BOWLING GREEN — The Bowling Green State University football program hoped to have a graduate of Monsignor Pace High School in Miami as its starting running back.
And the Falcons do — but that grad is not the player everyone expected.
Two-year starter Anthon Samuel left before spring drills began. His replacement for BG’s season opener against Tulsa at Doyt Perry Stadium on Thursday will be former Pace teammate Travis Greene.
Greene said he and Samuel were a “package” when they were being recruited.
“Since 10th grade when I met him, we said we’d go together to whatever college we chose,” Greene said. “When we were recruited, we told people [they had to recruit] both of us.”
Samuel made an immediate impact for the Falcons in 2011, earning Mid-American Conference player of the year honors, while Greene redshirted. Last season Samuel led BG in rushing while Greene fought for playing time at receiver, eventually playing in five games.
Greene said he had mixed emotions when his best friend left BG before spring classes began.
“I didn’t want Anthon to leave, but every man has his own destiny,” Greene said. “Moving back home with his family was best for him, so I respect that.”
Greene said he was excited about the move from wide receiver to running back to potentially replace his best friend.
“Since I was a kid I’ve always wanted to play running back, but I was told I couldn’t because I was too small and too skinny,” the 5-10, 181-pound Greene said. "And in high school we had Anthon [Samuel].”
Greene was locked in a spring battle with sophomore Andre Givens for the starter’s role. In the fall senior Jordan Hopgood and junior Jamel Martin were added to the competition, as were freshmen such as Fred Coppet, Marcus Levy and William Houston.
“I embraced the competition, because I knew Andre, Jordan and Jamel weren’t pushovers,” Greene said. “I knew I had to work extra hard.
“I would lift with the team, then I would do extra lifts. I would do extra running. So when it was time to play, I was ready.”
At the end of fall drills coach Dave Clawson said it wasn’t difficult to name Greene as the Falcons’ starting running back.
“Travis has got great balance, and I think he has good vision,” Clawson said. “The thing he did in camp is he made people miss. He makes vertical cuts, and he doesn’t dance in the backfield.
“Last year we didn’t have a lot of ‘explosive’ plays. Our drives were yardage of four or five yards, and it’s tough to score a lot of points that way. Travis made explosive plays.”
Greene said it was a good feeling to earn the starter’s nod.
“The competition, especially when the freshmen came in, made me really push myself,” he said. “You can’t take a day off. Those guys aren’t saying, ‘OK, Travis, you can have the position.’ They are working, too, because they want to be the starter.”
NOT IN BG: Monday was the first day of classes at Bowling Green, and Clawson acknowledged that several recruits from last February were not enrolled in school.
Running back Brandon English will grayshirt, which means he will enroll at BG when spring semester begins in January. Wide receiver Mike Rogers also is not enrolled, and Clawson said he expects Rogers to play at a junior college.
Defensive tackle Shannon Smith is enrolled but will not practice so he can handle eligibility concerns.
And Clawson said Terrell Jackson, a defensive tackle who is transferring to BG from Pittsburgh, is enrolled but will not practice as he rehabs a knee injury.