ORANGE CITY — There's no hiding the massive hole in University's backfield with the graduation of Lorenzo Lingard, the 2017 Gatorade Florida Player of the Year. While no one running back may be able to provide the production (school-record 4,831 yards from scrimmage, 67 touchdowns), Titans head coach Brian Kells believes the team will still be able to grind down opponents with strength in numbers.

Save for 2016, when the Titans had the three-headed monster of Lingard, Marquis Mickens and Lawrence Coleman, Kells feels this is one of the deeper, balanced crops of ball-carriers he's had.

"Last year, we were one injury away from catastrophe," Kells said. "This year, we've got multiple backs who can all fill in at different spots, and they're good, hard workers.

"We're a little more elusive in the respect that (defenses) are not going to key in and say, 'OK. If we stop Lorenzo, they're not going to beat us.' … I think it's a little more dangerous in that way, but I'm sure going to miss having Lo back there. That's for sure."

In the 2017 season, University called 320 rushing plays, averaging 7.4 yards per attempt. Kyle Metiam, who logged 15 carries, is the only returner with varsity experience.


Metiam enjoyed some success in a spring exhibition against Apopka, breaking free for a 62-yard touchdown on the final play of the half. Kells compliments Metiam's vision and hard-nosed, downhill running style, and he will likely be first in line for the bulk of the work.

"The coaching staff really helped us in the weight room with getting us stronger and faster," Metiam said. "You'll tell by our results on the field."

Fellow junior Spencer Walker, a two-way starter, will get chances on the edge. Additionally, the Titans are excited about a pair of freshmen in the fold.

Though not quite as big as Lingard when he arrived in Orange City, Jalon Brown possesses significant size for his age (5-foot-10, 170 pounds). Chandler Powers, listed at 5-8 and 150, is a shifty, speedy playmaker who also will get a shot in the return game.

"Coming from Pop Warner, I've had to change a lot in my ball (placement) and my quickness," Brown said. "I have to be aware of everything around me. And it's been a tough time blocking, but I'm learning every day."

The success of the running game will not solely depend upon the Titans' backs. All-state guard Thomas Schiffman anchors an offensive line which has three seniors, and quarterback Ethan Lasher worked with former UCF offensive coordinator Charlie Taaffe over the summer.

Lasher won 11 games for University's junior varsity program over the last two seasons.

After three straight years of being regarded as a credible playoff threat, only to fall short, the Titans have flown under the radar in Central Florida. For Kells and his program, still in search of a first postseason appearance, perhaps it's a blessing in disguise.

"I'm sure people will say, 'Lorenzo's gone. What do they have left?' " Kells said. "We have a lot of hard-working players who have won a lot of football games throughout their time here.

"I hope teams keep overlooking us. That will play to our advantage. When people put the bull's-eye on your back, it's a lot of pressure to live up to."