When Carter Bradley was last offensive coordinator at Fort Gibson two seasons ago, the I was the traditional offensive formation scheme.
Back after a couple years serving on the defensive side, the I became a problem.
Two many dots sitting around to top that I.
The Tigers’ depth forced a change this year — a split back scheme utilizing two conventional tailbacks. At the center of that depth are two senior running backs with 1,000-yard seasons on their resumes.
Tavien Woodworth rushed for 1,668 yards — an average per carry of 5.1 yards — and 17 touchdowns last year as the featured back in the I. Jesse Rudd, who had 1,003 yards and 14 touchdowns as a sophomore, battled ankle issues throughout his junior year and played in eight games, but much of that on defense, with just 78 carries and yet a 4.4 yard average on those.
Add to that mix a pair of backs converted from receivers in seniors Codale Ford and Connor Brown, and there’s just so many footballs to go around.
“Now we have four tailbacks who can do what’s necessary, and with all four playing defense, it’s going to help us in both situations,” Bradley said. “The more people we can put on the field who are threats to score, it slows the defense’s reactions to what we show them and I hope it gives us a big advantage.”
Ford and Brown will both start on defense and play support roles on offense in various sets. Woodworth and Rudd will rotate at outside linebacker. Junior Devin Woodworth, senior Dylan Mills and sophomores Alaska Graves and Cage Edgmon are the leading wide receiver contenders.
That rotation signifies who stands to get the bulk of the carries, including a fully healthy Rudd.
“My ankle feels great,” he said. “I’m back and better than I ever have.”
Bradley said Rudd’s footwork has improved, as it should even with just the ankle being 100 percent. Woodworth, meanwhile, has put on about 20 pounds, much of that muscle mass, Bradley added.
Woodworth feels it too.
“I think the biggest difference will be that I can actually hit linebackers head up instead of cutting back,” he said.
Still, there’s an understanding that just like the rotation on defense, the load will be shared offensively. While defenses will have to watch both out of the backfield, there’s only so many downs from scrimmage.
“It’s an adjustment, changing from the I, but I think we’ve got great chemistry,” Rudd said. “We’re coming together as a team and working on those changes. I think we can be one of the best offenses around. Fast line, good receivers and our running backs are amazing.”
Amazing isn’t quite how Woodworth defines the situation, but you can easily get his drift.
“It puts two of the best athletes in 4A on the field at the same time,” he said.
That all helps the quarterback. A young Cameron Dornan was thrust into that role last year as a sophomore, and with a year of adjusting to the faster varsity level defenses, he’ll be better able to manage games with multiple options surrounding him.
“This isn’t a system where the quarterback has to win games,” Bradley said. “With the potential in the run game we should be able to get 3-4 yards per carry. Cameron just needs to throw it where it needs to be, even if it’s the 2-3 yard pass. He’s come a long ways since last year.”
Bradley, a quarterback in his playing days at Muskogee High, is glad to be back in his element.
“On defense I always looked at things through a quarterback’s eyes,” he said. “So it feels natural to be back on that side.”