Dual Threat: Rice teams with Syster in one-two punch for Dragons
PURCHASE LINE — While people are busy talking about running back Grant Syster and the 1,593 yards he racked up last season, fullback Hunter Rice is just going about his business, hoping to get his hands on the ball.
The sophomore, who quietly rushed for 450 yards and six touchdowns in his freshman campaign, could be the perfect No. 2 in the one-two punch in the Red Dragons’ backfield this year.
“You can’t forget about Hunter Rice,” coach Brandon Overdorff said. “He proved last year that he has a lot of ability, and he’s been working hard to get better. He packed on a ton of muscle in the offseason and has gotten a step faster. He’s a nice weapon for us, and he puts in a nice dynamic for our offense.”
That offense, which has a strong tradition in its running game, can’t rely on one player to carry the load. The Red Dragons were second in the area in rushing offense last season at 265.8 yards per game. Rice is looking forward to the opportunity.
“I do feel some pressure this year,” Rice said. “Everybody is going to have their eyes on (Syster), and I just have to do my best. Whenever I get the ball, I need to do my job and keep my feet moving to get some yardage for my team.”
“We are a team, and the pressure is on everybody,” Syster said. “I’m just one guy out of 11. Hunter’s just one guy out of 11. When everybody is doing their jobs, we can be successful. We might be the ones getting all the glory, but it’s a team sport.”
Rice, who had 57 carries and averaged 7.9 yards per attempt last season, said the experience he gained was a great way to start his varsity career.
“It was so cool, and I really learned a lot,” he said. “Being in the backfield with Grant is a blessing because he is a one-of-a-kind and a great running back. Just watching him has helped me, and I’m hoping he can break some records this season. Then, maybe some day, I can follow in his footsteps. It was really fun, and I hope this year will be even better.”
Just like his teammates, Rice did a lot of conditioning and weight lifting in the offseason.
“I’d really like to get more than 500 yards this year,” Rice said. “I’ve been trying to get stronger, and I want to be the best I can to help my team. I’ve grown a lot since last year, and I want to keep growing as a running back and a teammate.”
Working behind an experienced offensive line in camp has given Rice a chance to gain some confidence in preparation of taking on larger responsibilities on offense.
“The line has come along really nicely, and it helps make things easier for me,” he said. “I have all the faith in the world in those guys. I trust them to do their job, and they trust me to do mine. It should be a fun season, and I can’t wait to get out there and run the ball. We’re all working well together, and I’m enjoying my role on this team.”