I wrote a bit today on the Falcons’ tailbacks, specifically sophomore Asher Clark and junior Savier Stephens.
Here are some portions of my conversation with running backs coach Jemal Singleton that I couldn’t include in the story:
Jake: Do you need more production out of your tailbacks?
Jemal: Yes. And I’d tell you that if they had over 3,000 yards rushing right now too. I think you’ve got to look at what we’re doing with Asher and Sai. Just this last week was the first week that Asher went under five yards a carry (he’s now at 4.6 for the season). Sai’s still over five yards a carry (5.1). And I tell them, ‘You’re my two-headed monster.’ One rushes for 50, another rushes for 56, then we rushed for over 100 yards at the tailback position. So, saying that, I want more production, I want some bigger plays out of those guys, but you look at the numbers, I think they’re not that bad.
Jake: Are they getting fewer carries this year?
Jemal: I think a little bit. Obviously with what (fullback Jared Tew has) been able to do and the tough, hard yards that he’s getting, he’s had more carries than most of our fullbacks have gotten in a long time. …. So, obviously, there are only so many carries you get in a game, and if the fullback’s getting more, someone’s getting less carries. So I think so, but a lot of that’s just the result of some of the things defenses are giving us is allowing him to get some of those hard three- and four-yard carries.”
Jake: I thought we might see more from Clark after how he played late last season.
Jemal: You’ve got a freshman that does something, and you think, ‘Oh, sophomore year, it’s going to be great, he’s just going to build on that.’ I think this is one of the places where maybe that’s not always the case. It’s tough as a sophomore, and I’m not making excuses for him, but you talk about his academic work load increases as a sophomore and those kinds of things. I think Savier Stephens is a prime example. You saw him as a freshman, and he showed those flashes, and you just thought, ‘Oh, his sophomore year.’ And it wasn’t what you expected. Asher’s done some good things. And, to be honest, he knows this. I don’t think he played early in the season as good as he needed to play. I thought he did some things that were uncharacteristic of him, and I kind of let him have it about that. But even if you look at Saturday’s game – I know you guys aren’t going to look at it this way because all you see is the 1.9 (yards) a carry – but I looked at some of the carries that he had and some of the speed that he showed on some of those. He had a play on the sideline where he catches a pitch and leaves a couple guys, and he has a play on the sideline where there’s nothing there, and he runs over the safety, and the safety’s laying flat on his back and that safety’s going to be playing in the (NFL). And that’s exactly what I told him today. I said, ‘I will take those ugly, tough-nosed, two-yard carries over an easy four-yard carry every day.’ So he’s showing some things to me these past couple weeks that, hmm, that’s showing some old flashes, some old glimpses of what he’s done. But like you said, he hasn’t gotten 30 carries in a game, it’s just not where we’re at this year.
Jake: Has he felt any lingering affects from his knee injury, or did the time he spent at quarterback hurt his progression?
Jemal: Obviously not being able to practice in the spring is huge. It’s funny that you bring this up, but Savier Stephens was the same way – didn’t have a spring his sophomore year. And I think that’s huge for development of a player is getting that spring ball. So any injury that forces you to miss practices is huge. As for him playing quarterback, I don’t think it was much of a problem. If anything it probably kept him a little fresher, (kept him from) getting the hits and those types of things.
Jake: Will any of the freshmen tailbacks find their way in the mix in the final third of the regular season?
Jemal: It’s kind of like what I told you before – you don’t want those guys to have to play early, you want them to develop, you want them to get a million practice reps before they have to face live bullets. I think (Cody) Getz, obviously, now that he’s transitioned back to tailback, has helped him. I think you’ve seen some of the flashes that you saw earlier from him. I think that’s his true position. His true position is tailback. I think if you asked the young man that, he’d probably tell you the same thing. That he’s a lot more comfortable there. But I think he’s probably the one that here in the next few games might get splashed in there, might get a chance to play a little bit. But, again, it all depends on what he does at practice, shows that mentally he can handle the game plan and physically he can take care of the football.