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County seeks to replenish 1,000-yard rushers

Going into the high school football season, the running back position lacks the star power it has had in recent years for Gwinnett County teams.

Not one school returns a 1,000-yard rusher this fall. It’s the first time that’s happened since the 2004 season.

Maybe that’s because more teams have gone to passing style offenses. Or it could just be a coincidence.

But one thing is for sure, you can expect to see some new stars carrying the ball this fall.

Gwinnett County has had a long tradition of great running backs in the past. Guys like Duluth’s George Rogers, Buford’s Darius Walker, Greater Atlanta Christian’s Micah Andrews, Parkview/GAC’s Caleb King and Brookwood’s Kenny Miles and Cameron Smith have all rushed for more than 2,000 yards in a season.

The 2,000-yard club gained a pair of members last year when Mill Creek’s Jacorey Lewis and Norcross’ Alvin Kamara reached the milestone. They were two of eight running backs to rush for more than 1,000 yards last year.

But all eight of those guys have graduated, opening the door for someone to be the county’s top running back this fall.

Lanier’s Tario Fuller is the county’s top returning rusher after gaining 818 yards as a sophomore last season.

Several running backs put up good numbers in a shared role at running back last year. Mill Creek’s Gaines rushed for 798 yards despite splitting carries with Lewis. Grayson’s Aares McCall (764 yards) and David Fennell (610) shared carries with Wayne Gallman.

Parkview’s Justis Rosser didn’t become the Panthers’ feature back until Chris Carson went down late in the year with an injury. Rosser finished with 743 yards and 10 TDs.

Brookwood’s Josh Brown (688), Norcross’ Myles Autry (560) and Greater Atlanta Christian’s Micah Abernathy (517) all shared the backfield with 1,000-yard rushers a year ago.

Then there are guys like Peachtree Ridge’s Jordan Ellis (691), a Virginia commitment, and Collins Hill’s Tyler Henderson (516) who didn’t play the whole season due to injuries.

One of those guys could emerge as the next star running back in Gwinnett County this fall. Or it could be an unfamiliar name.

North Gwinnett’s C.J. Leggett, a transfer from Chatthaoochee, rushed for 500 yards and eight TDs a year ago.

Mill Creek’s Jonathan Hawkins, who transferred from Central Gwinnett, and Buford’s Thomas Wilson are two of the state’s top recruited junior running backs.

The county may not return a single 1,000-yard rusher this year, but there’s plenty of talent to fill that void this year.

TOP RUSHERS

The following is a list of Gwinnett County’s top returning rushers from last season:

Name, school Yards TDs

Tario Fuller, Lanier 818 3

DeVozea Gaines, Mill Creek 798 7

Aares McCall, Grayson 764 5

Josh Boyd, South Gwinnett 760 9

Miles Smith, Wesleyan 748 3

Justis Rosser, Parkview 743 10

Jordan Ellis, Peachtree Ridge 691 8

Josh Brown, Brookwood 688 6

David Fennell, Grayson 610 5

Myles Autry, Norcross 560 6

Micah Abernathy, GAC 517 4

Tyler Henderson, Collins Hill 516 11