Published in The Crow’s Nest March 2015
USF running back Marlon Mack surprised everyone last year when he broke the school’s all-purpose yards record in his first collegiate game. And he didn’t stop there.
He went on to have one of the best seasons for a running back in the program’s history.
Mack finished his freshman season with 1,041 rushing yards and nine touchdowns, becoming the school’s fourth 1,000-yard rusher. He exploded through defenders with five touchdown runs of 54 yards or longer, including a season-long 75-yard run against Memphis.
Mack’s emegence was a light in a gloomy 4-8 season. But the light may not have shined if it wasn’t for an injury to fellow RB Darius Tice.
Before the game against Western Carolina, head coach Willie Taggart told Mack that he would get the start. He went on to amass 275 rushing yards and four touchdowns, tying the American Athletic Conference (AAC) and USF rushing record. Adding a five-yard reception, Mack became the school’s record holder for the most all-purpose yards in a game.
“My line just kept blocking for me pretty good; they kept setting me up everytime I scored,” said Mack, reflecting on the 2014 season opener. “It was just a good feeling. It was a pretty thing.”
As the season progressed, defenders took notice of the Bulls rising star, and his average yards per game began to drop. Although other factors, such as quarterback issues and dropped passes, played a role in the slight decline.
“I just think I could’ve made better runs,” Mack said.
Freshmen took the AAC’s top three spots in rushing yards per game and Mack’s 86.8 ypg led them all, earning him conference Rookie of the Year.
“He was huge for our football program, just to have someone that we can rally behind.” Taggart said. “I think any program out there, especially when you starting again, at first you gotta get someone that you can get behind and build off of.”
Now a sophomore, the four-star recruit has a year under his belt and is gearing up for a second season with the Bulls. He added about 10-15 pounds and now weighs 205, which will help him endure more hits from defenders.
“He’s not going to be a surprise this year,” Taggart said.
The team is experimenting with an up-tempo offense and will likely have several other key contributors out of the back field, such as Darius Tice and D’Ernest Johnson.
“As a team, I want us to come together as one and make a bowl game, making our fans happy…” Mack said.
The Bulls will take part in their annual spring game on March 28. It will be the public’s first chance to see the changes in the offense and Mack.
“I expect big things from our football team, I really do,” Taggart said. “I love the way they’re working. I love the way that they’re competing. I love the way they are coming together and enjoying each other. I think that’s huge for us, and I think it’s going to pay off for us.”
(Photo Courtesy of USF Athletics)