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Running backs return to forefront of Gwinnett offenses

Grayson's Wayne Gallman

Grayson's Wayne Gallman

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Brookwoods Jamaal Cole

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Norcross' Alvin Kamara (6)

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Parkview's Chris Carson

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Dacula's Marcus Cox

Gwinnett County football was built around running backs.

Before George Rogers went on to win a Heisman Trophy at South Carolina, he set the single season county rushing record at Duluth.

Brookwood rode the legs of running back Paul Freeman to the 1996 state championship, the first by a Gwinnett County Public School.

Parkview's Caleb King set the state rushing record for a junior with 2,768 yards in 2005.

The county has long had a rich history of running backs. But that position took a back seat in recent years with the evolution of spread offenses. Quarterbacks began to put up big numbers, while running backs were a second thought.

Not anymore. Gwinnett County is as deep at running back as it has ever been. The county returns three 1,000-yard rushers from last year and five more that could break the mark this year.

"Wow, are you trying to make me nervous?," Grayson coach Mickey Conn said. "That's as good a group as I can ever remember."

Norcross has arguably the state's top running back in Alvin Kamara. He's the county's top returning rusher after posting a 1,197-yards, 16-touchdown season.

"Alvin is going to get his carries," Norcross head coach Keith Maloof said. "He's got to have a great year. Are they going to have a great snap every time? No, but at the end he needs to have a great game."

There's not much of a drop off after Kamara. Parkview's Chris Carson is the county's second-leading returning rusher after gaining 1,146 yards and 17 TDs.

Then there's Brookwood's Jamaal Cole, who has rushed for 1,700 yards the last two years in a shared role. Mill Creek's Jacorey Lewis rushed for 1,012 yards and 15 TDs last year as well.

Throw in Grayson's Wayne Gallman (578 yards, 7 TDs), Dacula's Marcus Cox (783 yards, 12 TDs), Archer's Ernest Alexander (891 yards, 17 TDs) and Mountain View's Marvin Elam (764 yards, 10) and Gwinnett could have eight guys rush for 1,000 yards this season. That doesn't include North Gwinnett's Donnie Miles, who rushed for 674 yards last year, and will primarily play defense this season.

"It's like SEC football every week," Parkview head coach Cecil Flowe said. "We play a good (running) back with good people every week."

Flowe will get a good look at a lot of those running backs in the first half of the season. Parkview will have to face Kamara, Gallman, Alexander, Cole and Cox in consecutive weeks.

"It's the nature of the game," Flowe said. "You've got good backs all over the place. We feel like we have a good back, too."

Parkview has a long had tradition of great running backs from Brett Millican, who holds the county career rushing record, to Brad Lester, Caleb King and Brandon Jacobs.

Jacobs was the Daily Post's Offensive Player of the Year in 2008 when he rushed for 1,577 yards and 19 TDs. He was part of a nine-year run by running backs to win the award. That changed in 2010 when Collin Hill QB Taylor Heinicke won the award after setting county passing records. Guys like North's Mikey Tamburo and South's Kent Rollins were also part of the QB boom at the end of the decade.

Spread offenses haven't dissolved, but the development of good running backs is more prevalent than QBs in the county this year.

Six of the eight running backs have offers from at least one Division I school. Kamara is the most highly touted. Recruiting services rank him as the state's No. 1 running back and No. 5 in the country. Gallman has already committed to Clemson and Carson has offers from ACC schools.

This group of senior running backs will be the first time Gwinnett has had three sign with BCS programs.

"There's a lot of great running backs," Maloof said. "This year in the county the talent is unbelievable."

RUN THIS TOWN

Here's a look at Gwinnett's top returning running backs.

Name - School - Yards - TDs

Ernest Alexander - Archer - 891 - 17

Chris Carson - Parkview - 1,146 - 17

Jamaal Cole - Brookwood - 739 - 12

Marcus Cox - Dacula - 783 - 12

Marvin Elam - Mountain View - 764 - 10

Wayne Gallman - Grayson - 578 - 7

Alvin Kamara - Norcross - 1,197 - 16

Jacorey Lewis - Mill Creek - 1,012 - 15