By Mike Kays
Phoenix Sports Editor
Recent history hasn’t been kind to the health of Muskogee’s running backs.
Mackenzie McCall went down in last year’s season opener after a 119-yard half, and it took the entire season before there would be another 100-yard effort.
Tyriq Beasley had that one. The 14-carry, 107-yard effort ended, like McCall’s, with a loss in what was a disappointing 1-8 campaign.
One difference was that Beasley finished the game healthy. For that matter, he said, he has always stayed healthy.
For a 5-foot-3, 140-pound sophomore to be, that says a lot.
“You can’t hit what you can’t tackle,” Muskogee coach Josh Blankenship said this past week. “He’s elusive. People got a little glimpse of that against Bixby. I think it’s a sign of plenty of things to come.”
The younger brother of Ty Beasley, a senior linebacker and one of the top defenders returning for the Roughers, made his varsity debut in the Bixby season finale. Naturally low to the ground, he showed some of that elusiveness and exhibited why the coaching staff has quietly been excited about his role in a sophomore class with significant talent.
“Coaches have always told me to use my speed because speed kills,” Beasley said. “I do what the coaches tell me to do and I thank God for what I did last year and that I got the opportunity I did. I’d been praying for that chance and he answered a prayer.”
If he continues to perform that way, he’ll be an answer to Blankenship’s prayers.
“He’s running more confidently now and he understands the system a little better,” the coach said. “He’s so hard to see coming out of the backfield and he’s shifty.”
In the meantime, there may be another prayer answered. Terrel Dean transferred from Union and is awaiting the result of a family-related hardship request made to the Oklahoma Secondary School Activities Association. He was listed as Terrel Buchanan on Union’s roster last year where as a Redskins sophomore, he rushed for 1,081 yards, No. 2 on the team, with 14 touchdowns, and a game-high 232-yard effort against Edmond Santa Fe in the playoffs.
The 6-0, 182-pounder was allowed to participate in spring drills for the Roughers and also in last week’s team camp at the University of Tulsa.
The contrast is obvious from a physical standpoint, noted Blankenship.
“Terrel is big and strong and fast with unbelievable balance and he’s really hard to bring down,” he said. “We saw that in spring practice but it’s been nice to see him do this against other opponents in team camp.
“But first things first. We’ve got to get him eligible. We’re still waiting on the (hardship request decision). Should it all work out, it could be a rotational deal or maybe both in at the same time.”
For Dean, it’s a more than the contrast of a different school. At Union, there’s always a seasoned offensive line with enormous depth in front of the backs. Here, he’s running behind a brand new line not only for himself, but for Blankenship. Every 2012 starter, including Navy signee Dexter McGriff, graduated in May.
“It’s different but I can deal with it. It’s still five guys on the line. You put two and two together, you can work with it and get the job done.”
Having both in his backfield would allow Blankenship to go with the plan of moving McCall to a defensive starter. McCall, who transferred from Beggs two springs ago, is more of a natural linebacker.
Sammy Richardson, whose 90-yard effort in the only win a year ago against Tulsa Edison was the next-best outing by a running back, is also penciled in on defense.
NOTES: Blankenship was extremely pleased with the team effort at the University of Tulsa. “I’m really proud of the way we competed and we’re playing with a little more edge than we have up here the past two camps,” he said. Bryson Bell was named a camp MVP for his play both at wide receiver and in the secondary. Summer Pride starts this week at MHS.