BOWLING GREEN — There has been a lot of hand-wringing over Anthon Samuel leaving the Bowling Green State University football team.
Yes, Samuel led the Falcons in rushing each of the past two seasons. A number of options are available to replace Samuel as BG prepares for the coming season, including senior Jordan Hopgood and junior Jamel Martin.
Both are on the comeback trail after injuries limited their playing time last season.
Hopgood played in all 12 games as a freshman in 2010 and ran for six touchdowns, seeing extensive action as a “wildcat” quarterback. A knee injury forced him to miss the last three games in 2011, and last season he saw limited action in 12 games as he bounced back from that injury.
“I’m ready to play,” Hopgood said. “I don’t need my brace to play; I’m just wearing it in practice as a precaution.”
Martin played in 10 games as a freshman in 2011, getting the start at West Virginia and responding with 111 yards on 23 carries. Last season he played in seven games before suffering a season-ending knee injury.
“I feel really healthy,” Martin said. “I thank God for getting me through some tough times when I tore my ACL. Right now I’m able to do everything I was doing before I was hurt.”
Bowling Green coach Dave Clawson likes what he has seen from his veteran running backs.
“Jamel looks healthy, and he made a good cut out there,” Clawson said after practice Monday. “Jordan, to me, looks as good as he has looked in three years.”
Hopgood and Martin are in a wide-open competition for the starting running back job, along with sophomores Andre Givens and Travis Greene as well as four freshmen signed in February.
“We have four capable backs who know the game,” Martin said. “At any given time, I think any of us can go and help this team.
“I would love to be the option, and I’m working hard to be the option. But we have guys who are just as hungry as I am, and are working hard to help this team.”
Hopgood agreed, adding, “We’ve always been like a family in the running back room. Whenever someone goes down, the next person has to step up. We have capable backs ready to do that, and that’s a positive thing.”
Hopgood said his goals for his senior season have nothing to do with numbers.
“My main goal is to win a MAC championship,” he said. “It’s my last year, and I want to go out with a bang.
" Whatever it takes, I want to do it. I want to be the best running back I can be, and I want to be the best person I can be, both on and off the field.”
Martin said his goals were very similar to Hopgood’s.
“I just want us to be successful,” Martin said. “I want to contribute to this team in any way, shape or form — I want to help us get a ‘W.’
"If it’s getting a lot of carries, if it’s pass-blocking, or whatever it takes to help us win, I will do it.”
Clawson said he doesn’t expect any one running back will replace Samuel.
“The past couple of years, we’ve had to go four or five deep at tailback, and I have no reason to believe this year will be any different,” he said. “Right now we’re prepared to do that.”
NOTE: Eric Harrell, who was taken to Wood County Hospital during Friday’s practice, was released from the hospital later that day and has returned to practice.
Contact John Wagner at: firstname.lastname@example.org, 419-724-6481, or on Twitter @jwagnerblade.