East Xtra: Greensburg Salem running back ready for prime time
Greensburg Salem running back Tyler Shook ran the ball 38 times for 552 yards last season, an average of 14.5 yards per carry.
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The figures merit a double-take and yet they're in black-and-white for all the world to see.
As a junior reserve tailback last season, Tyler Shook ran just 38 times for the Greensburg Salem High School football team.
But he made every one of those runs count as he finished the year with 552 yards -- that's an astounding 14.5 yards per carry, if you're keeping track -- and scored seven touchdowns to account for 42 points, the fourth-leading total on a Golden Lions team that finished with a 7-3 record after a 34-28 loss to Thomas Jefferson in the first round of the 2011 WPIAL Class AAA football playoffs.
"Most of his yards came in the flow of the game," said Casey Cavanugh, a Greensburg Salem alumnus who enters his eighth season as the school's head coach.
"Last year, we had Michael Kizzie, the school's all-time leading rusher, as our primary running threat," Cavanaugh said. "Tyler would spell him, and when [Shook] was in there, he gave us quite a burst. He has great straight-ahead breakaway speed."
That type of speed merits attention from coaches. Shook, a 5-foot-10, 170-pound senior who resides in Greensburg, has been timed in 4.41 seconds for the 40-yard dash.
Cavanaugh said Shook's most spectacular run came on a 70-yard burst in a 62-6 Keystone Conference victory against visiting Hollidaysburg.
"Tyler got on the perimeter, and the cornerback tried to force him out of bounds," Cavanaugh recalled. "Tyler just stuck his foot in the ground, broke back almost all the way across the field to score the touchdown."
Offered as a change of pace to Kizzie a year ago, Shook said expectations from the team and the coaching staff are higher this year.
"It's going to be a lot different because I'm going to be getting the ball almost every [snap]," he said. "Last year I was on the sideline for about half of the game. I'm also going to be starting on defense at cornerback and running back kickoffs and punts."
About the only time Shook, 17, won't be on the field is if the Golden Lions have to punt the ball.
"We have to give him a little bit of a break," Cavanaugh laughed.
But not much of a break.
"We want to get him as many touches as possible," the coach said. "We know he won't be averaging 14.5 yards per carry this year like he did last year. But we do need him to make the big plays, and we expect him to. We expect him to be a 1,000-yard rusher. If he is, that bodes well for our team and for him as an individual."
If Greensburg Salem needs to pass the ball, Cavanaugh said, Shook could be a viable target.
"He has very good hands, and he can line up in the slot to run routes and catch passes out of the backfield," he said.
All of this is fine with Shook, who is getting some attention from several Mid-American Conference schools as well as Youngstown State and the Naval Academy.
"Other schools might be interested, but they're going to want to see some film from our first three games," he said. "Those first few games will be like an exam."
Shook has used his speed well in other disciplines, too. He was a finalist in the 100-meter dash at the WPIAL Track and Field Championships as a sophomore, and the Golden Lions 4 x 100-meter relay team made it to the finals last spring. He also plays center field on the school's baseball team.
Just seven starters return from last year's football team. But Shook likes the way the team has jelled through the first three weeks of practice heading into Friday's season opener against 2011 WPIAL Class AAA runner-up Knoch.
It's a Greater Allegheny Conference game.
"We're doing all right," he said. "People are jumping right in where they need to jump in.
"Our defense played well [in a scrimmage] against Mount Pleasant."
But what Shook's coach and the Golden Lions are counting on is the speed and durability that the speedy back displayed on 38 carries for an entire season in 2012.