The two most productive running backs in the Big Sky Conference will share center stage at Woodward Field on Saturday, when 21st-ranked Weber State and 14th-ranked Eastern Washington square off in a Big Sky Conference football matchup.
But aside from their effectiveness and impressive numbers, Weber State’s Trevyn Smith and EWU’s Taiwan Jones would appear to have little in common.
Smith, a 5-foot-9, 210-pound senior, is a north-and-south runner and fourth-year starter who has been a first-team All-Big Sky Selection each of past three seasons for the Wildcats (2-3, 2-1 BSC).
Jones is a 6-1, 200-pound sophomore speedster and converted cornerback, who will be playing in just his sixth college game as a running back for the Eagles (4-1, 3-0).
“They’re two completely different kinds of runners,” said Weber State coach Ron McBride, whose Wildcats are coming off an unexpected 26-21 home loss to Montana State. “Jones has true speed. He can hit the hole and then bounce all the way back to the side of the field and pick up considerable yards.
“He’s a sweet player who appears to have good leg strength and a lot of speed.”
Smith, according to McBride, is more of a “proven commodity” and “blue-collar type,” who is going to make tacklers miss.
“He’s going to break some tackles and he’s going to squirm and do whatever it takes to get some yards,” McBride added.
Jones leads the Big Sky in rushing with an average of 115.4 yards per game and a 9.2 yards-per-carry average. He has gained 577 yards on 63 carries and leads the conference in scoring with nine touchdowns and 54 points.
Smith, who is Weber’s all-time leading rusher as the only back in school history to gain more than 4,000 yards, has carried 114 times for 525 yards and four touchdowns this fall.
Eastern coach Beau Baldwin, when asked to comment on the progress Jones has made since switching positions last spring, said, “He’s just getting better with every carry.
“More than anything, Taiwan is a natural tailback, from a standpoint of his vision and his patience. Obviously, the speed that goes with that is huge, because it allows for the home-run ball.”
Baldwin was asked again, during Wednesday’s weekly BSC coaches’ conference call, about the status of Eastern’s appeal of the postseason ban the NCAA placed on the school for 2009 as the result of a series of minor infractions that occurred under his predecessor, Paul Wulff.
Baldwin said he’s as much in dark about the appeal as anyone.
“We really don’t know where it stands,” he said. “We could learn tomorrow, or it could be a month from now, we really don’t know. But, again, our (players) have done a good job of not thinking about what they can’t control – which is that.”
As long as the ban is in effect, the Eagles are not eligible for the Big Sky regular-season title. But if the ban is lifted, they will become title-eligible immediately.
Montana State cracked the Sports Network Top 25 poll this week, giving the Big Sky four ranked teams – No. 3 Montana, No. 14 Eastern Washington, No. 21 Weber State and No. 24 MSU – for the first time this season. … EWU senior quarterback Matt Nichols has thrown 136 passes since his last interception, which came in the first half of the Eagles’ season-opening win over Western Oregon. He has also moved within 300 passing yards and 373 yards of total offense of moving past former Payton Award winner Erik Meyer and becoming Eastern’s career leader in both categories. … A win over Weber State would give EWU its first 4-0 start in Big Sky play.