Trojan Tailback Trio is Tough to Corral

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Thursday, September 19, 2019, 9:32 am
Mark Meyer

Three for one: Junior Alex Hosey (left), sophomore Asher Gregory and senior T’Senre Gray have combined to gain more than 500 rushing yards from the tailback position in East Lansing’s first three games of the season. The Trojans (2-1) return to action at 7 p.m. Friday, when they host undefeated Portage Northern (3-0) at Jeff Smith Field. (Photo by Mark Meyer)

East Lansing’s clock-devouring drive to open the third quarter of last week’s game at Grand Ledge — 80 yards, 14 plays and 8:25 possession time — was a combination of textbook execution, highlight reel and pure effort.

The Trojans blended the precision passing of senior quarterback Sam Busch (4-for-4 for 41 yards, three different receivers) with a running game that featured junior Alex Hosey and sophomore Asher Gregory, who combined for 35 yards on eight carries. Toss in a nine-yard scramble by Busch and a one-yard touchdown run by senior fullback Jamar Mills, and the finishing touch was supplied by the left foot of placekicker Emory Roberts.

That was the textbook execution. The highlight reel and pure effort came on the 11th and 13th plays of the drive, both runs by Gregory. On the first, he was trapped behind the line of scrimmage for what looked like a four- or five-yard loss, easy. What happened next — when he broke free for what turned out to be a six-yard gain — was pure effort, and a refusal to be tackled.

Gregory’s highlight reel run caught most in attendance by surprise. Even Gregory. He said Wednesday at practice that he had never hurdled a defender before but that his instinct told him now was the time.

East Lansing had the ball at the Grand Ledge 8 yard line when Gregory took a handoff from Busch, cut to his left and headed toward the goal line pylon. Just inside the 5, when he was about to be tackled (“I saw the defender coming at me low”) Gregory raised his left leg and became airborne, stepping over one Grand Ledge defender before being knocked out of bounds at the 1-yard line by another.

“No, I didn’t teach him that move,” East Lansing head coach Bill Feraco said. “But it’s true that our younger backs give us plenty of elusiveness in the backfield.”

Following in Hayward's footsteps

The Trojans (2-1) enter Friday’s home game vs. undefeated Portage Northern (3-0) knowing that the tailback trio of Gregory, Hosey and senior T’Senre Gray is more than capable of making up for the loss of last year’s leading rusher, Kobe Hayward, who gained 930 yards while playing parts of nine games.

In three games this year, the Trojans’ triple threat has rushed for 533 yards on 69 carries, an average of eight yards gained on each carry.

“Ball security and move the rock,” said the 5-foot-8, 180-pound Gray, who carried 10 times and gained 112 yards in the season-opening victory over St. Johns on Aug. 30. “I tried to learn as much as I could from Kobe when he was here, and then earn everything in practice.”

Gregory (5-foot-6, 145 pounds), in his first year on varsity, said Gray sets an example of how to prepare for each game.

“In practice he’s always encouraging us to keep running 20 yards downfield because it shows your commitment to the game and what it takes to be a winner,” Gregory said.

Hosey (5-foot-7, 150) followed that advice — and his blockers — against Grand Ledge when he twisted, turned, and churned his way to a 52-yard touchdown run early in the fourth quarter. For the game, Hosey carried the ball 12 times and gained 111 yards. 

“On the varsity level I’ve found it to be tougher to get to the edge (outside) and the defenders hit harder, no question,” Hosey said. “But, it’s great to have your line making blocks downfield like they do … makes it a lot easier for us backs to break free.”

Feraco likes what he's seen thus far from this threesome.

“What we’re looking for, at least in our scheme, is a back who can run with vision,” Feraco said. “When he sees the crease, to get into that crease, and go north and south, and then use his instincts after that.”

Sometimes it requires a hurdle (Gregory). Sometimes a fake and a couple of broken tackles (Hosey). Sometimes a straight ahead power move (Gray).

East Lansing has a little bit of everything in the backfield this year, and sometimes that can go a long way toward a successful season.


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