A year ago, Laquan McKever was playing cornerback, filling in for injured starters, with an occasional kickoff return. Now, the sophomore running back has become the face of Penn sprint football in the midst of a breakout season.
Before becoming the starting running back and averaging 144.5 rushing yards per game, McKever found himself behind senior running back Jake Klaus on the depth chart. An experienced three-year starter, Klaus was capable of handling the majority of rushing attempts, carrying the ball 134 times over the course of last season. So, McKever found other ways to contribute to the team during his freshman campaign — special teams and defense.
“The offensive coordinator and the coaches thought Jake Klaus was the go-to guy last year," McKever said. “I got to spend some time learning under him, so I embraced the role I was given, whether that be special teams or defense."
McKever finished the season with 11 total tackles as a defensive back and three kickoff returns for 49 yards as a return specialist. But going into his sophomore year, McKever was ready to play running back again and take on a much heavier workload.
“I kind of knew last year that once Jake Klaus was gone, I would be the next guy up. Obviously, I was wary of the new recruits and current players on the team, but I was confident that I had worked hard enough and put in enough effort to be the starter this year,” he said.
Over the offseason, McKever worked hard to regain and improve the skills of the position that he had been originally recruited for — running back — working on strength, speed, and quickness, and it has certainly paid off.
In his first game as the starting running back, McKever punished the Army defense and ran the ball 22 times for 109 yards. However, the sophomore standout didn’t stop there. A week later against Cornell, the running back ran the ball 24 times for 149 yards and a touchdown.
Against Post, McKever rushed for 82 yards and two touchdowns on 16 attempts. And in the most recent game against Chestnut Hill, McKever exploded for 238 yards and two touchdowns, earning him the Collegiate Sprint Football League Offensive Player of the Week.
“We connect in all ways. Having a quarterback who can throw efficiently and who is a dangerous threat, defenses have to respect that so they can’t just play the run,” McKever said. “Having an O-line that can open up holes makes it easy when we run the ball to gain yards.”
Four games into the season, McKever leads the CSFL in rushing, running the ball 87 times for 578 yards — currently the tenth best total in single-season program history, with three games still remaining. The sophomore running back ranks second in the league with five rushing touchdowns—only behind teammate Eddie Jenkins with 11.
“It was cool winning CSFL Offensive Player of the Week, but I don’t really look into that. I’m more focused on the goal I’ve set for the season — eclipsing 1,000 yards rushing and winning the CSFL championship,” McKever said.
For McKever, sprint football is the perfect balance of academics, athletics, and social life at Penn. It’s something that he loves to do, and it has shown every time the sophomore running back has stepped out on the field.
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