Aug. 13, 2012
BEAUMONT - Last season, it didn't take Lamar football fans long to realize that transfer running back DePauldrick Garrett was going to help provide the balance that had been missing from the Cardinals' offense.
Garrett carried 20 times for 105 yards and a school record four touchdowns in Lamar's season-opening 58-0 home win over Texas College. Two weeks later after just four carries against Incarnate Word, Garrett's season was over with a shoulder injury.
The former West Orange-Stark star is now back after gaining a medical redshirt to lead a group of talented running backs. Lamar's offense will rely even more on its running game in 2012 as quarterback Andre Bevil and star wide receivers J.J. Hayes and Marcus Jackson are gone.
"It really made us reevaluate," said running backs coach James Brown about the Garrett injury. "We thought he'd be in for at least half the season and that was the third game of the season he got hurt. But, you have to be prepared. You have to have depth at that position. Mike Venson really stepped up. Running backs are expected to get banged up and the next guy has to step up and make plays.
"We made a conscious effort to go out and get running backs. Teams in this conference have to be able to run the ball to get first downs. We made a big effort to go out and get running backs and we have a good crew."
Venson, also a redshirt junior this year, finished the 2011 season with 332 yards on 104 carries to lead the Cardinals. Caleb Harmon, who will also see time at fullback, is the other returnee in the backfield. Harmon carried 48 times in 2011 for 169 yards and a score.
Garrett is focused on a successful return this year as he appreciates the pressure that will be placed on his position. While last season turned into a personal disappointment, Garrett has two years remaining to accomplish his goals.
"It crushed all the goals I had," said Garrett about his injury. "I wanted to help Lamar turn its program around last year by giving them something they didn't have the season before which was a running attack. Fortunately I'm happy to be back. I hope I can pick up where I left off last season.
"I went through the spring and didn't have any pain and so far (this fall) I haven't had any pain. I feel as if I'm 100 percent. As far as football and all my mechanics, I feel like I'm 100 percent."
Garrett is not only looked upon by the coaches to perform on the field, but he gladly accepts his role as a mentor to the rest of the backs on the team.
"Sometimes I find myself out there trying to coach," said Garrett. "That's what I'm supposed to do with the experience I have to help the younger guys come along. At the end of the day, they know I'm trying to help them compete and be better as a running back."
The three newcomers are Oklahoma State transfer Herschel Sims and freshmen Darrell Harris and Desmond Richards. Harris was a Texas Class 4A all-state selection as a senior after rushing for 2,592 yards and 24 touchdowns for Waco High School Richards posted similar numbers with 2,437 yards and 31 scores as a senior at Magnolia West High School.
Brown has consistently seen the running backs position improve each season. In 2010, Lamar managed just one rushing touchdown in 11 games while last year the Cards struck 14 times on the ground in 11 games. The position continues to improve under Brown as evidenced by early play in the preseason.
"They've taken to each other," said Brown about the play through the first week of camp. "Herschel came in with a different work ethic coming from Oklahoma State. Our guys are gravitating toward that. We're a lot better at running back and I think the team will be a lot better for it."
Sims is perhaps the most high-profile player to come to Lamar after being named the Texas 5A Offensive Player of the Year as a junior at Abilene High School. The 5-foot-8, 215-pounder ran for 242 yards as a true freshman at OSU with a pair of 100-yard games.
"It's a big difference coming from the Big 12 and a bigger program," said Sims about the move to Lamar. "I feel like I just have to see what I can do to make that adjustment, but not try to change anything I've been doing with my work ethic. I just need to work as hard as I know I can and try to help contribute with this new program.
"I think we have a lot of talent at the running back position. We have a couple of freshmen who came in who might look for some early playing time. With me and DePauldrick here, I think we have a great 1-2 punch. Hopefully we can set a good example for the young guys."
Lamar opens the season at Louisiana-Lafayette on Sept. 1 at 6 p.m. The Cardinals' home opener will be the following Saturday (Sept. 8) at 7 p.m. when Prairie View A&M visits Provost Umphrey Stadium. Lamar will host five games following the Prairie View A&M contest. Highlights of the home schedule include the homecoming contest against McMurray at 7 p.m. Oct. 13 and a Southland Conference game against national runner-up Sam Houston State at 3 p.m. Oct. 27.
Tickets can be purchased at the Montagne Center ticket office, by calling (409) 880-1715, or visiting www.LamarCardinals.com.