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Sizing it up
Local backs succeed with contrasting frames

Parkview's Brandon Jacobs has the prototypical size for a big-time running back. The senior is 6-foot-2, 230 pounds with big bruising legs and breakaway speed.

Grayson's Ean Pemberton has the size of a gymnast - small and compact. The junior stands 5-foot-4, 140 pounds and uses his stature to hide behind blockers and pick up yards.

The duo have their own styles that benefit their team's offenses. They are also part of a major contrast in the county - big running backs and small running backs and little gray area in between.

Looking at running backs across the county, there's a stark contrast. There are the big backs with bulk like Jacobs or Norcross' D.J. Adams (5-9, 211), Collins Hill's Charles Perkins (6-1, 210) and GAC's Blake Southerland (6-2, 230).

Then there are the smaller guys like Pemberton, Buford's Cody Getz (5-7, 157), North Gwinnett's Tyler Jarry (5-11, 180) and Dacula's Cody Davis (5-10, 163).

But does a certain size at the running back position put a player at an advantage or disadvantage?

Jacobs and Pemberton are about as far of a contrast as you can get, but when you look at each player's production and value to the team it's very similar.

"Brandon Jacobs is hard to bring down. He's a big, physical runner," Grayson head coach Mickey Conn said. "They also have TaRon Squires and with him they've got a great one-two punch with those two. But Brandon Jacobs is very talented."

Jacobs has the frame that a big time colleges look for, which is why the senior has committed to Auburn. He leads the county in rushing with 676 yards and 10 touchdowns and has his Panthers off to a 3-1 record heading into tonight's showdown with Grayson (4-0).

"It's not always size," Jacobs said. "Of course size helps, but it depends on the back, the O-line."

Big backs like Jacobs tend to run out of the I-formation. With their big, bruising frames they get a full head of steam by the time they hit the line of scrimmage. Make a move on a linebacker and then lower a shoulder on a safety and it's a big gain.

The county's rushing leaders feature several big backs like Jacobs, Adams and Perkins.

But then there are those smaller, shifty guys like Pemberton that make their way toward the top of the county's rushing list.

"I don't find it a disadvantage," Pemberton said of his size. "I actually think it's an advantage because they can't see me as well and with blocking I can get lower."

As a sophomore, Pemberton rushed for 1,025 yards last year. Through four games this season, he has 454 yards which is good for fifth in the county in yards per game.

For a player 5-4 like Pemberton, there probably is not a better offense than the wing-T. The offense can create a lot of misdirection and confusion in the backfield, allowing a smaller player to get lost in the shuffle.

"He's definitely hard to find and has a great burst of speed," Conn said of Pemberton. "I think he would be great in any offense, but he works even better in the wing-T. He gets behind those guards or tackles and he's hard to find, especially with the ball."

Then there are the spread offenses that like to dump off a lot of passes to running backs. A quick juke and the back has picked up four of five yards, which is just as good as a big bruising runner going between the tackles.

That's where guys like North Gwinnett's Jarry excels. Last year as a junior, Jarry caught a county-record 72 passes and still rushed for 856 yards.

So whether a team has a guy 6-2, 230 pounds or a player 5-4, 140, having a big bruising runner or a quick playmaker has its own advantages.

One thing Jacobs and Pemberton agree on is that it's not always how big you are that will make you successful.

"Size doesn't really matter, it's the fight in the dog," Jacobs said.

Added Pemberton: "To be honest, I'm satisfied with my height. Coach Conn tells me before the game it doesn't matter how big you are.

"It just matters how big your heart is and I go out there thinking every game that I'm just as big as they are."