NORMAN — At Norman High, successful running backs have become a common theme in recent years.
The Tigers have had a 1,000-yard running back in each of coach Greg Nation’s six seasons at the school. When one graduates, another seems to step up as three different backs have accomplished the feat over that time.
“We’ve been lucky enough to have a lot of good running backs since I’ve been,” Nation said. “This year we feel like we’ve got some pretty good ones in our backfield again.”
The new potential star in the backfield for the Tigers is Darius Manning. The senior will receive the bulk of the carries with junior Ty Smith also expected to play a significant role in the running game.
“Darius, he started for us last year at our hybrid back spot and got hurt early in the season,” Nation said. “This year, he’s fully healthy and we’ve moved him to our main running back position. Then Ty will also play for us a lot and he’s a kid that I can’t say enough about. He’s got great work ethic and he’s a hard runner.”
Manning rushed for 231 yards and four touchdowns while averaging 6.4 yards per carry in four games last season.
He is replacing Dupree Young, who rushed for an average of 127 yards per game as a senior last season, as the Tigers’ primary running back.
“We’re still going to be a run-first team,” Nation said. “It’ll be a little different because we’re not as big as we used to be. We’ll have to spread it out with our sets a little bit more, but we’re always going to be run first.”
The Tigers will also have a new quarterback this season. Seniors Levi Frederickson and Travis Houck, and junior Travis Degrate remained in a three-way battle throughout the preseason.