By BEN JOHNSON
No one is going to confuse them with Chris Johnson and LenDale White. Yet, Tahlequah’s duo of Brandon Conrad and Colton Wright is taking on the moniker coined by the recently-successful Tennessee Titans tandem.
“We just call each other Smash and Dash,” Conrad said. “It’s that one-two combo that really helps.”
And just to be clear, Conrad and Wright didn’t swipe the nickname from the professional pair.
“We just thought of it one day out of the blue,” Conrad said.
For Conrad, the 5-foot-11, 175-pound tailback will be partnered up again in the backfield yet again this season. In 2012, Conrad spelled Mason McMillan on occasions.
Don’t worry, Conrad and McMillan had their own nickname.
“When we went to (a two back set),” Conrad, “we called ourselves Black Ops.”
With all names aside, Conrad — a senior this year — will be forced to take on a much heavier burden in the Tigers’ offense in 2013. While the amount of carries is still unknown, it will still be up to Conrad and Wright to fill the void left by McMillan — who left as Tahlequah’s single-season rushing record holder.
“We see a big dynamic in him,” Tahlequah head coach Brad Gilbert said of Conrad. “He provides big plays, offensively. He’ll also be playing every snap on defense, so we’ll have to limit the amount of carries he gets on offense.”
Easier said than done, considering Gilbert’s high praise of Conrad’s ability once the pigskin is in his grasp.
“When he has the ball,” Gilbert said, “good things happen for this football team.”
Conrad’s elusiveness, coupled with a pair of mobile quarterbacks in David Dick and Will Carlile, has Conrad promising high hopes for the Tigers’ offense once the season gets started in September.
“We have a chance to put up a lot of points this year,” said Conrad, who averaged 10.3 yards per carry while logging close to 300 yards rushing during his junior campaign.
“We should be able to score on just about any team we play.”
The key, however, will be for Tahlequah to thwart an opponent’s offense. Thus the decision to move Conrad from safety to cornerback this year.
“He has started 20 games at safety,” Gilbert said. “Now we’re moving him to corner. We’re asking him to shut down some of the better wide receivers of our opponents.”
Conrad has certainly signed off on the defensive switch.
“I feel really comfortable at corner,” he said. “I love it. Sometimes I miss safety, when I was around free safety. But I like playing corner.”
To add to Conrad’s workload, he could even log time at wide receiver. It just depends on the timing and the defenses’ alignment, Gilbert said.
“There may be a chance of him getting the ball at wide receiver,” Gilbert said. “I know this, he feels better getting the ball immediately. I’m not saying he can’t catch the ball, I’m just saying Brandon likes to get the ball immediately in the backfield.”
And as Gilbert pointed out, what’s when good things happen for the Tigers.
Q&A: Brandon Conrad, Tahlequah running back/cornerback
Brandon Conrad is about to enter the most important period of his athletic career. The senior running back/cornerback has the athletic ability to get looks at the next level, and his ability in the high jump in track will certainly catch someone’s eye.
“Colleges are intrigued by his ability,” Tahlequah head coach Brad Gilbert said of Conrad. “And I’m sure he would have opportunities in track, too.”
For now, Conrad will focus on racking up rushing yards and breaking up passes for Tahlequah during the 2013 football season.
Is there something about Brandon Conrad that we might not know about?
Everybody that pretty much knows me knows me that I pretty much stay at my house and play video games.
What’s your favorite game?
Right now, it’s NBA 2K15.
Do you have a dynasty going? And if so, with what team?
Yeah, with the Thunder, definitely. I’ve won two titles so far.
You’re replacing Mason McMillan — the school’s single season rushing leader. Is there any pressure on you and Colton Wright to fill the void left by McMillan?
Nah, I’m just going to take it one snap at a time. When I get my opportunity, I’m going to go out there and try to do my best. I’m really not going to think about his records.
You feel comfortable at running back after receiving playing time there last season?
Yeah, I’m in a good comfort zone with it. I know, kind of, what to expect.
Wide receiver appears to be a thin right now. Are you open to playing there, if needed?
I’ve told the coaches I’ll play receiver, or any position they need me to play. It’s just whatever I can do for them.
You’re a two-sport athlete who is in football and track. Which one do you prefer over the other?
I’m trying to decide. I want to go to college, but I don’t know what I want to go to college in yet. If I excel in football, I’ll probably go in football. If I excel in track, I’ll probably go in track. I just haven’t chose yet.
At the state track meet, you narrowly missed getting first place in the high jump. What was that like?
My second to last jump, I was close to getting over the bar. My last one was close, too, but not was close as the second to last jump. I was a little disappointed because I knew I had lost.
You competed on your home track during the regional, which featured awful weather (temperatures in the low 40s and high winds with sleet). What was that like?
It was terrible. Mostly, I was just focused on qualifying for the state meet and getting back inside. It was cold.
As a multi-sport athlete, have you ever considered playing basketball or joining the wrestling team?
I think the coaches are going to try talk me into playing basketball, but I don’t think I’ll play.