ODU's backfield gets it done, no matter who it is...
Sept. 17, 2012
I've always had a soft spot for great trios.
Athos, Porthos and Aramis has always been a favorite of mine.
So have rock, paper and scissors, Kirk, Spock and McCoy, and the Nina, the Pinta and the Santa Maria.
When in doubt, I order a bacon, lettuce and tomato.
When I need a laugh, I turn to Larry, Curly and Moe.
When bored, I read about Harry, Ron and Hermione.
Three is usually good in my book.
I bring this up because in this season that is quickly becoming the year of quarterback Taylor Heinicke, there is a trio playing phenomenally well in the large shadow Heinicke sometimes casts.
They go by the names Gus, Colby and Tyree. And they play tailback for Old Dominion University's football Monarchs.
I've been thinking about a nickname for the three. So far, I like Shake (Tyree Lee), Rattle (Gus Harper) and Roll (Colby Goodwyn).
For those who haven't been paying close attention, all three scored touchdowns against Hampton University two weeks ago in ODU's 45-7 drubbing of the Pirates. Then, this past weekend, they did it again.
While Heinicke was corralling national attention as he threw for a school-record seven touchdowns and 482 yards in the Monarchs' 70-14 victory over Campbell, ODU's tailback trio did what it does best: It shared a glamour position. Tyree Lee scored on a 14-yard pass from Heinicke in the third quarter. Put the three of them in a room together - and I did - and they finish each others thoughts and sentences.
"I don't think anybody could take all the reps at tailback in our offense," Lee said.
"Nobody's in that good a shape," Harper said.
"Not even Craig Wilkins," Goodwyn continued, making reference to ODU's middle linebacker who plays like the Energizer Bunny. Like I said, they finish each others thoughts and sentences. And they are happy to share the wealth of this position, for they all know how tough a position it is.
"We get hit on every single play," Harper said. "And it takes a toll on the body."
All three have battled fairly significant injuries in their careers. They have dealt with the road to recovery, which for this blog is aptly referred to as blood, sweat and tears.
Harper shattered his elbow as a sophomore in high school while on kickoff coverage. The injury was bad enough that one doctor told him he might never play football again. Lee dislocated his right ankle in a high school all-star game when two defensive linemen and a linebacker fell on him on his first carry of the game. Goodwyn sustained a severe high ankle sprain last season when his own teammate, 6-foot-8, 255-pound David Born, rolled back and over him on a rushing play.
"It had to be the largest player on our team," Goodwyn said. They realize each is just a play away from sitting on the sidelines and having their most meaningful conversations with athletic trainers. That's part of why they respect one another, recognizing that in the rough-and-tumble Colonial Athletic Association a team must have depth at the tailback position to flourish.
In a way, ODU's coaching staff made out in the fact that none of the three was heavily sought in the recruiting wars. Some bigger schools looked hard at Harper, but wanted him to switch to defensive back. Goodwyn was seen as a step too slow coming out of college to play at the highest level. Lee, who gained an eye-popping 2,500 yards as a senior at Hampton's Phoebus High and was named Virginia's player of the year at the Group AAA level, probably would have been picked up by a big-time school. But his injury was extreme, required surgery, and came five weeks before national signing day. His foot was still in a cast when he signed his national letter of intent with ODU. ODU's coaching staff saw things in each of them they liked, and the coaches projected beyond the surface for each.
"What we liked about all three was that they could do all three of the things we look for in running backs here: run, catch and block," ODU coach Bobby Wilder said. "None of them will blaze a 4.3 in the 40. They aren't going to race 100 yards for a touchdown. But that's not what we need in our running backs.
"I look at them and realize all three could start for us. I don't care what sport it is, when you have three guys at one position that can all play well enough to start, that's a luxury."
As it is, the Monarchs have a set rotation for the three: Harper starts the first series and when he needs to be subbed, Lee takes his spot. Goodwyn comes in for the second series, and when he needs to be subbed, Lee takes his spot too.
"They make our offense so dynamic," Wilder said.
And they make it balanced.
So much is made of Heinicke and his talented receiving corps that sometimes the tailbacks are overlooked. But combined (and throwing in walk-on tailback Harvey Taylor who has gotten a good deal of playing time in ODU's three non-conference games thus far), the tailback spot at ODU is averaging 155 yards rushing per game and is catching 7.3 passes per game for an average of 91.6 yards per game.
"In this offense that we have, the tailback position is used much differently than in other offenses," Wilder said. "Our tailback is truly a weapon in our passing game."
It's a weapon that is overlooked by many.
That's some good eating:
If you are scratching your head as to what to make for a morning tailgate prior to Saturday's noon kickoff against New Hampshire, I suggest you try drizzled ham biscuits. Here's how to make them, courtesy of season ticket holder Jill Fox:
"First let me give a shout out to Lisa Kristofak for this recipe. She brought these to a tailgate last year and I have been making them ever since. I usually double the recipe so I can serve these before the game and after the game at post-tailgate central. That means I'm putting together 96 sandwiches. It is time consuming, but worth it!
"You need to start out with a pound of Smithfield Country Ham, 48 Martin's Potato Rolls (party size, 24 per package), and one pound of baby Swiss cheese slices. Build each sandwich with some country ham and a slice of Swiss cheese. Mix together two (2) tablespoons each of the following: melted butter, brown sugar, Dijon mustard, Worcester sauce, and poppy seeds. "Place sandwiches in disposable aluminum pan(s) and pour melted butter mixture over top of sandwiches. Press down butter mixture into sandwiches. Cover with aluminum foil and refrigerate over night. Preheat oven to 350 and bake with foil on until swiss cheese melts. Take off the foil and leave in oven for another five (5) minutes to crisp up the sandwiches a bit."