Even though they are competing against one another for the starting running back spot next fall, Quincy Forte and Jordan Talley are depending on each other.
“[Talley] has a lot of things in his game that I want to put in my game and make myself better,” Forte said. “I see him work hard and it makes me want to work hard. We both work hard to beat each other out.”
Talley and Forte will be sophomores next season. They both enjoyed breakout seasons as freshmen in 2011, where they accounted for 455 and 284 rushing yards, respectively. They are working hard to ensure they do not fall into a sophomore slump.
“I think definitely becoming bigger, faster and stronger,” Talley said. “I need to just really be in my playbook and know the ins and outs of the offense.”
Kiel McDonald, Eastern’s running backs coach, feels that the pair of running backs are special. He wants to do everything he can as a coach to make Talley and Forte even better.
“Both of these guys can play, and their talent is well beyond what we ask of them,” McDonald said. “We’re going to do things that [stress] them physically so they do reach another level when it comes to the ball.”
McDonald emphasized the importance of having a running back’s mentality. He said the freshmen have been going through different drills to instill in them what it means to be a running back.
“You have to be able to carry the ball. You can’t fumble,” McDonald said. “We work on strip drills. We work on stumble drills. We work on every facet of the game that a running back is going to have to call on to be great.”
According to McDonald, the two football players have different running styles. While Talley utilizes his strength to run through tackles, Forte burns defenders with his deadly speed.
“One’s thunder and one’s lightning,” McDonald said. “Quincy is very explosive. … He can make you miss and hit a homerun. With Talley, he’s a grinder, he’s physical, he can lay the hat, he breaks tackles and he’s got a great stiff arm.”
While a running back’s job is to primarily run the ball, Forte and Talley said they have both worked on pass blocking and route running. In 2011, Forte made 20 receptions for 215 yards and Talley made 27 receptions for 180 yards. McDonald said the duo is very skilled at receiving.
“They are very special when it comes to that,” McDonald said. “They both have very soft hands.”
McDonald elaborated on how each back’s skill set worked in their favor when catching the ball out of the backfield.
“Quincy is lightning quick, so he can get on somebody’s toes very fast and snap him off and get into a route and get open,” McDonald said. “With Talley, he’s able to finesse his way and … use his body and use his strength to get open.”
In order to build on the success they enjoyed in 2011, Talley and Forte said they need to work on some of the mechanics of their game.
“We’re trying to expand our game in every way possible. … Going back over film, we’ve definitely noticed some flaws in both of our games,” Talley said. “Coach McDonald has really made it an issue to address all those flaws that we have.”
According to Talley, footwork, defense reading and becoming more aware of his surroundings are some of the things he needs to work on. Forte also said he has noticed flaws in his game and that he needs to play with a lower pad level.
According to McDonald, the backfield is yet to be determined, but if one player rises above the rest, that running back will get the majority of the work.
In today’s game, however, McDonald acknowledged that there needs to be more than one running back, so both freshmen will get plenty of playing time.
“There’s going to be certain situations where somebody else’s skill-set is going to be better fit for that certain type of play,” McDonald said.
Regardless of the way next season’s depth chart pans out, both players are excited for fall to come around. They want the opportunity to help their team meet the ultimate goal, to win a national championship.
“You have to have several goals to get there,” Talley said. “Win the preseason games, go undefeated in the Big Sky, win the Big Sky and then get that national championship.”
“We have to get there again,” Forte said. “It feels like it’s right there.”