Google Custom Search

 Black College Sports Blog

by Lut Williams

North Carolina A&T‘s Tarik Cohen and Morgan State‘s Herb Walker Jr. top the MEAC in rushing while Alabama State‘s Malcolm Cyrus is tops in the SWAC.

Through three games, Cohen and Walker are 2-3 in rushing yards in the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) while Cyrus is sixth. (Alabama State played its fourth game Thursday night).
Cohen, just a sophomore, has rushed for 528 yards, gets 10.0 yards per carry and is averaging 176 rushing yards per game.

Walker, a redshirt sophomore, has 460 yards total, gets 8.5 per carry and is at 153 yards per game.

Cyrus, a senior and the veteran of the bunch, now has 601 yards through four games, averaging just over 150 yards per game and 7.2 yards per carry.

Cohen and Walker are the only MEAC rushers averaging more than 100 yards per game. Ditto for Cyrus in the SWAC. And each has four touchdowns.

And neither is taller than 5-9 or approaches 200 pounds!

Cyrus is listed in the 2014 Alabama State media guide at 5-10, 180. But he‘s not that tall. His bio from 2013 says he‘s only 5-9. Who grows an inch at age 21?

Walker, nicknamed ‘Smurf‘ by his MSU teammates, is listed at 5-8 but has admitted on record to being at least an inch shorter. Walker checks in at 180 pounds.

Cohen is the runt of the bunch, listed at only 5-6, 172. 172? That‘s right, 172.

But don‘t let their size fool you. They‘re no pushovers. Far from it.

“He‘s one of those special players that you have an opportunity to coach maybe once in a lifetime,“ said A&T head coach Rod Broadway of Cohen at his weekly press conference Monday.

Tarik CohenCOHEN: Cutting on a dimeBroadway mentioned Cohen in the same breath as other outstanding running backs he‘s coached – CIAA Player of the Year and school career rushing leader, Greg Pruitt, Jr. at N. C. Central and SWAC and school career rushing leader Frank Warren at Grambling.

“He has a chance at being better than all of them,“ said Broadway. “This guy is special. He‘s a warrior. He gives us an opportunity to make a play here and there and win a ballgame. He‘s definitely one of the best players in the country.“

Seven times as a freshman Cohen garnered MEAC offensive player of the week honors en route to rushing for 1,148 yards on the season. Despite not starting until his fifth game, he was named the league‘s top freshman and first team all-conference. He was the first freshman in A&T history and only the third freshman in MEAC history to top 1,000 rushing yards. He led the MEAC at 5.9 yards per carry and 104.4 yards per game. He topped 100 yards in five of the six games he started including one 200-yard performance (vs. Florida A&M).

“We knew he was good but he was so small,“ said Broadway of the player recruited out of Bunn (N. C.) High School who also excelled as a sprinter in track. “But we didn‘t know was how tough he was. We got a good one.“

Last week, The Sports Network named him national co-offensive player of the week for his 234-yard, 20-carry effort in a 17-12 win over Elon. Cohen had a scintillating 81-yard fourth-quarter TD run that was the winning score for the Aggies. He also threw a TD pass off a halfback option play.

The long TD run vs. Elon was his second 80-plus yard scoring gallop of the young season. He scored from 80 yards out in the season opener vs. Alabama A&M.

Despite his stature, and with his strength and ability to cut on a dime and run away from defenders, Cohen reminds me of a certain running back with the Minnesota Vikings (minus the child beating allegations) who wears the same number 28.

THIS WEEK: at home vs. Chowan of the CIAA.

While Cohen got to show his stuff after five games in his freshman season, Herb Walker Jr. had to wait a little longer.

Herb Walker Jr.WALKER: Holding off a defenderWalker amassed just 399 yards on 99 carries and had just one score as a freshman last season playing behind freshman starter Lamont Brown III. And he began this year behind Brown again. He had five carries for nine yards in a season-opening loss to Monmouth. But when Brown was diagnosed with a knee injury following the Monmouth game, Walker got his chance. And boy did he take advantage of it.

A week later, starting his first game vs. Holy Cross, Walker set a new MSU record, carrying 29 times for 271 yards. He scored on runs of 46 and 2 yards in another close loss.

“That was his breakout game,“ said new MSU head coach Lee Hull on the weekly MEAC Teleconference, “and a new school record. Obviously, we don‘t expect him to get 270 yards every week but we do look for big things from him. He is a big part of what we do on offense.“

And as if to prove that effort was no fluke, last week vs. Bowie State Walker had 180 yards on 20 carries, a nine-yards-per-carry average. And perhaps more impressively, he had fourth-quarter scoring runs of 28 and 33 yards to put the game away not long after his late-game fumble put the Bears in jeopardy.

“He’s short in stature, but he’s thick,” Hull told the Baltimore Sun. “He’s a strong kid. So it’s not about how tall you are. It’s about your body weight in proportion to your height, and he’s a strong kid. He does a great job in the weight room keeping himself in shape.”

“I feel I’m tough,” Walker told the Sun. “I’m 5-7, but I feel like I’m 6 feet on the field. It really doesn’t matter to me.”

Toughness is a theme and a trait echoed by all three players and their coaches.

Walker is a product of the Ted Ginn Academy in Cleveland, Ohio run by Ted Ginn Sr. father of Arizona Cardinals player Ted Ginn Jr. Heisman Trophy winner Troy Smith (Ohio State) and current Cleveland Browns‘ safety Donte Whitner are others that played under Ginn Sr.

THIS WEEK: At the Meadowlands vs. conference foe, Howard.

Cyrus had an even longer wait.
He had just five carries his freshman year before spending the last two seasons playing behind Isaiah Crowell.Malcolm CyrusCYRUS: Breaks into the open

Crowell, a former SEC freshman of the year at Georgia, rushed for nearly 2,000 yards in his two years with the Hornets while earning all-SWAC honors both years. He‘s now opening eyes as a free agent running back on the roster of the Cleveland Browns and scored two touchdowns in his debut against my Pittsburgh Steelers two weeks ago.

But Cyrus’s role steadily increased over the past two seasons. He rushed for 459 yards as a sophomore and then put up 759 yards with six touchdowns last year as a compliment to Crowell.
ASU head coach Reggie Barlow says there‘s really no comparison between the two.

“They‘re two different types of backs,“ said Barlow on Monday’s SWAC Teleconference. “Crowell is a big ole man (he weighs 225 pounds). Cyrus is not as big although he‘s put on a lot of weight over last season.

“Malcolm runs with power, he runs between the tackles, he‘s good in space and he catches the ball well out of the backfield.

“But the one thing about him is that he plays with grit. He‘s a feisty, country boy who loves to play the game and he plays it the right way,“ he said of the Autaugaville, Alabama native.
In other words, he runs hard.

“I watch him and I’m like, ‘Man, Cyrus, he runs harder than anybody I’ve ever seen that size,” Hornets senior defensive tackle Justin Mitchell said to Duane Rankin of the Montgomery Advertiser. “And it always catches the defense off-guard because they go up with him soft, and that’s how he breaks all those tackles and runs. If you get him in the open field, he can still shake you, too. He’s a very versatile back. He’s something serious.”

Cyrus began the season running for 83 yards on 18 carries in a 51-20 season-opening loss to nationally-ranked Sam Houston State. Since then he‘s put up three 100-yard efforts.

He tallied 170 yards on 26 carries in an eye-opening 27-21 win over nationally-ranked Tennessee State. He followed that up with 171 yards on 17 carries with one touchdown in a 47-22 win over Mississippi Valley State. And on Thursday, he ran for 188 yards on 29 carries with scoring runs of 14, 2 and 11 yards in the 42-7 rout of Arkansas-Pine Bluff.

THIS WEEK: 188 yards, 3 scores in win over Arkansas-Pine Bluff.

All three runners have their teams playing good football. Morgan State and A&T are 1-2 in team rushing stats in the MEAC. Alabama State is second in rushing in the SWAC (behind Alcorn State). Both ASU and A&T are 2-1. Morgan State is 1-2 with both losses by three points.

The winner of the Morgan State/Howard game Saturday at the Meadowlands could be the fourth contender in the MEAC behind Bethune-Cookman, South Carolina State and A&T. A&T travels to Howard next Saturday (Sept. 27).

Alabama State appears on a collision course with Alcorn State for SWAC East Division supremacy. The Hornets will travel to face the Braves in two weeks (October 4).


Please consider supporting our work.

The pandemic has financial consequences, especially for Black-owned businesses. Ad revenue is shrinking so we are asking you directly for your financial support. You can use the Cash App and contribute to $onnidan or process your donation through Square