LaDarius Summers started slowly.
However, the Smyrna High running back ended his junior season on a bang.
“He struggled some with the adjustment we made in offenses during the season,” Smyrna sixth-year coach Matt Williams said. “But once he finally got mentally on board, his talents really came through.
“He showed what he could do.”
Summers finished with 295 yards on 57 carries. He had a career-best 128 yards on 28 carries in a narrow 21-14 loss to Ravenwood.
That came a week after the running back ran for 96 yards on 12 carries against District 7-AAA rival Oakland.
“It was fun,” said Summers, who finished the season with 539 all-purpose yards. “I got a good relationship with the coaches during the season.”
That relationship only improved in the offseason.
Williams said Summers became a leader in the offseason after the two talked. That leadership was noticeable in the offseason during spring practice.
“We knew all along he had the talent,” Williams said. “Now, he’s become a leader for us.”
Summers is a small, shifty back with good acceleration. He has the ability to break long plays with his speed. More important, he has to show confidence and lead by example.
“The coaches have told me I need to be a leader on the team,” Summers said. “My teammates are dependent on me to be a leader. I’ve got to step up and be that guy.”
Smyrna is coming off a rare 1-9 season in 2012 and missed the playoffs for the first time since 2009. However, the majority of the Bulldogs return.
An improved run game is critical to getting the Bulldogs back in the playoffs. Smyrna averaged just 70.6 yards a game on the ground in 2012.
Summers should help fix those woes. Williams says his running back reminds him of former Smyrna standout Jeremiah Bryson, who is now a sophomore at Middle Tennessee State University.
“He reminds me of Bryson when he gets in small spaces,” Williams said. “He’s not very big. But he’s extremely strong.
“He’s a threat to take it all the way any time he gets in the open field.”