By Gabriel Stovall
RIVERDALE, Ga. — Marquis Taylor left some huge shoes to fill.
We’re talking about size 1,883 rushing yards and 18 touchdowns and an 8.9 yards per carry average shoes. Those shoes helped the Drew Titans to a 7-4 2014 season and state playoff berth.
But rising senior tailback Quarderman Sloan says he’s got big feet too.
Sloan has sparkled this summer, showing a knack for being an effective runner with perhaps a little extra flare and wiggle that the straight-running Terry may not have had.
That wiggle was on display in a huge way last Wednesday during the Spalding High hosted scrimmage camp — a setting that gave the close to a dozen schools in attendance a chance to work on short yardage offense and defense in half pads.
Think 7-on-7s with linemen and some moderate tackling.
About that tackling thing. Sloan did his best Houdini impersonation during one of Drew’s offensive plays from scrimmage against the Lovejoy defense, causing the usually sure-tackling Wildcat defenders to whiff at Sloan’s 5-foot-9, 170-pound frame.
Sloan got the shotgun handoff from star quarterback Joseph Newman, ran toward the left side of the line, juked a Lovejoy defender to the left, then, in almost a seamless motion, jumped backwards to elude another would-be tackler before darting around left end for a play that raised the eyebrows of even the Lovejoy and Spalding players who were watching, and elicited whoops and hollers from Sloan’s Titan teammates.
After the play was over, Sloan humbly trotted back to the sideline to receive the accolades of his sideline buddies.
He took it all in stride — no pun intended — and called the play a hopeful forecast of things to come in 2014.
“My o-line false started, and (Lovejoy) knew it,” said Sloan, describing the play. “So I had to cut it up early, and I still bounced it to the outside. I saw the linebacker coming and I waited on the block, but it never came, so I just reacted.”
To be sure, Sloan’s jitterbug tendencies and penchant for generating big play offense isn’t completely unknown to Drew. Behind Terry — one of the Southern Crescent’s best tailbacks in 2014 — Sloan didn’t get tons of playing time last season.
But his 256 rushing yards on 24 carries — a 10.7 yards per carry average — and three touchdowns proves his worth beyond three yards and a cloud of dust. It also proved that he made the most of the few opportunities he got.
“Every touch I’m trying to break,” Sloan said. “Every play, touchdown. That’s what I’m after.”
He said he has mad respect for his predecessor at the position, though.
Terry, now a freshman at Highland (Kansas) Community College, was a guy Sloan looked up to. He’ll be the first to tell you that he appreciated the way Terry ran, but he’ll just as quickly point out the way the two of them are different.
“He wasn’t really a scatback type,” Sloan said. “He’ll hit it, you know, like one cut and go. And he’d get yards. But he wouldn’t really try to make people miss. I’d make people miss.”
No argument there, as the aforementioned highlight reel-worthy play accentuated.
Sloan said he’s excited to get the chance to be the guy in what could be a potentially potent offense with Newman returning after a junior season where he rolled up 2,589 total yards and 35 touchdowns as a dual threat quarterback, along with a 6-foot-5, 205-pound target on the outside in wideout Bryson Duckworth.
Duckworth, who snagged 16 balls for 356 yards and eight scores last season, is the second leading returning receiver to the Titans squad.
The leader? Sloan.
Sloan caught 45 passes for 438 yards and eight touchdown grabs of his own. And it’s that diversity in his game that causes Sloan to respectfully see himself having as big of a season as Terry did last year — if not bigger.
“I don’t really think about it like filling (Terry’s) shoes,” Sloan said. “Because what he did was great, but I feel like I can pass him somewhere down the line. I think I’ll be able to get up there where he was and help this team do big things.”