CONWAY — This time last year, Coastal Carolina running back Jeremy Height was winding down another quiet campaign after seeing his workload decrease over the course of the season. He’d finish with 197 rushing yards on a modest 3.5 per carry and didn’t exactly seem to be laying the foundation for a breakthrough 2012.
But here he is, coming off three straight games with at least 89 rushing yards and averaging a robust 7.3 yards per carry in that span while closing in on an impressive accomplishment. Height’s senior surge should send him into the Chanticleers’ record book this week as he needs only 42 yards to become the program’s single-season leader in all-purpose yardage – a mark set by 2004 Big South Offensive Player of the Year Patrick Hall with 1,166.
“I wasn’t really too worried about stats – just getting as many Ws. That’s the only stat I’m really concerned about,” Height said.
He’s had a hand in that too. Helped by a suddenly proficient rushing attack, the Chants (4-4, 2-1 Big South) are in the midst of their most impressive stretch of the season with two straight lopsided wins following a competitive loss to conference power Stony Brook.
While outsiders may not have expected Height to be leading the offensive charge, first-year CCU offensive coordinator Dave Patenaude liked what he saw from the start with the senior from Townsend, Ga.
“I just thought that he was really versatile,” Patenaude said. “He was good in the run game, good out of the backfield, has good hands and then was a pretty-good pass protector, and that’s really a big piece of what that kid has to do in this offense. He had good vision, good lateral movement. He probably doesn’t have that last gear, but he was the most consistent guy we had early on in camp and in the spring also.”
And especially so the last few weeks.
Height rushed for 97 yards all in the first half at VMI two weeks ago and went for 99 yards and two touchdowns in just 12 carries last week against Liberty. He’s scored five touchdowns in the last three weeks and with 559 rushing yards through eight games he has already well surpassed Travis Small’s team-leading total of 432 from last year.
“I’m just going out with a bang, just having fun, being out here with the senior class that I came in with and just coming out here each and every day working hard and getting better,” Height said.
Collectively, the Chants have piled up three-straight 200-yard rushing games after having none through the first five games this fall. Patenaude says the progression of the team’s ground attack is mostly a function of opportunity.
“When you’re playing closer games and you’re able to run the ball, we’re not in situations where we have to throw it 50-60 times a game,” he said. “We’re playing very good defense and that allows us to run the ball and have the play-action game off of that and not just have to drop back and sling the ball. And I think when you do that and you get yourself in a little bit of a rhythm and the guys believe what we’re doing, that’s a big part of it. And we’ve been running the same five run plays since we got here and guys are just starting to figure out how to execute them.”
Senior quarterback Aramis Hillary remains “day-to-day” with the neck injury he sustained last Saturday. In his weekly news conference Wednesday, CCU head coach Joe Moglia said the team will prepare redshirt-freshman Alex Ross to start just in case.
“He’s going to be a question mark up until game time,” Moglia said. “... We’ve got to make sure Alex is ready to go, and if Aramis is able to go certainly he’s deserved that spot. That’s his spot, but we’ve got to prepare as if he’s not going to be there.”
Patenaude had said Tuesday he expects Hillary to play but that the quarterback’s progress would be evaluated later in the week.
Contact RYAN YOUNG at 626-0318.