At 5-foot-5, 193-pounds, Deon Burch is often at his best bursting between the tackles and punishing defenders in the secondary who must try and bring him down while Burch is running with a full head of steam.
But on Tuesday, the Ellison senior was racing behind those defenders before pulling in a deep touchdown pass from quarterback Carl Robinson III in 7-on-7 competition.
“It’s humbling that my quarterback can trust me to catch that ball,” Burch said with a laugh. “I’m just blessed with that talent, and I’m going to keep progressing in it.”
Most running backs might feel out of place in 7-on-7, which has no running plays or even screens, which are essentially long handoffs in the fall.
But, for the most part, the running backs participating in the Killeen ISD round robin said they don’t feel out of place in 7-on-7.
“It’s pretty good for me since I’m also blessed with the talent of catching, too,” Burch said. “So it’s pretty good for me because my team can trust that I’m not going to drop the ball.”
Not that 7-on-7 doesn’t have its challenges for running backs. With no running plays, ball carriers must find a different way to get involved and contribute.
“We’ve got to work our way around it by having a lot of out of the backfield plays and a lot of empty (sets),” Harker Heights senior Josh Ellis said.
But, as Burch hinted, the 7-on-7 games force the running backs to work on secondary parts of their games.
Ellis said he particularly enjoys that part of these games.
“Right now is really when I work on my footwork and my hands for coming out of the backfield,” he said.
And while they may return to carrying the ball primarily in the fall, they all agreed that they will be better players next football season for having competed in 7-on-7.
“I’m able to work on my hands, learn how to catch better, so when I go on a slot route I can catch the ball,” Shoemaker running back Corey Wilson said.
“I see a dramatic increase from the end of last year to this year when it comes to getting off blocks and getting off pressing corners and just making people miss,” Ellis said.
“I feel like this really helps and we’re getting better. I feel like we all are actually.”
And for each running back, that was the biggest key — because learning to be successful without running the football can only help in the fall when offenses can utilize the pass and the ground game.
“And I think that’s another good thing is how powerful our offense can be when only using half of it,” Ellis said. “Because right now we only have access to half of our playbook.
“So, if we can put up 30 points now it shouldn’t be a problem putting up 45 or 50 when you have both sides of the ball.”