JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Spread-option football can be at its best when a team truly has the latter part of the name - options.
For Jacksonville University's rushing attack, the options are aplenty.
Preseason All-Pioneer Football League choice Ulysses Bryant returns for his senior season looking to climb the JU record books as an A-back in the spread-option offense. He is 13 yards away from being second all-time in rushing yards (2,478) and is currently second in all-purpose yards (3,331) to Rudell Small, sixth in points scored (146), and fourth in touchdowns (23).
Bryant, a three-year starter, overcame an early season injury and finished his 2015 season on a high note. He played in all 11 Dolphin games, was third in the PFL with 763 rushing yards, 69.4 rushing yards per game, and 104.36 all-purpose yards per game. His 4.89 yards-per-carry was good for fifth in the conference. Bryant had four rushing scores and caught 38 passes, third-most on the team, for 385 yards and three touchdowns. The Jacksonville, Fla., native also showed off his versatile skills with one pass for a 30-yard touchdown.
"We're relying on him to do a lot of the work. We're going to depend on him heavily to get the backs going," said running backs coach Steven Sylvester, who joins the staff after playing and coaching at Georgia Tech. "He's had a very good camp thus far. He came in focused and motivated. He has realized this is his last season as a college football player and has taken advantage of that."
Redshirt-senior Frantz Caudio is looking for a bounce-back season after gaining a medical redshirt following last season's bite by the injury bug. In 2014, he racked up 407 rushing yards and five scores in addition to 20 receptions for 232 yards and three touchdowns.
"Frantz has come along very well. He had a strong spring and has built on it in preseason camp,"said Sylvester of the C-back. "We are excited about what he brings to the table and his different dynamic of size and speed."
The playmaking abilities continue with junior Jamal Adjamah (pronounced "ad-jeh-muh) bursting through the middle at B-back. Last year, Adjamah ran for 409 yards and two touchdowns on 60 carries.
"He's a very dynamic back and one of the players that has to know all three positions," said Sylvester. "He's very smart, enjoys the game, and doesn't get tackled easily."
Slyvester sees Dolphin depth in Pernell Rattray, Larenz Scroggins, Irvin Riley, Will Montgomery, Jake Brito, Lamarr Washington, Daryl Norwood, and Jared Morris. Those as well as Bryant, Caudio, and Adjamah, are stressed to have the knowledge and ability to play all three positons.
"Running backs in this offense have to be a complete back. They can't be a one-trick pony," said Sylvester. "They need to be able to block, the most essential part of it, catch the ball, and run. If you can do all three, you have a pretty good chance of seeing the field a lot."
Rattray moves from wide receiver to the backfield this season, and according to Sylvester, "he's done good things in camp and shown flashes."
A pair of newcomers are aiming to crack into the rotation in Brito, a transfer from Fullerton (CA) College, and Riley, a freshman from Savannah, Ga.
"Brito is a big body that runs fast. He is physical, smart, and enjoys running into people at full speed. I'm very glad he's on our team," said Sylvester. "Riley has done some very good things in camp. We're pleased with his progress. Hopefully he will continue to come along and the light continues to go on."
"They are all a tight-knit group that hangs out off the field. I think that transfers well to the field because you're more liable to block for someone you truly care about," said Sylvester. "I think they have the best interests of each other at heart, and take care of each other off-the-field. They're going to be very fun to watch."