Things aren’t moving slower in spring football practices than they were during the season for Wake Forest’s Courtney McKinney, he said.
McKinney, a freshman running back,has just moved up the depth chart quickly — and out of necessity.
“We do have a couple of other guys down. I’m just trying to fill in my spot like I’m supposed to,” McKinney said after Tuesday morning’s practice.
All of a sudden, Wake Forest is thin at running back. Rising senior Cade Carney, who last year became the first 1,000-yard rusher since 2005, underwent shoulder surgery and is expected to return for fall camp. Christian Beal-Smith, a former East Forsyth High School star who ran for 231 yards last season as a redshirt freshman, is out because of a personal issue. And DeAndre’ Delaney, a converted cornerback who had been taking third-team reps this spring, rolled his ankle while walking to class.
That left McKinney and walk-ons Will Drawdy and Joey Ray, an East Surry product who has been in a non-contact jersey, as the only backs available Tuesday.
“It always happens like that, when it rains, it pours,” Coach Dave Clawson said. “You’re missing Cade and Christian … you’re like, ‘Hey, this will be great, you’ll get Courtney a lot of work and DeAndre’ a lot of work and then you have an academic injury, walking to class he turns his ankle.’”
Clawson said Delaney won’t practice Thursday morning, either. That’s the Deacons’ next practice and their last one for more than a week, as they won’t practice during the school’s spring break.
Delaney made a few standout plays in Wake Forest’s second practice, a couple of them coming on passes out of the backfield.
“He caught a nice ball down the sidelines, he caught another seam ball. He’s getting better,” Clawson said of Delaney after that practice. “The running back thing — if you stay healthy, you feel great about Cade and Christian. But that position and those two guys have never stayed healthy.
“There’s no way, no way that we’re not going to need a three and a four, and I think right now Delaney and Courtney McKinney have a chance to establish themselves that they can play.”
While Delaney is two years older than McKinney, both started playing running back at Wake Forest around the same time — Delaney having moved there for last season after spending his first two seasons as a cornerback and McKinney redshirting last season.
McKinney said he’s still in the process of learning signals and alignments in Wake Forest’s offense.
“You’ve gotta play at the level the older guys are playing at. With me being younger, I’ve gotta learn the plays faster. I still need help from those older guys,” McKinney said. “… I don’t want to say that (spring is) moving slower, but I will say that I’ve got more time to learn the plays.”
McKinney is 6-foot-1, 205 and Delaney is 6-3, 205 — both of them taller than Carney and Beal-Smith, who are listed at 5-11 and 5-10, respectively.
The position will receive more reinforcements for fall camp with the enrollments of Kendrell Flowers and Kenneth Walker — which makes it more important for McKinney to take advantage of his immediate opportunity and for Delaney to do the same when he returns.
“There’s always benefits of stuff like this happening in the spring. You look at our depth chart and you say, ‘Well, Courtney McKinney, hopefully a year from now he’s ready to go,’” Clawson said. “We always have played two running backs. Last year it was Cade and Matt (Colburn II) and Christian was a really good No. 3, and at times Christian stepped in there and played well. So getting all of these reps for Courtney, at some point it will benefit us.
“If we were like this in the season, I would be concerned. In the spring, it’s a positive.”