’s good. I give him another two years, and he’s going to be great.”

    The Panthers depth in the backfield doesn’t just end at running backs.

    Eastern’s two-back set will usually feature one running back and one fullback. Red-shirt senior Chip Keys will be that fullback.

    “(Keys is) a multidimensional guy that will benefit from the use of our formations and personnel groupings,” Wittke said. “He’s a guy that with his size and strength will be a more than capable blocker for us but will also give us another dimension in our run game with a true, big back type of guy.”

    Spoo had just one way to describe Keys as part of Eastern’s backfield: an ace in the hole.

    Scott Richey can be reached at 581-7944 or at [email protected].

      Editorial Cartoon: Joe Biden


      (Drawn from news/Dylan Polk)


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