Vols senior goes from hard-hitting defender to hard-charging running back

Posted Monday, Sep. 16, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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When he was the defensive coordinator for Bowie last season, Danny DeArman knew he could count on defensive back Trenton Shumate to run fast and hit hard.

Now, as the Volunteers’ first-year coach, DeArman is counting on Shumate to bring his speedy, physical style to the running back position. The 5-foot-9, 175-pound Shumate still has a bit to learn about playing on offense for the first time.

But the senior is showing signs of fitting in at his new position and perhaps becoming one of the Vols’ most consistent threats to find the end zone. And he can do it from seemingly anywhere on the field. Shumate has scored three rushing touchdowns through three games — all from 20-plus yards out.

“We didn’t know if he was going to be able to carry the football, didn’t know if he could handle the pressure, didn’t know if he was going to hold onto the football, didn’t know if he was going to be able to pass-block,” DeArman said. “There were a lot of unknowns.”

Shumate is becoming a known quantity. He has rushed for 220 yards with an average of 7.1 yards per carry to help lead Bowie, which opens district play Sept. 26 against Weatherford at Wilemon Field, to a 2-1 start.

Not only has he been effective running the ball, Shumate has also caught seven passes for 87 yards. Not bad for a former cornerback who didn’t switch to offense until pre-season practices in August.

“Once [DeArman] told me I was going to play running back, I was kind of excited because it was going to help the team out,” Shumate said. “So I put all my effort toward it and worked hard at it, and now you’re getting to see it.”

Shumate worked at receiver and cornerback over the summer in the informal 7-on-7 leagues. But once pre-season practices began, DeArman decided Shumate should focus on running back. The Vols offense boasts a talented corps of slot receivers, led by Brican Crossley, who can also double as effective running backs. But the coach felt his offense would lose an element without the likes of Crossley lining up to catch passes.

And DeArman knew Shumate fit the bill at running back if he could use his toughness in a new way.

“That’s what’s positive for us. We have a kid who is tough,” DeArman said. “At defensive back his first game on JV, we didn’t know if he could hit or not. We didn’t know if he could tackle. The first play he’s in, he stroked somebody. Everybody’s jumping up and down. ‘We got us one, we got us one. We’ve got a defensive back who will hit.’”

Shumate had to turn his tackling skills into pass-blocking ability. But that’s not the only nuance of the new position that presented a potential obstacle.

“The one thing I really had to work on is holding onto the ball and not fumbling it,” he said. “When it’s the fourth quarter with one minute left, I can’t fumble the ball.”

Quarterback Tony James, who switched to quarterback from receiver last season after Keaton Perry was sidelined by an injury, is steadily gaining confidence in Shumate, whom he describes as a smart player who constantly goes hard.

“I feel like he’s getting better every day,” James said. “He’s doing the right reads and finding the right holes and hitting them.”

Shumate received plenty of praise from teammates and Bowie supporters after rushing for 96 yards and scoring on two 20-yard runs in a season-opening victory against Mansfield.

But DeArman cautioned Shumate not to be satisfied with the performance.

“I told him, in the Mansfield game people told him he had a great game, a breakout game. He didn’t,” DeArman said. “In the second half, he started running the football.

“He knows for us to be successful running the football, he’s got to run like his hair’s on fire.”

Bowie’s second game, a lopsided victory against Mesquite, represented Shumate’s first fiery performance. In that game, he went for 86 yards on only nine carries and scored on a 46-yard run.

“It feels like I’ve been playing it for quite a while now and it’s getting to the easy part,” Shumate said.

OK, Shumate conceded, it’s not that easy playing running back. But he does think he can reach his lofty expectations.

It’s not rushing yards or touchdowns that Shumate is chasing. It’s regular-season victories and playoff success he’s after.

“I don’t care as long as we win,” he said.

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