McFerren among group competing for Southeast Missouri State football team's vacant RB spot

Sunday, April 21, 2013
Southeast Missouri State running back Tyson Estes cuts down field during a scrimmage Saturday at Houck Stadium. Estes, a graduate of Chaffee High School, scored one of the three touchdowns by Southeast’s offense. (ADAM VOGLER)

Lennies McFerren had an impressive rookie season with the Southeast Missouri State football team in 2011, suggesting big things might be in store for the tailback.

McFerren's college career hit a speed bump last year when he had to wait his turn behind two seniors. McFerren remained patient, figuring his time would come.

"It got frustrating at the beginning, but the coaches talked to me and let me know my role," McFerren said.

McFerren, who is having a strong spring, should have ample opportunity to carry the football this season. Saturday, during Southeast's second spring scrimmage, the junior led Redhawks running backs with 27 yards on four carries.

"He looks good. He's really working hard," Southeast coach Tony Samuel said.

Southeast Missouri State tailback Lennies McFerren, right, and fullback Ron Coleman stretch before a scrimmage Saturday at Houck Stadium. (ADAM VOGLER)

McFerren, after redshirting during his first year at Southeast in 2010, was the Redhawks' fourth-leading rusher in 2011 when he started four games, and his 255 yards were second-most among tailbacks. He became a key option after Levi Terrell suffered a season-ending injury in the fifth game.

"That was a fun, fun experience," said a smiling McFerren. "I loved that they threw me out there."

With Terrell remaining healthy all last season -- he was among the national leaders with 1,349 yards rushing -- and fellow senior Renard Celestin adding 252 yards on the ground, there weren't many opportunities for other tailbacks.

McFerren remained on the bench as a sophomore, receiving only one carry for four yards.

But McFerren said he learned a lot from the two seniors ahead of him, and he also made the most of his role on the scout team during practice.

Southeast Missouri State running back Lennies McFerren carries the ball during a scrimmage Saturday at Houck Stadium.

"I was on the scout team, and that's really important. It helped me to keep pushing myself," McFerren said. "I learned the ropes from them [Terrell and Celestin]. They taught me a lot. Now I'm trying to teach the younger guys, don't get discouraged."

McFerren shouldn't have to worry about filling the scout team role this year. The 5-foot-9, 196-pounder is the elder statesmen among three tailbacks trying to fill the void left by Terrell and Celestin as Southeast attempts to retain its status among the national rushing leaders.

"I feel like I am one of the leaders," said McFerren, a redshirt on Southeast's 2010 squad that won the program's first Ohio Valley Conference title. "I was here when we won the championship. I put in the work."

Also likely to receive their share of carries are sophomores DeMichael Jackson and Lewis Washington, who both also have looked strong this spring even though Jackson missed Saturday's scrimmage with a minor injury.

"We've got a nice combination of backs. The best thing is the good competition we've got there," Samuel said. "We like to use three, four backs. Keep guys fresh."

The 5-11, 196-pound Jackson is Southeast's top returning rusher among tailbacks. He picked up 20 yards on seven carries as a true freshman last year.

Washington, a 5-10, 238-pound bruiser who can also play fullback -- where junior Ron Coleman is already a two-year starter -- gained five yards on four carries and scored one touchdown as a redshirt freshman.

"We've all got a little different styles," McFerren said. "We've got our shifty running back in D-Mike, [Washington] is a load, and I can do power or speed."

McFerren is a graduate of Henry County High School in Paris, Tenn., after previously attending New Madrid County Central High School, where as a sophomore he rushed for 1,697 yards and scored 18 touchdowns.

McFerren's grandfather, also named Lennies McFerren, played basketball at Southeast in 1973 and 1974 although he is best known in the region as one of the Missouri's all-time top high school basketball coaches. He won nine state titles between Charleston and NMCC and is a member of the Missouri Basketball Hall of Fame.

"We're really tight," the younger McFerren said. "He's here [at scrimmages and games] all the time."

Estes scores

Chaffee High School graduate Tyson Estes, a walk-on redshirt freshman tailback, scored one of Southeast's three touchdowns Saturday on a 3-yard run while working with the third unit.

"He's learning. He's a young guy, but he's strong as a bull and he's quick. He works hard," Samuel said.

Sophomore quarterback Blake Jackson, who saw limited action last year, threw two touchdown passes, a 17-yarder to sophomore wide receiver Peter Lloyd and a 10-yarder to sophomore tight end Zach Hayes during goal-line work. Jackson completed 5 of 6 for 50 yards.

Junior quarterback Kyle Snyder, last year's projected starter who missed the entire season with a knee injury, completed 5 of 7 for 73 yards and rushed for 44 yards on four carries.

Senior wide receiver D.J. Foster caught two passes for 53 yards.

Sophomore safety Matt Starks led the defense with six tackles. Sophomore linebacker Andy McNeel intercepted a pass.

"I thought it was better than last Saturday [Southeast's first scrimmage], which is what you want," Samuel said. "I thought offensively we completed a nice high percentage of balls. We didn't run as much today."

Southeast concludes spring practice Saturday with its annual spring game at noon.

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