West: Beaver's Nardone ready for big year at CMU
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Jake Nardone found himself a perfect fit at Carnegie Mellon, as a football player and a student.
"They push you in everything you do," said Nardone, a senior halfback who graduated from Beaver Area High School. "You have to have your priorities. You give up your free time.
"It may sound funny, but I do better in school during football season because I have to be more disciplined and budget my time better."
Nardone, who is on schedule to earn a business administration degree in finance in the spring, has started in all 30 of CMU's games during his career and is the school's 12th all-time rusher with 1,476 yards.
"I wouldn't be in college without football," said Nardone, a stocky 5-foot-8, 175-pounder. "Of course, academics come first. But I really appreciate the opportunity to play football at Carnegie Mellon."
The Tartans, who return 16 starters from a 5-5 team -- eight on offense, eight on defense -- were picked to finish third in the four-team University Athletic Association in a preseason poll of the league's coaches.
They feature two preseason Division III All-Americans, offensive guard Nathan Cheek and defensive back Sam Thompson, whose seven interceptions last season tied a school record and was second in the country.
Nardone was one of the workhorses in the backfield that contributed the bulk of a rushing attack that averaged nearly 235 yards per game. He had 126 carries for 679 yards and six touchdowns. Also returning is Patrick Blanks, who had team highs of 138 carries, 958 yards and 12 touchdowns.
"It's a perfect situation to be in for a running back," Nardone said. "The carries keep coming; that's what you want as a running back.
"I would like to carry it 15 times a game, but I'll probably get 12 or 13. We run more often than the teams we play against."
CMU's offense will have a new wrinkle or two in it because the Tartans are going to operate out of the spread wing-T rather than just the basic wing-T they've been running the past quarter of a century under coach Rich Lackner.
"We're moving toward more passing," Nardone said. "[The coaches] have faith in Rob [Kalkstein]. He's got a strong arm and we'll have more creative routes."
But the offense still will revolve around the ground game, with the plays starting with the quarterback taking the snap a few yards behind the line of scrimmage and stuffing the ball in the stomach of the fullback. The quarterback can then either give the ball to the fullback, or pull the ball out and hand it to a halfback for a reverse or sweep or keep it and take it himself on a sweep.
"We also have some trick plays, but basically the job of all the running backs is put your shoulder down and get the extra 3 yards," Nardone said. "If we need 3 yards, we usually go right at the defense. My adjustments can vary depending upon our alignment and what the quarterback sees from the defense. We do it all."
Nardone likes to do it by running around defenders rather than through them.
"Speed is my forte," he said, grinning. "I've been timed in 4.46 or 4.5. When I started playing football at 11 or 12, I played guard for a season. I had one carry and I scored a touchdown. I've been a running back ever since."
Nardone is right where he wants to be.
First Published August 30, 2012 12:00 am