January 27, 2010

Commitment's coach raves about running skills

With the running back position a tad short on both depth and stability, due to an unknown recovery time on Payten Jason's knee, Tulane locked down the position on Monday by adding three-star tailback Orleans Darkwa from Nashville, Tenn.

The 6-foot, 200-pound back rushed for over 2,000 yards as a senior, carrying his Ensworth HS through a 9-1 season in Tennessee's toughest division and into the playoffs.

The Wave Report had a chance to catch up with Darkwa's coach, Ricky Bowers, to get his thoughts on the productive back.

The Wave Report: What kind of person and player do you feel Tulane is getting with the commitment of Orleans Darkwa?

Ricky Bowers:
He is a great kid. There's nothing bad about him at all. He's kind and polite, unassuming and humble. But he is a heck of a football player. A great high school player.

He gets his feet down in the hole and accelerates and has a bit of a different gear when necessary. Certainly he's durable and has great vision, good hands and there's just a lot to like.

TWR: Just looking through stats, the yardage he amassed was pretty remarkable. Did you realize just how gaudy the numbers were becoming?

RB:
Yeah, it wasn't any surprise he was going to get the ball. But they still had a very difficult time tackling him. It would be challenging to be more dependent on one person than we were with him.

Had he been 100 percent later in the year, we probably would have played all the way through to the end. He got a little banged up and was out week 10 and slowed for week 11.

He was the focal point of our team and somewhat of an emotional leader as well. He started for four years and had an unbelievable career. I believe he is the ninth leading rusher in the state of Tennessee's history. Just a remarkable career and a person who we trusted for a long time, so we are all excited for his opportunity to continue to play at a place like Tulane. It sounds like a good match for him.

TWR: With him being such a focus of the offense, was he a back that got better as the game wore on?

RB:
Definitely. One of the question marks has been about whether he's fast enough and my answer was 'did you see anybody catch him from behind?' He ran just fast enough so no one could catch him.

Anyone who could carry it that many times is special and there's no telling how many hits he took in a game. He always wanted the ball more and if I would have given it to him a few more times, we probably would have kept playing.

TWR: Just the idea of having someone that dependable in the backfield can provide a sense of calm to the offense. Was he always chiming in that he wanted the ball more or was he just willing to take the workload as it came?

RB:
No, he's such a humble person that he always trusted our judgement. But we could always feel him wanting it. Every time he got the ball - even when he got it a lot - he was excited to get it.

Let's just put it that way.

TWR: You touched on this a little bit, but the combine style numbers may not be impressive but he clearly produced when the pads came on. Is he a kid who doesn't look great running a 40-yard dash (4.5 seconds), but once he gets between the lines is just hard to stop?

RB:
I don't think people would be unimpressed if they see him run the 40, because he is a good looking kid and he's plenty fast. But he's not a 4.2 kid and he's not particularly tall or particularly heavy. He's just not what I would call flashy.

When you watch the film he's not like the highlights of some other kids because you don't see fantastic looking plays. Instead, he makes the simple run. He makes the difficult run look easy. It's very common for there to be someone on the other team unblocked because they know he is going to get it.

It was rare that everyone was blocked when he touched it, yet he still made the first person miss consistently then often there were two or three more broken or missed tackles because of his ability. There was almost always yardage after contact as well.

TWR: Is he the most productive back you have ever been around?

RB:
I don't know if there's ever been one more productive I can remember. I don't know what his yards per carry was, but it was a really high number. I mean a really big number.

The yards per carry was staggering. He appears to be north-south and that is what's great about him. Although he had the appearance of a bulldozer back he really was quite elusive.

We lost two games in two years and I think this year's schedule was as challenging as any school in the state. We depended on him a lot and he brought us a lot of success and I'm excited to see him move on to the next level. He definitely deserves it.


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