At the beginning of the season, most football experts and Central Michigan fans predicted running back Zurlon Tipton to be one of the best backs in the Mid-American Conference.
Tipton was a preseason Doak Walker award selection, and was ready to lead.
But like most predictions in sports, they often never materialize for one reason or another.
Tipton broke his ankle in the season opener and is out indefinitely, leaving the rushing duties to sophomore Saylor Lavallii.
Lavallii rushed for 93 yards on 20 carries against New Hampshire on Saturday, and head coach Dan Enos believes Lavallii was at his best at the end of the game.
“Saylor, I thought, played pretty well on Saturday,” Enos said. “He needs to get better, but I think he got stronger as the game went on. That’s the kind of runner he was in high school, too. They would give it to him 35 times a game, and he would get better as the game went on. He wears people down.”
Lavallii said he has always been confident in his ability, but it’s his leadership that has been put into focus since assuming the starting role.
“I don’t think it’s a confidence level,” Lavallii said. “I think it’s more of a leadership role. I think all the running backs are doing a great job. I’m just doing my part to help us win.”
While starting at the college level is new to Lavallii, he is going through the same thing his roommate and friend, redshirt freshman quarterback Cooper Rush is going through.
“Well, me and Cooper came in together in our recruiting class,” Lavallii said. “I’m pretty familiar with the guy; we grew up in the same area. I’m comfortable with Cooper.”
The chemistry between Lavallii and Rush is obvious to Enos.
“Those guys are buddies,” Enos said. “He is from Mason, and Cooper is from Lansing Catholic High School. I know they are good buddies. They should have good chemistry.”
Lavallii says that he and Tipton talk on a regular basis. Tipton will often give him tips on what he can improve.
For Lavallii, it starts with getting everyone on the offensive on the same page.
“Overall, we as the running backs, quarterbacks and receivers need to be on the same page,” Lavallii said. “We have to get things rolling early. There was a short yardage play that we didn’t get, and that was on me. We are going to fix that and that won’t happen again.”