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Bilal Ally, Sekai Lindsay ready to go for UMass football if Marquis Young isn’t healthy for South Carolina

(Alec Zabrecky/Collegian)

(Alec Zabrecky/Collegian)

When it comes to the Massachusetts football team’s running game, there’s no question most of the burden falls on sophomore running back Marquis Young to carry the load for the Minutemen.

Young leads in almost every statistical running category in the team including carries (119), yards (544) and touchdowns (three). However, there is still uncertainty around the player as UMass (1-6) prepares for its matchup with South Carolina this upcoming Saturday.

Young didn’t have any carries in the second half of the Minutemen’s 56-28 loss to Louisiana Tech over the weekend due to an undisclosed injury, and didn’t practice Tuesday, according to UMass coach Mark Whipple.

“Yeah, he looks like he’ll be alright,” Whipple said after Tuesday’s practice. “He didn’t go today, but he looks like he’ll be alright. The young guys are getting work so we just have to get the next guys ready.”

If he can’t go, the Minutemen will have to rely on a series of different backs to help carry the production in Young’s absence. Through seven games, Young has generated more than three-fourths of the teams total rushing yards (76.8 percent) this season, as no other UMass back has more than 70 to his name this season. Of the team’s 222 total rushing attempts this season, Young has 119 of them, with the second closest back having only 16.

Sophomore Sekai Lindsay and freshman Bilal Ally will likely see the majority of the carries in this scenario, while fullback John Robinson-Woodgett will also get a series of handoffs as well. Lindsay is second on the team with 70 rushing yards on 16 carries, while Robinson-Woodgett, who’s been used in short-yardage situations, follows closely behind with 65 yards on 15 carries.

“I think that Sekai is healthier than he was earlier in the year with the ankle,” Whipple said. “He’s done a good job, he’s a smart player. He played well for us last year and has played well for us so far this year.”

Whipple added: “I think he had his best game running the football the other day, and Bilal got some carries. We have three good [running backs] and John Robinson-Woodgett can also carry it. So those guys all work hard.”

Ally, who’s been primarily used on special teams in both the kickoff and kick return unit, has only 10 carries on the year, six of which (37 yards) came in the second half against the Bulldogs in Young’s absence.

“It felt good,” Ally said of his performance against La. Tech. “It’s what I’ve been waiting for; to showcase my talent and everything.”

Both Ally and Lindsay said they felt confident in taking on a bigger role in the offense if Young doesn’t progress physically as the matchup against the Gamecocks (2-4, 1-4 Southeastern Conference) approaches.

Despite being a college football powerhouse that has produced the likes of Houston Texan outside linebacker Jadeveon Clowney, South Carolina has struggled stopping the run this year. The Gamecocks have the 101st ranked rushing defense, and have allowed 1,336 yards and eight touchdowns this season.

“You have to go into every game being ready,” Ally said. “You just have to do your best, honestly. You can’t judge [opponents] if they’re an SEC team or not, you just have to be strong minded and know you’ll do your job well and contribute.”

“Yeah I’m confident,” Lindsay added. “That’s why we practice every day, so I’m ready to go.”

For quarterback Andrew Ford, he said he wasn’t worried about who will be lining up behind him in the backfield come Saturday.

“Every guy is a little different, but I think Bilal [Ally] did a great job and the same with Sekai,” Ford said. “They did a great job coming in and they didn’t really skip a beat. Obviously we would love to have Marquis out there and we hope he’s healthy, but we feel really confident in all the guys we do have to step up and make plays.”

“We can do a lot,” Ford said of the difference in style between Ally and Lindsey. “They can’t really key on one guy which is good. Even though they’re very different backs, they’re both really consistent. I think they’re both a really big fit for this offense.”

Andrew Cyr can be reached at arcyr@umass.edu, and followed on Twitter @Andrew_Cyr.

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