"It's a good problem to have."
Ardmore head coach Douglas Wendel has a logjam in the offensive backfield, something he's not complaining about. It's a good thing for him in a run-heavy offense, and even better for a season in which he'd like to have each of his players play one way — either offense or defense.
There's depth, young and old; players back from hiatus and others Wendel is scratching his head on how to get on the field.
Again, this is a good thing.
As many as nine players — Kydric Knox, Jamarcus Mills, Darius Lawson, D'Vron Roberts, Kaine McCullough, Jarred Hall, Lacarrio Lopez, O.J. Walker and Kevion McGee — could see touches in the backfield.
"We've got about six to eight that we feel like could play," Wendel said. "We're very excited about our opportunities at running back. Those six to eight will create competition. That makes them have to be better at practice."
Returning at tailback are a senior trio of Jamarcus Mills, D'Vron Roberts and Lacarrio Lopez. Also in the the rotation is sophomore O.J. Walker, who Wendel said may have had the best spring off all his backs.
McGee, a junior who is slated to start at defensive back, showed off skills in the return and receiving game last season, as did Walker. Lopez is back after sitting out a year and seeing significant playing time in Ardmore's state semifinalist season of 2011.
"Jamarcus is a returning starter from last year, D'Vron Roberts has stepped up, had a great summer, and has had a good first two days, so he's right there in the mix," Wendel said. "You've got Lacarrio Lopez in there and Kevion McGee, who's gonna be a primarily defensive player, but we've got to get him the ball some."
At fullback, sophomore Kydric Knox is looking to follow up on a breakout season as a freshman. Knox's emergence during last season took some pressure off of Hall, who started the season as the starter at fullback. Hall was also an All-Ardmoreite Super Team linebacker as a sophomore in 2012.
McCullough and Lawson can fill in as a speed and power variance if Wendel so chooses. Hall will also play backup quarterback, which leaves more responsibility for the rest of the backs.
"Kydric is going to be a primary offensive guy. He's hitting the hole and protecting the football real well," Wendel said. "Kaine is primarily defense, but we can mix them both up. I think both of them can be a good 1-2 punch, and then Darius can come in the fourth quarter when people are tired and get in there, too."
Mills, the leading ballcarrier from last season, says the rotation is a plus, particularly from a injury standpoint. He said he's worked hard in the offseason on his strength and technique — if not for the grind of the season, to stay on par with his competition for carries.
Mills also said that even if teams know the Tigers are a run-first offense, the versatile runners they have won't be easy to stop.
It's a good problem to have.
"We're a mainly running team, but we have pass plays and we can bust one out at any time," Mills said. "And if someone goes down, we get more reps in practice. That only makes us stronger."
Hall puts another feather in his helmet as the backup quarterback, but the responsibility of a starter falls on Clay Atwood.
As a freshman, Atwood was thrown into the fire midseason as Wendel pushed the "future is now" button in the Tigers' rebuilding year. It was a learning process for Atwood, but that varsity experience combined with the offseason has been vital.
Atwood said what's benefitted him more than anything is a full offseason of working out with his varsity teammates. Last preseason, Atwood practiced primarily with the freshmen team.
"I'm closer to all my teammates," he said. "Last year, we weren't as close because we never practiced together. It helps getting a full offseason as a whole.
"Just that bonding, spending more time with your teammates, it helps with trust."
Atwood said everything is more crisp the second time around — the footwork, making the right reads. All the things that may have overwhelmed him as a freshman are a little easier to digest.
"We've only been practicing two days and we're already further along as a team, as a unit, than we were last season," he said.
Wendel lauded Atwood for his ball security and also had high marks for Hall as a dynamic alternative under center. An improved threat at quarterback will only make Ardmore's running game more potent.
"Clay's gotten a lot better every day with practice," Wendel said. "He's very conscientious and does a good job. Our reads are getting better and we're protecting the football."
Follow Horne on Twitter: @ekhorneARD