Stallworth has big shoes to fill for UC
By RICH STEVENS
DAILY MAIL ASSISTANT SPORTS EDITOR
When it comes to replacing an all-West Virginia Conference performer and a free agent signing of the Kansas City Chiefs, University of Charleston running back C.J. Stallworth knows he doesn't have to carry the load, just some of it.
Then again, he's more than prepared to do what's necessary.
The junior and the Golden Eagles will open the 2013 season in the newly minted Mountain East Conference at 1 p.m. on Saturday against Shaw University at Durham County Memorial Stadium in Raleigh, N.C.
It's likely a committee of backs will be called upon to replace the production from former star Jordan Roberts, who was signed as an NFL free agent by the Chiefs, but recently released.
The other guy expected to share the load is senior Leighton Settle, a transfer from Mid-American Conference member Northern Illinois.
It's likely that Stallworth will lead the way after adding 15 pounds of muscle and the desire to finish runs.
"I'd say I would carry the ball, probably, 20 times a game," said Stallworth, who averaged 3.3 carries a game last year and just eight per contest in high school at Orange Park (Fla.).
The addition of 15 pounds of muscle to his 5-foot, 10-inch frame has given Stallworth just the right amount of bulk without diminishing his speed while working out with a trainer and his high school head coach, Craig Nosse.
"I also ran every day," Stallworth said. "Once I lifted I knew I had to run to be able to hold the weight. I feel, physically, I'm in shape and I have the right amount of weight on me to handle such a load. I feel comfortable doing so."
Last season his opportunities were limited behind Roberts, who had 238 carries (21.6 per game), and backup quarterback John Knox, who had 84 in 11 games, and starting QB Maurice Leak, who was credited with 56 carries.
The University of Charleston was tops in the WVC and 12th in NCAA Division II in rushing last season, averaging 246.36 per game. Roberts had 1,572 of those yards and Stallworth finished with 36 carries for 168 yards and one touchdown.
Even in high school, Stallworth averaged "about 7-8 carries" a game, which means that UC Coach Pat Kirkland is asking a lot of Stallworth and Settle. Settle is a 5-10, 200-pounder who had 101 carries for 453 yards (4.6 yards per carry) and five touchdowns. Settle also caught four passes for 20 yards in eight games, while Stallworth didn't have a reception for UC.
Out of 719 offensive plays, 66.8 percent of those (480) were rushing plays.
"We are a run-oriented offense, very pro style, have a great running game and be efficient in the passing game," Kirkland said. "To have a guy like C.J. Stallworth, he's in great shape, he worked hard in the offseason. He wants to get the ball 25-28 times a game and he's very capable of doing that.
"So is Leighton Settle, he adds another element to the offense as well."
Kirkland said giving that many carries to one player is realistic, but may not be necessary depending on what the defense shows.
"If we have to throw the ball to win that game, we're going to throw it," he said. "If we're having success running the ball, we're going to do so. In a perfect world, we'll be balanced 50-50."
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SHAW IS ENTERING its second season under Coach Robert Massey, whose team dropped a 44-26 decision to the Golden Eagles at University of Charleston Stadium in 2012.
The Bears will be more diverse at quarterback with senior Quinshon Odom. Last season, James Stallons - a dropback passer - dominated the offense and averaged more than 20 passes per game.
Odom played in five games and attempted just one pass, completed for 9 yards, but Kirkland said the Shaw offense will challenge the UC defense more with a quarterback who can run.