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July 30, 2014

Panhandle boasts exceptional running backs

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Florida is home to some of the top running backs in the nation year in and year out. In 2013, south Florida was home to standouts such as Dalvin Cook, Sony Michel, and Joseph Yearby, who were some of the top producing and recruited running backs in all of Florida.

However, the state's leading rusher in 2013 calls the Florida Panhandle home. Pace (Fla.) senior running back Quaide Weimerskirch, who recently committed to Louisiana Lafayette, is well known as a workhorse running back (359 carries, 2,308 yards, 27 Touchdowns) in the 850. Defensive coordinators in the area know when you play Pace, you must stop him.

Rod Taylor, Niceville's defensive coordinator stated, "we'll put 9, 10, or 11 players in the box if we have too - and sometimes that is not enough."

Coach Taylor knows a little something about running backs as he sees three of them every day on the Niceville's practice field.

The return of three-star back Shi'kim Coward has Niceville High School excited. The nation's 15th ranked all-purpose back is ready to reappear after suffering a season ending knee injury last year. Coward is Niceville's leading returning rusher, however, he is bringing two young guns with him, in 2017 studs Deonte Sheffield and Jordan Tinder.

In 2013, Niceville fell to Dwyer 55-39 in the 7A State Championship game without Coward, and his goals for 2014 are simple - to return to state.

Coward, who is a student of the game, also keeps his eyes on the other running backs in the area. He thought Quaide Weimerskirch had an excellent year.

"He is a great player. I respect guys like that," said Coward.

Respect is something that is mentioned a lot when Shi'Kim Coward's name is brought up. Sheffield states of his teammate, "He is a guy that is going on his 4th year on Varsity, I can ask him anything and he is always willing to help."

His teammate Jordan Tinder, who had a 55 yard run in the Spring game this year against Tate, believes Shi'kim makes all the running backs feel like family.

"Although Shi'Kim's presence will affect my rushing attempts, he always tells me what I can do to be better. He is such a great teammate and brother," said Tinder.

Navarre High School in Santa Rosa County is very high on their running back as well. Sophomore stud Michael Carter, who holds early offers from Florida Atlantic and Tennessee, will lead Navarre's offense next year as they attempt to regain control in the Florida 6A Region 1. Choctawhatchee is led by senior John Hicks who is an exceptionally fast runner.

The Panhandle is always sprinkled with great talent, and this bunch of high school running backs will keep running.

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