True freshman running back Saylor Lavallii getting more playing time every week
Central Michigan true freshman Saylor Lavallii’s mother made him watch “SportsCenter” after the loss to Navy Saturday.
The family watched the top ten plays of the day, to see Lavallii hurdle over a Midshipmen defender.
“It was pretty cool being able to see that,” Lavallii said. “But I’ve just got to stay humble and hungry.”
The first–down run was not his biggest play of the day either. Lavallii set up the first CMU touchdown with a 69–yard kick return. He finished with five rushes for 33 yards.
Lavallii has seen more playing time as the season has gone on, getting carries and catching the ball out of the backfield, as well as returning kicks.
“Saylor Lavallii is going to be a great football player,” head coach Dan Enos said. “He’s tough; he’s thick; he’s explosive; he’s got good ball skills, and he’s a gamer.”
Lavallii has impressed the coaches to the point that he is beginning to take some carries away from sophomore running back Anthony Garland, who is listed as the backup to junior Zurlon Tipton. Enos would not say Lavallii has moved in front of Garland.
“It is based on who we think has the hot hand,” Enos said. “If Anthony comes in, he’s running and feeling it, he will get the carries. Saylor was gaining yards and breaking tackles (against Navy), so he got more time.”
Enos did say he thinks Lavallii’s role will continue to grow from how smart and mature he is already as a true freshman.
He is second in the Mid-American Conference with 25.6 yards per kick return. He also has 24 carries for 81 yards and 26 receiving yards.
The day before CMU’s first game against Southeast Missouri State, Lavallii did not know if he would be redshirted.
Lavallii and two other true freshman running backs, Maurice Shoemaker-Gilmore and Martez Walker, were all contending for playing time. Shoemaker–Gilmore and Walker appear to have been redshirted, while Lavallii has played in every game this season.
“He definitely came along, especially in camp,” CMU junior linebacker Shamari Benton said. “I gave him a couple hits, and he’s gotten back up. He’s progressing every week.”
Lavallii said it wasn’t until the night before the SEMS game that Enos told him he would be getting playing time the next day.
“I am just completely blessed by the man upstairs,” Lavallii said. “The coaches gave me a shot; Zurlon, (Garland) and Tim (Phillips) have been great leaders, and I’m blessed with the opportunity that I’m in.”
CMU will host Ball State at 3:30 p.m. Saturday at Kelly/Shorts Stadium.
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