Any questions for Oakland football coach Thomas McDaniel regarding depth at running back were answered quickly Friday morning.
Fred Wade is back and healthy.
Ditto for Darryle Hood Jr.
Oh, and so is Josh Cunningham.
Those three stood out with the ground game in a preseason scrimmage with Beech. Both Wade and Hood had impressive runs with the first team offenses against the Buccaneers — the defending Class 5A state champion.
Wade had two touchdowns and nearly broke multiple long runs. The senior running back missed his junior season with a torn ACL.
Hood had surgery on his foot after the season. Cunningham, who had one long TD run and at least one short-yardage TD run, was injured in junior varsity play last year.
“For me being with the running backs and I’m sure (assistant) Gaston (Miller) would say the same thing, Fred and D.J. are further along right now than we anticipated them to be,” McDaniel said. “Neither one of them went through any live drills in spring practice. They still haven’t been 100 percent.
“I thought they were both further along than I thought they’d be. They both had some physical runs, had some hard yards and got popped some times. I feel like D.J. is 100 percent. I don’t know about Fred. But both Fred and I feel like he’s further along than we thought he would be right now.”
McDaniel said as good as Cunningham has looked running the football, he must play in the Patriots’ secondary as well.
“The dilemma is that Cunningham has come so far on defense that he has to factor in on defense because now we have Emmanuel (Smith), Tyler (Black) and Josh (Smith) all three that can play safety. All three needs to get touches on offense.”
However, depth at running back isn’t the only luxury for the sixth-year Oakland coach in regard to skill players.
Emmanuel Smith, a Vanderbilt commitment, appears to have made an easy adjustment to wide receiver. Smith, who started at quarterback the past two seasons, will take some snaps at quarterback in Oakland’s wildcat package.
Emmanuel Smith hit Black for a long gain when Black came back and snagged Smith’s pass around a Beech defender. Black, who also showed an ability to make plays off handoffs has continued to show the Oakland staff that he will need to get the ball this season. Receiver George Gbeese also showed progress.
“The problem will continue to be that there is only one football, and we’ve got to figure out ways to get these guys touches, and manage the game appropriately,” McDaniel said. “But that will come as we get further along.”
Emmanuel Smith said having multiple skill players gives the Patriots a luxury.
“Teams can’t just focus on one player,” he said. “They have to stay honest because we have so many good football players on the field at one time.”