Eluding all his doubters Football: Called slow and small, Towson's Jason Corle has faked out skeptics and tacklers to become Patriot League's top rusher.

October 08, 1998|By Christian Ewell | Christian Ewell,SUN STAFF

Just about every other Saturday, Jason Corle puts on his version of the Jenny Jones show.

There's some trash talk, some physical contact, and plenty of surprising moves. The episode isn't the option-A makeover, but instead the option-B motif, with its durable title -- "You Dissed Me in High School, But Look At Me Now."

The girls didn't laugh at Corle when he was at Southern Regional High School on the New Jersey shore. Nor did bullies necessarily smack him around. It was the college football coaches who bruised his ego, pegging him as small and slow.

The junior now exacts his revenge on a football field as the best running back in the Patriot League.

"I could name half a dozen I-AA schools who said I wasn't good enough," Corle said, including two Patriot League schools among them. "That's some motivation for me. I'm going to make it happen every time I play against those schools."

Towson profits from the presence of a playmaker who already has run for more yards than former NFL player David Meggett, who starred at Towson in 1987-88. With 2,355 yards, Corle will likely break the rushing record of 3,058 yards set in 1992-93 by the Ravens' Tony Vinson.

After Corle's 239-yard performance against Fordham two weeks ago, he leads the Patriot League with 109.2 yards per game, and leads the conference in scoring with 8.4 points per game.

"I didn't realize what we had," Towson coach Gordy Combs said of Corle, who was hindered by his high school, which won only five games in his three seasons. "Because of where his high school was located, a lot of guys [college coaches] wouldn't go there. They haven't had a lot of players out of there."

Corle was 6 feet tall and 180 pounds at the time, and with a 4.6-second time in the 40-yard dash, his combination of size and speed was questionable for Division I-AA, let alone Division I-A. Despite Corle's athleticism -- a fine performer in soccer and basketball -- he was a tough sell for former Southern Regional football coach Larry Sheehan.

In the end, Monmouth was among those interested. But the West Long Branch campus was 30 minutes from his hometown of Barnegat, and Corle wanted to leave New Jersey. One of the few other takers was Towson, where Combs first met Corle in December 1995 after he completed the recruiting questionnaire.

Pulling the card from his desk, Combs reads comments he'd written about Corle. "I wrote 'good hands, makes people miss.' "

"I tried to explain that this was a good athlete," Sheehan said. "He could catch the football, and I tried to sell it on the coaches. A lot of kids can run, but they can't catch. This kid was multi-dimensional. I told Combs that 'if you get this kid, you're getting a steal.' "

Corle's extra dimensions are more than frills. Last season, he caught 51 passes for 390 yards. His receiving abilities so scared Monmouth on Sept. 12 that when Corle ran a pattern, the Monmouth pass defense flocked to him, leaving Adam Overbey (last year's leading receiver) wide open for an 89-yard touchdown pass from Kevin Smith.

Corle had eight receptions for 94 yards during a 31-24 loss to Holy Cross last week, but he's a marked man whenever he leaves the backfield these days. "So far this season," Combs said, "we haven't been able to get him downfield because when he goes out, people are all over him."

But the attribute others overlooked is Corle's ability to elude tacklers with a variety of jukes, spins, hops and cuts, which might all be employed on a single run.

Corle's father, Rick Corle, credits time on the New Jersey Select Soccer team with developing that agility. Sheehan says that his former pupil compares running the football to a dance and that Corle -- a rap music aficionado -- looks for a beat by which to orchestrate his moves.

"He's so fluid," Combs said.

On some days, it leads to nothing, which is what happened when the Colgate defense stuffed all holes like cannoli on Sept. 19, allowing Corle 42 yards on 18 carries.

On others, 1 yard can become 90 if Corle gets past the line of scrimmage, as Fordham found out when it gave up a 71-yard touchdown run two weeks ago. The run came on a third-and-one with Towson in its short-yardage set. Corle ran over right tackle, making three guys miss.

"I was amazed, because he made three moves that made the defenders go down like dominoes," Combs said. "He reminds me a lot of David Meggett because he would make people miss, and Jason can turn on the next gear to run away from people."

For Corle, the best revenge is that the Tigers (3-2) have a winning record going into Saturday's 1 p.m. game against Lafayette. During 1997's disastrous 2-8 campaign, he feared the losing would never end.

"I thought, this is following me wherever I go," said Corle, who will be playing with a hip pointer from the Holy Cross game. "I didn't think I'd be able to escape it. I don't want to jinx our season, but to win our first few games feels good."

NOTE: Towson is seeking former players for a tent party to commemorate the school's 30th season of football. The party will be held the morning before the Drake game Nov. 14. Call Combs at 410-830-3155.

Pub Date: 10/08/98

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