Bears standout Nelson knows he's only as good as next carry

Season-opening 203 yards is just the beginning for sophomore running back

September 10, 2004|By Bill Free | Bill Free,SUN STAFF

Craig Nelson isn't running from the spotlight these days. He just refuses to bask in it.

"I'm not satisfied," said the sophomore Morgan State running back who gained 203 yards and three touchdowns in Saturday night's season-opening 41-35 victory over state rival Bowie State.

"I need to keep reading defenses, communicating with my offensive line, and watching film," said Nelson, who runs the 40-yard dash in 4.4 seconds. "This game is not easy. You have to keep making adjustments to be successful."

It would be a lot easier for Nelson to walk around campus this week accepting congratulations for his breakout game. Nelson, 5 feet 10, 190 pounds, said he won't let that happen.

Neither will coach Donald Hill-Eley nor running backs coach Earl Davis, who continue to be Nelson's toughest critics.

"I liked every one of his 203 yards," Hill-Eley said. "But I can't forget the 3 yards he didn't get for a first down [late in the fourth quarter]. He tried to go through standing up instead of torpedoing through."

Davis said: "I'm a no-nonsense guy and I keep preaching about protecting the football. I tell him [Nelson] to run with the ball high and tight. I tell him to run with his eyes."

Davis and Hill-Eley both said they can see Nelson carrying the ball 30 to 40 times a game every game if needed.

"He's one of the guys I wanted to work with this year because he wants to learn and keep improving," Davis said. "He wants to break all the school rushing records and knows it will take a lot of hard work."

Nelson had 151 yards and three touchdowns in the first half and impressed the coaching staff with his constant communication with the offensive line.

"I see what the defenses are doing, and then I tell my line this is what I need," said Nelson, who began his college career at Kent State but never played in a game during one semester at the school.

Therefore, he had four years eligibility remaining.

"They made me a cornerback, and when I realized I would not play running back, I transferred to Morgan," he said. "I could have stayed there and run the 50, 100 and 200 in track. I had already won some gold medals indoors there."

Nelson spent last season at Morgan "learning" how to use his speed on the football field after just outrunning people at Christ The King High in New York.

"In high school, you can get by with talent," he said. "Then you have to read defenses in college and you have to learn always to give credit to your offensive line."

Next for Morgan

Matchup: Gardner-Webb (0-1) vs. Morgan State (1-0)

Site: Hughes Stadium

When: Tomorrow, 6 p.m.

Radio: WEAA (88.9 FM)

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