Creekside graduate Blake Morgan has returned to full health after a knee injury prematurely ended his 2018 season.
Wofford senior running back Blake Morgan burst through an opening at practice recently and bounced off defenders for about a 15-yard run. Then he sneaked out and caught a pass for about the same distance.
Running backs coach Dane Romero had to be smiling — on the inside, of course.
Blake Morgan is Blake Morgan again. He’s had to prove it to himself on the field this preseason to erase any doubts, but Morgan is full-strength after missing the last five games of 2018 and requiring knee surgery.
“It’s great,” Morgan said. “It’s been a long road, but a lot of people have helped me get back to where I am right now. I feel good. Coach Romero has told me I can’t think about it. Just play the game and trust it. So that’s what I’ve been doing.”
Morgan, a Creekside High graduate, is a double-edged blade at halfback. He averaged 6.5 yards per carry last season and at the time of his injury, also led pass-catchers (eventually still finishing third) in receptions (18) and yards (185). With 1,135 career rushing yards and 634 receiving yards, he is so far Wofford’s career leader (100-play minimum) in total yards with 8.6 per play. That’s a full yard better than Jesse McCoy (1999-2002) and also better than Shawn Graves (1989-1992), whose number is retired.
“It’s like having a comfort blanket back,” Romero said. “He just does everything you need. He’s been that way since he was a freshman. He’s always found a way to make a play. The biggest thing for him is he has such a good football I.Q. that you don’t have to coach him much. He sees things and processes things and reacts really fast.”
Morgan’s return is much-needed also because Wofford lost 1,767 yards and 20 touchdowns with the graduations of fullback Andre Stoddard and halfback Lennox McAfee. Rising junior Ryan Lovelace is expected to start at halfback with Morgan with 225-pound sophomore Nathan Walker (547 yards, 7.1 per carry) at fullback. Lovelace started four games after Morgan went out and finished with an average of 12.3 yards on 24 carries to lead the Southern Conference.
Sophomore halfback D’mauriae VanCleave (5-7, 160) is a smaller version of Morgan (5-9, 190). VanCleave has already proven to be explosive, averaging 9.0 yards on 21 carries and 13.6 yards on 21 receptions, ranking second on team in catches and first in yards. Others listed as the top backups on the two-deep chart as the Terriers headed into fall practice were redshirt freshman Jamari Broussard at halfback and true freshman Irvin Mulligan at fullback. Evan Suggs, who has been converted from fullback to halfback, had only four carries last season but is sure to see a heavy increase in usage and especially dangerous on passing plays.
“We are a little young,” Morgan said. “But everybody has something unique that they bring to the table. We can all come together as a collective group and be really good. Everybody has put in work and improved during the offseason. Even in a guy like Jacquez (Allen) as a freshman, you can see growth in him every day.”
Romero said he is excited about the group, especially with Morgan returning to lead the way.
“I think Nate Walker has such a high ceiling,” Romero said. “I think Jamari Broussard will be huge for us. Last year, it felt like every time Ryan touched the ball he was going to make a big play. Guys like that have worked so hard and have always had the ability. They just had guys in front of them. Now it’s their time.”