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Ohio back makes the most of playing time

Chris Garrett took the handoff and could see the hole in Bowling Green’s secondary. Once he broke through the line, he knew he had nobody stopping his path to the end zone, and Ohio’s senior running back scurried for a 37-yard touchdown for the Bobcats first rushing score of the season.

Prior to that run during Ohio’s 44-37 victory against Bowling Green last weekend, the Bobcats (3-2, 1-0 Mid-American Conference) were the only team in the county that hadn’t yet scored a rushing touchdown.

That streak was not likely to continue for long, especially with Garrett in the backfield. He brings a little bit of everything to the Bobcats lineup.

“I like to look at myself as Mr. Do It All, handy man, athlete,” Garrett said. “I just see myself having the ball in my hands.”

During his four years at OU, Garrett has proved to be one of the Bobcats most dangerous scoring threats, no matter how he gets his points. Not the biggest player on the field (5-8, 180), Garrett uses his speed to make plays, and his versatility has earned him the reputation as the ultimate utility man.

Garrett is one of the few players in Ohio history who has scored touchdowns rushing, receiving, and on punt and kickoff returns. The only way he has yet to score is by throwing a touchdown.

“He’s a guy that will cause defenses fits,” offensive coordinator Tim Albin said.

As a freshmen, Garrett burst onto the scene with an explosive return game. He played some at wide receiver, but made his mark as a punt returner, and finished as one of the nation’s top-10 return men.

“I just wanted to make an impact as quick as possible, whether it was special teams or offense, “ Garrett said. “Just make an impact instantly. Some way, somehow.”

Garrett’s impressive freshmen campaign earned him attention around the country and in the MAC, and his coaches wanted to find ways to involve him in the offense. As his offensive production has increased, his contributions to the return game have not diminished. He has scored a touchdown on a either a punt or kickoff return in every season of his college career.

Garrett has his name scattered throughout Ohio’s record book, as he already has the most kickoff return yards (1,906) in school history and also ranks fourth for career all-purpose yards (3,827).

“I’m not too surprised because I have the right guys around me, and have all the respect for them, and all the confidence in them, and in myself,” Garrett said.

He came to Athens recruited as an athlete, and was unsure if he would play wide receiver or running back. Early in his career, the offense used Garrett primarily as a change of pace, utilizing his speed to run reverses or catch the ball out of the backfield.

His game has progressed over time, and he has transitioned from a return specialist to an essential part of the offense.

“The return game has always been there, but I just know that my role on offense has expanded even more in recent years. It really feels pretty good,” Garrett said.

Garrett led the team in rushing yards last year, and has emerged out of a four-man competition as the feature running back in the first half of this season.

So far the running game has been inconsistent, but it showed signs of improvement against Bowling Green, as Garrett became the first back to rush over 100 yards since Donte Harden did last year against Kent State.

Garrett’s career high 120 rushing yards and two touchdowns against the Falcons gave Ohio the rushing attack it has longed for all season, and it coincided with the offense’s best performance to date.

“We need for (Garrett) to continue to do those things,” Albin said. “We need to have a balanced attack.”

Albin blamed some of the early struggles in the running game to Ohio’s game plan against tough run defenses like Connecticut and Tennessee, rather than a poor performance in the rushing attack.

With the Bobcats now facing less imposing defenses in MAC play, the offense could likely settle into a more balanced—and more dangerous—approach.

The Bobcats will travel to Akron (1-3, 0-1 MAC) Saturday for their third consecutive road game. Ohio is currently the only team in the MAC-East with a winning record, and the Bobcats have their sights set on capturing the East for the first time since 2006 — Garrett’s freshmen year.

“That’s just been something that I’ve been keeping in my mind in the off-season, because I want to have that feeling again,” Garrett said. “I’ve been through the ups and downs, and I’ve seen what winning looks like, and I’ve seen what losing looks like, and I just want to end on a good note.”

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Category: Athens News, Football

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