And then there were none . . .
Allen Cross had his most productive game of the 2015 Shepherd football season against Grand Valley State in the NCAA Division II national semifinal game. Cross was a senior running back and has exhausted his collegiate eligibility.
There were three other running backs on the Shepherd roster, including Jabre Lolley who had contributed for three seasons. He was a junior.
Malik Harleson was a redshirt sophomore and Reggie Carroll was a freshman. Lolley figured to inherit much of the load hoisted by Cross and Harleson was a make-’em-miss type of runner whose stature was very small but was often effective in late-game situations where the Rams were coasting home with a win.
Cross is gone.
And so are the other three runners, none of whom returned to fall practice.
When was the last time Shepherd had an all-freshmen list of running backs from which to choose for playing time?
Brandon Hlavach is from Eastern Tech in Baltimore. He played in the Big 33 game in Harrisburg for the Maryland team against a similar squad from Pennsylvania. Listed at 6-foot, 205 pounds, Hlavach has gained weight since the fall and appears to be athletic, instinctive and fast enough to play college football. But he’s a freshman.
Patrick Griffin was a two-way player at Sussex Tech in Seaford, Delaware. Even at 6-foot, 203, Griffin is shifty and has plenty of straight ahead speed. His chances probably hinge on whether he can gain yardage inside and if he doesn’t fumble.
Deonte Glover played at Musselman and had success returning kickoffs and punts. At 5-foot-11, 212 he’s got the size to take some punishment. Jordan Douglas was a first-year starter at South Hagerstown last season. He’s 6-foot, 201. Ben Daniels prepped at Smithsburg High in Maryland and is the smallest of the early-practice candidates at 5-foot-9, 177.
Shepherd lost more than the three runners with remaining eligibility from last season’s 13-1 record team.
Wide receiver Tony Squirewell was the team’s second-leading receiver with 49 catches. Outside linebacker Jaylen Johnson was a starter and one of the team’s leading tacklers. Both will be missing this year.
Wide receivers Tyrell Hollingsworth and Kevin Cook didn’t return and neither did linebacker Ryan Plowman, defensive end D.J. Cornish or tight end Jeremy Bell. Plowman, Cornish and Bell didn’t start, but did play at times.
The only wide receivers returning are All-America Billy Brown and sometimes-starter Wanya Allen.
A redshirt sophomore is Ryan Feiss who is 5-foot-10, 187 and played in high school at North Harford in Maryland.
Because of the severe lack of experience at the position, C.J. Davis has been moved there from his starting spot in the defensive backfield. Davis has also plundered opponents with his kick-return specialties, but was replaced as a returner by Keon Robinson at the close of the 2015 season.
The Rams list 10 other first-year wide receivers on their 2016 roster. Some — if not most — of them will be redshirted.
Shepherd opens its regular season on Saturday, September 3 at Ram Stadium at 12-noon against conference opponent West Virginia Wesleyan, a team with a first-year head coach.