In this age of spread offenses and wide-open passing games, Darnell Woolfolk is a throwback.
For starters, he’s a fullback — seriously, who uses fullbacks in this era of shotgun formations with usually a halfback next to the quarterback and four receivers arrayed across the field? Well, Army, for one, with its triple-option offense based on the principles of the wishbone offenses of the 1970s.
With the 5-foot-9, 235-pound Woolfolk on the field, Army travels on its belly, the belly series part of the option. As people will see Saturday at Ohio Stadium when Army plays Ohio State, quarterback Ahmad Bradshaw manipulates the various weapons, but establishing Woolfolk on plunges primarily between the tackles is the key to setting up the rest.
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“He’s a big dude, 230, 235, really low to the ground and good balance,” Ohio State defensive coordinator Greg Schiano said. “Whatever he is height wise, when he bends down and hits you he’s down pretty low.
“Their whole offensive line, they come ripping off the ball. They have great pad level. They have three seniors on the O line, a junior and one sophomore. They’re an experienced group.”
They showed that last week with a come-from-behind win over Buffalo, with Woolfolk capping two second-half drives with 1-yard touchdown plunges. Though he’d had a bout with a virus the day before, he was his physical self when the team needed him, gaining 91 yards on 21 carries.
“We knew we needed to persevere,” Woolfolk told reporters after the game. “You just have to keep moving your feet and everybody else is supporting and pulling everyone in.”
It’s an offense Woody Hayes, with his “three yards and a cloud of dust” approach at Ohio State, likely would have enjoyed watching in this otherwise wide-open time for offense.
It is Army taking advantage of its strengths, which don’t include gargantuan linemen but do include gritty, conditioned blockers paving the way for skill players who are high on discipline and the payoff that comes with drill, drill, drill.
Plus, though Woolfolk is averaging 6 yards per carry through the first two games, the Black Knights are quite content with 4, since that means they’re gaining first downs and maintaining possession.
“They want to keep the ball as long as possible and give us less possessions,” Ohio State linebacker Chris Worley said. “They’re fine with having six, seven possessions a game. … It’s going to be whether we can stop them three (plays) and out, and stop them from sustaining long drives.”