Hinton finds himself on the run at Morgan Running back is learning to rely on more than speed

Notebook

October 29, 1998|By Christian Ewell | Christian Ewell,SUN STAFF

If Morgan State's Jay Hinton sticks around long enough, he might just learn how to run. For now, the running back's 4.4 speed has been enough.

Despite limited carries in the first two games, the Phoenix native has rushed for 649 yards this season, including a 127-yard effort in a win over Delaware State last weekend, the team's first homecoming victory since 1980.

This is Hinton's fifth locale in five seasons (after Maryvale (Ariz.) High School, Arizona State University, Glendale (Ariz.) JC and Arizona), no doubt contributing to his deficiencies as a ball carrier.

Hinton refuses to switch the ball from his inside arm to his outside arm, which would make it tougher for defenders to strip the ball from him. He doesn't see openings as they develop, which prevents decent runs from becoming long touchdowns. On some plays, he makes his initial move too quickly and becomes out-of-sync with his linemen.

"As a running back, Jay brings you speed, but there are a lot of little things that he needs to work on," Morgan coach Stump Mitchell said. "The things Jay has to pick up on, he should have had those skills when he was in Pop Warner. He had speed, but that's all he's had to rely on."

The lack of skill never stopped Hinton from running for 3,415 yards and 48 touchdowns during his last two seasons at Maryvale. He earned a scholarship to Arizona State but the NCAA Clearinghouse ruled him academically ineligible in August Instead, he ended up at Glendale and after rushing for 1,700 yards in his sophomore season, he earned a scholarship to Arizona.

In Tucson, Hinton still couldn't run, arousing the occasional ire of Dino Babers, the running backs coach. As he remembers, Babers would say: "This isn't junior college."

"I ran the ball five years," Hinton said, "but didn't learn anything until the sixth year when he coached me. I was like his little picking toy, he was in my face every day. He made a man out of me because I was so used to being spoiled."

But despite a 14-carry, 110-yard performance against Oregon State in 1997, Hinton was a third-stringer behind polished backs who were set to return in 1998. As the coaching staff debated making him a receiver or a defensive back, Hinton's choice was made for him.

"It was nice, they treated us like kings," Hinton said, "but I didn't feel like I was earning my scholarship."

He'd known Mitchell since competing against his track team as a grade-schooler and wanted a coach who might help him to become an NFL running back. So he switched to Morgan State even though Hinton's parents wanted him to stay closer to home.

Mitchell provides a demanding tutor who played 10 seasons in the NFL with the St. Louis-Phoenix Cardinals.

"I can have the best run, but Coach Mitchell can always find something wrong with it," Hinton said. "He'll say something."

Mitchell, miserly with praise at times, said Hinton is more than capable of becoming a top-quality back.

"Jay lacks the natural skills of being a running back," Mitchell said, "but he can be an excellent running back because he has speed, excellent work habits and he runs hard."

Miscellaneous

The Maryland field hockey team (14-5) remains in the top 10, ranked No. 8 in a coaches' poll after seven straight wins to end the regular season. The Terps will play in the ACC tournament next weekend in Charlottesville, Va. In volleyball, UMBC (17-6) and Morgan State (13-13) continue to dominate their conferences, going undefeated in the Northeast Conference and MEAC, respectively. Both should make it to the NCAA tournament, since there is no play-in game this season. UMBC is vying for the NEC championship in women's soccer (10-7), where the Retrievers share first place with Central Connecticut State. UMBC joined Loyola among local teams heading for the NCAA playoffs in women's tennis, after winning the conference championship last weekend in Kiamesha Lake, N.Y. Towson's Richie Moller has 19 goals this season -- an America East record -- and the Tigers (11-5) clinched a share of the conference soccer crown last weekend. Western Maryland plays host to the Centennial Conference cross country championships tomorrow on the campus golf course. The men run at 11 a.m., and the women run at noon. Johns Hopkins men and women are in the hunt for soccer championships in the Centennial Conference. The men are still No. 2 in the Mid-Atlantic region, and the women have gone 10-0-1 in their past 11 games. Mount St. Mary's will probably pick up its fifth NEC championship in 10 years in men's cross country at the league meet in Loretto, Pa.

Pub Date: 10/29/98

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