This past weekend at South Carolina, Tanardo Sharps rushed for 143 yards, one touchdown, and had one broken tooth, preventing his return in the second half.
Temple is fortunate that’s all their herculean do-everything back will miss.
Coming off a maligned junior season in which he suffered a nagging groin injury, Sharps is on his way to making his senior year his most prolific.
He attributes all of it to his inexorable efforts off the field.
“Basically I’m trying to become a more complete player,” said Sharps before practice for this week’s game against Cincinnati.
“I don’t want to be known just as a player who can run the ball, but one who pays attention to little things, as well as being a blocker or catching the ball out of the backfield.”
Sharps said that watching extra film, having good communication with his offensive line and enduring a rigorous training regimen over the summer has paid dividends and his performance on the field is showing.
Coach Bobby Wallace agrees.
“One reason why I think he’s getting better is because he’s running the ball so much, and he’s doing that in practice,” Wallace said.
“I think he’s probably in the best condition that he ever has been.”
As the only featured back in a spread offense that incorporates four wide receivers, Sharps has benefited immensely.
Now defenses are forced to spread their formations as well.
In turn, fewer defenders are in position to contain the explosive Sharps.
Through four games Sharps numbers are stellar.
He is third in the Big East Conference in rushing yards per game at 106, and his 427 rushing yards are second in the conference.
After just one touchdown last season, he has already scored three, two of which were against top-ranked Miami.
Numbers aside, Sharps has taken a lot pressure off of sophomore quarterback Mike McGann and keeps opposing defenses honest.
“Coach Wallace and Brock expect me to step up and make plays… they don’t put any added pressure on me, but they just let me know my role on the team, and that I can provide a spark for the team,” said Sharps.
Spark is an understatement, Sharps provides fireworks.
At South Carolina, he was running circles around the defense with five runs of 10 yards or more.
As the first half was drawing to a close, Sharps took a handoff and was hit underneath his helmet, to what he described as a “freak shot.”
Despite writhing pain, a novacane shot did little and he was unable to bite down on his mouthpiece.
The fear of pushing the tooth farther into his gums precluded his return, thus severely hampering the team’s prospect at recovering from a 14-point deficit.
Missing the second half was frustrating for Sharps.
He attributed his big half to the offensive line.
The symbiotic relationship on and off the field between Sharps and his linemen is real tight, and he considers them the unsung heroes of the team.
According to senior tackle Dave Yovanovits, if Sharps is running well, it makes the front line look good and everyone feels a lot of confidence.
“He’s got great eyes, and if a hole ever closes up he always makes a good cut back,” Yovanovits said.
When asked about missing this week’s game, Sharps said without hesitation that he would be starting.
Moreover, with the toughest portion of the season past, he doesn’t want to miss out on all the fun.
“This year I’m going out there and having fun like it was in Pop Warner and high school, just go out there and play all out,” Sharps said.
The passing of each game on the schedule also brings Sharps one step closer to the end of his Temple career, and if fortunate enough, a chance to play in the NFL.
“It’s something I’ve dreamed about since I was a little kid,” said Sharps, “but right now I don’t really put that in the front of my mind, because it could hamper my play on the field.”
Sharps’ best intangibles are his drive and focus to take each play one at a time, along with each game one at a time.
Comfortable with his capabilities, he knows making it to the pros is possible, but refuses to get overzealous.
For now, his only concern is getting to a bowl game, and with his brimming confidence, he doesn’t see why not.
Jason Haslam can be reached at Jasonhaslam@yahoo.com.