Toledo's Shakif Seymour celebrates scoring in the fourth quarter of Thursday's season opener against Elon. BLADE/KATIE RAUSCH
In the second half of the Elon game, University of Toledo football fans might have been searching the depths of their roster sheets looking to see who No. 21 was at running back.
But if third-string, redshirt freshman running back Shakif Seymour has it his way, No. 21 will be a mainstay on the field this season. Seymour came into the game after Terry Swanson and Art Thompkins, but he quickly and efficiently racked up 102 rushing yards on 11 carries and scored his first career touchdown.
“Whenever my name is called I have to be ready,” Seymour said. “I’m ready to go and show that No. 21 can play.”
With Swanson, a senior, leading the backfield committee and Thompkins providing big-play ability off the bench, Seymour brings another dimension to the Toledo backfield.
“You are only as strong as the guy behind you at that position, I think,” UT coach Jason Candle said. “Each one of those guys brings something different to the table. They are all a different change of pace and provide us with a little extra spark. They have all earned the right to play. When you are able to do that and you don’t feel like there is a big drop off, you want to reward players.
“The nice thing about that room is that it can be a different guy every night. There is a little different change of pace when Art is in there compared to Terry, and when Terry is in there compared to Shakif, and when Shakif is in there compared to the other two guys. We’d like to keep them fresh and keep rolling.”
Seymour is known as more of a power back, but was able to show off his quickness on a 44-yard run.
“Really, it was the [offensive] line,” Seymour said. “They were communicating well up front and communicating well with me to really attack the run and see the holes. I give all the credit up front.”
Seymour said he was mentally prepared on the sideline to come into the game and be effective even if that wasn’t until the second half.
“It was exciting,” Seymour said. “But I felt prepared and I felt like I knew my assignments and knew what I needed to do. That was a big factor in me having a big [game] on Thursday. The coaches get us prepared very well. They give us everything we need to know. It’s just a matter of us applying it. I think that is what has given me the edge and allowed me to play good football.”
Toledo has made a point to establish the running game this season and was very successful in doing that against Elon, churning out 246 yards on the ground. Aside from Seymour’s strong game, Thompkins had 99 yards on 15 carries and Swanson totaled 36 yards and two touchdowns.
Swanson and Thompkins each added two catches out of the backfield.
“You have to be able to do all three phases,” Candle said. “You have to be able to run it, you have be able to protect the quarterback, and you have to be a pass catcher out of the backfield. I think all those guys do bring that to the table.”
Seymour was the one who shined the brightest in the season opener and his first collegiate game. But on any given night, Seymour knows it could be any one of the talented trio.
“It shows our versatility back there,” Seymour said. “Any one of us can go out there and play. It’s really a good thing to not just have one back out there carrying the load. We showed that any one of us can play and do something really good for the football team.”