Football: The 2023 Pasco County Running Back Guide — July 31

Last season was a notable one for area running backs with many breaking the 1,000-yard barrier and scoring plenty of touchdowns on the ground, all while leading their teams in deep playoff runs. This season could be memorable, too, with a number of ball carriers returning to contending teams. Here is the breakdown in Pasco County to get ready for the season.

The 1,000-yard club

Two returning Pasco County running backs – Hudson’s Logan Shawell and Zephyrhills’ Rodney Smith – each ran for more than 1,000 yards last season. 

Shawell, a senior, had a meteoric rise, going from 404 yards rushing as a sophomore to 1,054 and 12 touchdowns as a junior a yer ago. He also was a dependable receiver, gaining 343 yards and adding four more touchdowns on receptions.

Smith, another senior, had a breakout performance in 2021, rushing for 1,142 yards and 12 touchdowns. His ability to gain large chunks on the ground was a big reason the Bulldogs advanced to the Class 2S semifinals. 

Filling the void

The biggest task for first-year Pasco coach Fred Hicks is finding a replacement for Tayshaun Balmir, who set the single-season school record with 1,899 rushing yards and 22 touchdowns on the ground. 

Those impressive numbers helped the Pirates go through a remarkable transformation, winning nine games and reaching the Class 2S quarterfinals after going winless the year before. 

But Balmir graduated, leaving Pasco with a huge void in its running game. 

To replace that production, the Pirates will count on more than one player. 

The committee approach includes Jalandis Smith, who gained 237 yards and a touchdown as a freshman last year, and Amontiy Hudson, an incoming freshman who scored five touchdowns in a game for Pasco Middle School last year. 

Group effort

Pasco is not the only school in the county distributing carries among a bevy of backs. Here are three other teams using the committee format with their running game. 

Fivay: The Falcons have one of the most experienced backfields in the county with Ty Wilson (786 yards, four touchdowns) returning and Jamarion Miller (655 yards and seven touchdowns) transferring from Mitchell. 

Wiregrass Ranch: The Bulls’ top two running backs from last year, Davion Brown and Kenneth Walker, both graduated. Relying on its depth, Wiregrass Ranch will turn to holdovers Jeremiah Julmiste and Landon Luis and transfers, such as Alex Cruz from Sunlake. 

Zephyrhills Christian: The Warriors’ top two backs are Kalil Browdy and Sunlake transfer Alex Hairston. 

Rising stars

Three running backs who had impressive performances last season – Cypress Creek’s Malachi Askin, Land O’ Lakes Cody Gwinn and Gulf’s Antonio Muniz – are in position to put up even bigger numbers this season. 

Askin (941 yards, 13 touchdowns) and Muniz (910, 14 touchdowns) nearly eclipsed 1,000 yards last season. They each have a good shot at reaching that mark in offenses that both feature veteran quarterbacks to help create balance on offense.

Gwinn (720 yards, 10 touchdowns last season) also has a chance to reach the 1,000-yard plateau.   

Check them out

Other teams have running backs that will have more prominent roles this season. Here are some to keep an eye on this season.

Running backSchool
Damian SpencerAnclote
Corey SimmsMitchell
Deanthony PattersonRiver Ridge
Caden JohnsonSunlake
Jaylahn LewisWesley Chapel