By Craig Haley, FCS Executive Director
Third of an eight-part series featuring the best Football Championship Subdivision players at various positions.
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
You would expect to find a blue cape with an "S" underneath Nate Eachus' Colgate football jersey.
Instead it's a short-sleeved black shirt.
Eachus, the FCS' 2010 leading rusher, was given the shirt by teammate Andrew Nairin and he doesn't remember going a game or practice without it last year.
OK, so maybe Eachus is a little superstitious. But you can't blame him for knowing what works great.
Nor can you blame Colgate head coach Dick Biddle for knowing what works, like giving the ball time and again to Eachus, one of the Top 10 FCS running backs this season.
As a junior, not only did Eachus' 1,871 rushing yards top the FCS, but the workhorse was No. 1 in scoring average (12 ppg), tied for the national lead with 22 touchdowns and averaged more carries per game (28.8) than any other back. He averaged 5.9 yards on his 317 carries.
"I think I'm going to be shooting for some higher expectations," Eachus said. "I've been successful and I was healthy last year to have as good of a season as I had. The great thing about this year is we have our whole offensive line coming back."
Eachus will be a leading candidate for the Walter Payton Award, which honors the outstanding player in the FCS, is presented by The Sports Network and sponsored by Fathead.com. He finished sixth in the voting last year.
Nate Eachus sits seventh in Patriot League history with 3,722 rushing yards.
The 5-foot-10, 216-pounder sits seventh in Patriot League history with 3,722 rushing yards, is destined to pass former Colgate star and 2003 Payton Award winner Jamaal Branch (4,108) and would become No. 1 if he reaches a potential goal of 2,000 yards this season. His former teammate, Jordan Scott, rushed for 5,621 yards at Colgate from 2005-08.
"Two-thousand yards would be great," Eachus said. "Personally, I try to set goals. I do set team goals first, which is (to) win the league, which is most important. And I would like to get 2,000 yards. As long as we're getting wins, the yards will come."
Eachus, from Drums, Pa., has a calm demeanor on the field. The all-business approach has led to him improving diet this offseason, and he says he feels faster and stronger.
That's not good news for opposing defenses, of course. Eachus already has seven 200-yard games in his career, including a school-record 291 yards against Cornell last season.
He wants to do a better job with ball security. He doesn't wear gloves, even late in the season when the weather can turn wintry in Hamilton, N.Y.
"People say that maybe I get worn out after 30 carries in a game, but I feel like I get better as the game goes on. ... It becomes easy for me in the fourth quarter," Eachus said.
"I'm just a low runner that goes to the hole fast and stays low. I guess you can say that a lot of it's from wrestling in high school. In wrestling, you've got to be down and on your feet. They both go hand-in-hand for each other. I'm so low, pretty quick and once in a while I'll be shifty. That's my style. I'm the kind of person who gives the blow and doesn't take the blow."
Opposing defenses will focus their game plans around stopping Eachus. Although Colgate, 7-4 last season, will return all five of their starting offensive linemen, it will be inexperienced at quarterback because of the graduation of three-year starter Greg Sullivan. Junior Josh Hasenberg or sophomore Gaven McCarney figure to line up under center as the new starter.
"What leads to running the ball a lot is the play-action pass. I think we're going to surprise a lot of teams this year, just throwing and running," Eachus said.
"What goes through my head is that I want to try and score every time. I'm an angry runner, try and score, don't take anything for granted."
Here are nine more running backs who are part of The Sports Network's FCS Preseason Top 10:
Eric Breitenstein, Wofford, Jr., 5-11, 205 - All right, Breitenstein is a fullback in the Terriers' triple option, but he's anything but a traditional plodding fullback. He isn't an exceptionally fast runner, but it often takes two defenders to bring him down, even when the defense knows Breitenstein will be running up the middle. His ability to make tacklers miss him and then find open space led to him rushing for a school-record 1,639 yards and 22 touchdowns on over six yards per carry last season. He went over 200 yards against both Furman and Samford.
Jamaine Cook, Youngstown State, Jr., 5-9, 195 - Penguins head coach Eric Wolford calls Cook the hardest worker on the team. He rushed for 1,276 yards and 11 touchdowns last season and the Penguins had a subpar offensive line. He should be even better as the line matures this season. He spins out of tackles and often makes something out of nothing. He's also an excellent pass catcher, with 25 receptions a year ago. Against Illinois State, Cook had 311 all- purpose yards and three touchdowns.
Tim Flanders, Sam Houston State, So., 5-9, 208 - Injuries hampered what could have been an incredible season for the Kansas State transfer last season. He rushed for at least 100 yards and a touchdown in all seven games in which he played four quarters, finishing with 948 yards and 13 touchdowns on 172 carries. He is a powerful runner who stays low to the ground, whether between the tackles or on the edges. The I-formation runner still has a little "Wildcat" in him as he runs some of the Bearkats' plays out of the "wildcat" formation.
Nate Eachus, Colgate: Oct. 29 vs. Lehigh
Eric Breitenstein, Wofford: Sept. 10 at Clemson
Jamaine Cook, Youngstown State: Oct. 15 at Southern Illinois
Tim Flanders, Sam Houston State: Sept. 17 vs. Central Arkansas
Jonathan Grimes, William & Mary: Sept. 24 vs. James Madison
Mike Harris, Murray State: Sept. 1 at Louisville
Mike Mayhew, North Carolina A&T: Sept. 10 at Appalachian State
D.J. McNorton, North Dakota State: Oct. 29 vs. Northern Iowa
Andrew Pierce, Delaware: Oct. 8 vs. William & Mary
Nick Schwieger, Dartmouth: Oct. 29 at Harvard
Jonathan Grimes, William & Mary, Sr., 5-10, 201 - The Tribe rely heavily on the production of Grimes, who enters his final season with 5,445 all-purpose yards, which ranks ninth in CAA Football history. He's not exceptionally fast, but he's tough between the tackles, catches passes out of the backfield and returns kickoffs. Grimes has rushed for 3,110 career yards in the brutally tough conference. He has earned All-CAA first-team honors in each of the past two seasons.
Mike Harris, Murray State, Sr., 5-11, 200 - A late-season ankle injury prevented Harris from eclipsing 1,000 yards last season, but he averaged 100.4 yards over nine games. The former junior college transfer has a quick first step and breakaway speed, as evidenced by his 94-yard touchdown run in a 242- yard performance against Tennessee Tech last season. He averaged 6.5 yards per rush. In the Racers' spread attack, opponents have to be ready for Harris as a pass catcher as well.
Mike Mayhew, North Carolina A&T, Sr., 5-10, 205 - The 2009 MEAC Rookie of the Year has a natural ability to find a seam and get through it. He won't break away for long runs consistently, but instead compiles yards with his downhill style. Mayhew rushed for 1,082 yards and seven touchdowns on 221 carries as a junior, including 211 yards on 31 carries against a solid Bethune-Cookman defense.
D.J. McNorton, North Dakota State, Sr., 5-10, 203 - The versatility of McNorton puts a scare into opponents. A superb athlete who will draw some NFL interest next year, he rushed for 1,559 yards and had 433 receiving yards last season, when the Bison won two FCS playoff games and reached the national quarterfinals. McNorton not only is elusive, but he has excellent vision. Defenders really have to wrap him up to bring him down.
Andrew Pierce, Delaware, So., 5-11, 200 - Delaware had some good running backs returning last season, but it didn't stop Pierce from grabbing the starting job and running with it - literally. He opened his Delaware career by rushing for at least 100 yards and a touchdown in his first four games. With the Blue Hens reaching the FCS title game, Pierce had a national-high 329 carries for 1,655 yards and 14 touchdowns in 15 games. He rushed for 186 yards in a national semifinal against Georgia Southern and 142 yards and a touchdown in the championship game loss to Eastern Washington. He's a fast, but patient runner who doesn't make mistakes and grinds out yards between the tackles.
Nick Schwieger, Dartmouth, Sr., 5-10, 210 - If you're looking for a workhorse, it's Schwieger, who carried the ball at least 25 times in eight of his nine games last season. He has an excellent vision of the field and is a strong and powerful runner who wears down defenses. He shared the Bushnell Cup for Ivy League player of the year after rushing for a league-best 1,133 yards and 14 touchdowns. He also caught 28 passes for 210 yards.
Running backs on the cusp: Carlos Anderson, Northern Iowa, Jr., 5-8, 172; Jordan Brown, Bryant, Jr., 5-9, 185; Miguel Maysonet, Stony Brook, Jr., 5-10, 205; Jonathan Hernandez, Massachusetts, Sr., 5-11, 190