Hattiesburg football has a recent tradition of producing successful running backs that are the Tiger offense’s driving force.
In 2017, Fabian Franklin rushed for 13 touchdowns and more than 700 yards. In 2018 Drexlan Allen rushed for over 1,200 yards and 18 touchdowns while last season Rhyen Brisco ran for over 800 yards and 10 touchdowns.
For the upcoming 2020 season, Hattiesburg will turn to top returning rusher Jaquez Andrews, who ran for 122 yards and three touchdowns.
Despite the limited experience, for the last two seasons, Andrews started at cornerback and safety.
“Being a senior, he has spent a lot more time on defense in his career than he has on offense,” Hattiesburg coach Tony Vance said. “He started for us as a sophomore corner. He started last year in every game as a safety/corner, so he’s been a guy who has been on that side of the ball a lot. He started playing running back towards the end of last year. He’s been around, and he has a lot of snaps under his belt.
“He carried the ball quite a bit for us towards the end of last year. We liked what we saw from him at running back. He is one of those guys who can take it to the house when he touches it. I always look for an explosive guy to put back there in the backfield.”
Andrews played in four games last season at running back, in which he ran for a season-high of 95 yards and two touchdowns against East Central. However, before switching to his defensive back role, Andrews was originally a running back.
“At first, my initial position was running back,” Andrews said. “When I got moved to the secondary and played cornerback, that was a position that I had never played before. Now that I’m getting the opportunity to play the position I had been playing. At this point, if I have to play running back, then that’s what I’m going to do because I’m not just a running back or a corner. I’m an athlete. I want to do what I can for the team, and that’s my main part. I want to play a part in helping my team win. Whether it’s at running back or defensive back, then that’s what I’m going to do.”
For Andrews, there is no worry of playing to the expectation of Hattiesburg’s previous successful running backs. Instead, his only goal is to help win for his team and community.
“There’s no pressure at all,” Andrews said. “I’ve been through this. I’m conditioned to where if I have to do a lot more than somebody else, then that’s what I’m training for. I thrive in that spotlight, and if it comes down to me having to make the play, then that’s what I’ll be able to do. I don’t feel pressured at all, and it’s a lesson sport. At the end of the day, I have to beat the man in front of me. I feel I have to get the job done because it’s not only for the team but for everybody in the community. (Football) helps to build the community. Football brings everybody together. If I have to be a part of bringing everybody together, then that’s what I’m going to do.”
According to Vance, Andrews’ running style is very aggressive. Last season he averaged 5.5 yards per carry.
“I had a college coach ask me how to describe his running style, and it is aggressive,” Vance said. “If you look at how Marshawn Lynch ran the ball, it kind of reminds you of Jaquez. He runs angry, and he is one of those guys that has some really good speed too. I’m looking forward to him doing some things offensively for us this year.”
For Andrews, his aggressive style comes from playing as a defensive player.
“(Running back and defensive back) are really the same,” Andrews said. “It’s just a different side of the ball. Sometimes when I’m playing defense and have a momentum that can carry to the other side of helping the offense score. If the offense scores, then I feel like I help the defense get more stops. That’s how I am. I keep it at a pace because I have to keep going until that clock hits zero. I think that’s what I’m best at is my energy throughout a whole game. As long as I have that through the game, then I think I’m good.”
For Vance, he will rely on Andrews to not only play full time on both sides of the ball for Hattiesburg, but also be a leader in the locker room.
“We always look to our seniors to lead,” Vance said. “He definitely has leadership qualities. He doesn’t talk a lot and isn’t a big talker. He is one of those guys that leads by example. He started to get a little more verbal and is understand his role on this football team.
“Defensive back came pretty natural for him, and running back is coming natural for him. He just has to be a guy that is coachable, and he loves to be coached hard. He just has to go out there at practice each and every day and try to get better.”