Tulane RBs Forte, Jackson form 1-2 punch
Tulane RBs Forte, Jackson form 1-2 punch
By LES EAST
Special to The Advocate
NEW ORLEANS -- Tulane's running back position was split about as evenly as possible last season.
Jovon Jackson and Matt Forte each rushed for exactly 624 yards. Jackson had 125 carries, Forte 140. Jackson ran for five touchdowns, Forte four. Jackson caught 18 passes for 129 and no touchdowns. Forte caught 20 for 180 yards and two touchdowns.
So it's no surprise Jackson and Forte are scheduled to share the position again this season, with Ray Boudreaux also getting some carries.
"Matt's running with the (starters) and we're going to run him until he gets tired," coach Chris Scelfo said Tuesday at the Green Wave's Media Day. "Then we can stick in (Jackson) and Ray Boudreaux will play in the one back.
"When we play two we can roll two or three guys in there. We're going to need all of them. We need them to stay healthy and take the pressure off the offense for us."
But aside from statistical oddities, Jackson and Forte are different. Jackson is a senior and Forte is a sophomore. Forte is bigger -- 6-foot-1, 224 pounds vs. 5-11, 210. Jackson is from St. Petersburg, Fla., and Forte was born in Lake Charles and grew up in Slidell.
Jackson had to wait his turn, not starting until the 10th game of his sophomore season when Mewelde Moore was injured. Forte got his chance right away, earning Conference USA all-freshman honors last season, becoming the featured back the last three games after Jackson injured a hamstring.
Jackson has had a nickname -- "Shaq," -- since middle school when he broke a seven-foot basketball goal while dunking, a la Shaquille O'Neal. Forte was nicknamed "M-Train" in high school but that hasn't caught on with his college teammates.
"I think they complement each other very well," tackle Chris McGee said. "Matt has a few more moves and Shaq is more of a downfield, strong, power runner. Both of them like to joke around and kid. I've known Shaq longer, but Forte's a little goofier."
Jackson and Forte have become close friends even though they're competing for the same position.
"We spend a lot of time together," Forte said. "We're fighting for the same spot, but we know we're both going to play. We've maintained a friendly competition and we're making each other better. It's very important to hit the defense with a one-two punch. When one of us gets tired we can put in fresh legs."
Forte averaged 128 rushing yards in his three starts at the end of last season. He burst on to the scene with 216 yards -- fourth-highest single-game total in Green Wave history -- and three touchdowns against Army in his first start.
It was reminiscent of Jackson's first start in place of Moore two years ago when Jackson rushed for 183 yards and two touchdowns against UAB.
"We consider ourselves the new thunder and lightning," Jackson said. "He's a lot shiftier and I'm stronger. We work really well together and try and bring out the best in each other."
In addition to their running ability, Forte and Jackson are the top returning receivers from last season. Their combined 38 receptions are one more than all of the returning wide receivers had.
"They're both very shifty and good receivers out of the backfield," guard Matt Traina said of Jackson and Forte. "They're both capable of making people miss and breaking the long run. With the two of them being able to spell one another, one is always fresh and it's going to give defenses trouble."
The running backs' ability to catch passes provides quarterback Lester Ricard with some insurance as a young group of receivers develops.
"The running backs are going to tote the load and take some pressure off," Ricard said. "The receivers are going to get the job done."
The receiving corps got even more green on Friday when senior Bubba Terranova, one of the most experienced receivers, had arthroscopic knee surgery. He's expected back for the season opener Sept. 4 at Southern Miss. ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã‚Â¦ Scelfo said freshman receiver Cary Koch of The Dunham School has been impressive so far. ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã‚Â¦ Place-kicking is a concern as Barrett Pepper is sidelined by a hip flexor and in his absence Scelfo said the kickoffs have been woefully short. The backups are Mike Sager, who is 0-for-1 on field goals in two seasons as a backup, and freshmen Luke Bell and Jacob Hartgroves. Pepper could return next week. ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã‚Â¦ Backup quarterback Nick Cannon, who has four surgeries in three years, most recently on his throwing elbow, is throwing every third day as he eases back into action.
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