Wylie East’s offense had two explosive runners last season and will have to replace that production in 2023.
With running back Tristan Lee and athlete Terrell Washington Jr. graduating and moving on, they leave a void in the Raiders’ backfield. The duo combined for 1,624 yards (84 percent of the Wylie East rushing yards last season) and 21 of the team’s 23 rushing touchdowns in 2022.
With that much production now having to be replaced, head coach Marcus Gold understands it will be a challenge for East in 2023.
“The next two productive guys are pretty good too, so we’re confident in what they can do,” Gold said. “Rome Jeffers and Michael Henderson III were asked to play defense last season as sophomores but will be asked to carry the ball for us as well this year. They’re two of our best athletes in the program.”
Henderson took carries last season in a backup role as a sophomore last season, scoring twice on offense in 2022 and showing the explosiveness needed to lead the backfield. He impressed throughout the spring and 7-on-7 season and hopes to lead the team in rushing this year.
He’s paired with Jeffers, who exclusively played on the defensive side of the ball last year. Despite his inexperience at the high school level on offense, the Raiders feel confident both players can handle the pressure of carrying the football on offense.
“They both just do a really good job with the ball in their hands,” Gold said. “They showed us in 7-on-7 that they can get open, make plays in the open field and are both terrific athletes. We’re going to be relying on them to stay conditioned and ready to play for us.”
Behind Jeffers and Henderson III, Wylie East has rising junior Keshuan Scott who will play exclusively on the offensive side of the ball. With all three options looking for carries, the key will be how each player handles the responsibilities of pass-catching and blocking in the backfield to be the lead player.
“In the modern game, you have to be able to block and catch the ball out of the backfield,” Gold said. “We don’t sub guys in and out for carries or passing plays, so everybody has to be able to do a little bit of everything and be ready when their number is called.”
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