Tyrell Bolden is second on the Titans with 67 rushing yards in two games. (Photo courtesy IWU Sports/Marc Featherly)
By Eric Stock
When Tyrell Bolden drops back into pass coverage, it's a little easier for him to guess where the quarterback might go with the football.
That's because Bolden is a quarterback too.
The sophomore from Springfield plays regularly both ways (three if you count special teams) for Illinois Wesleyan. Two-way players are common in high school, but rare in the more specialized collegiate ranks.
In fact, Bolden is the first player to go both ways in Norm Eash's 26 years at IWU.
Bolden starts at cornerback on defense and is what Eash calls his 'change of pace' quarterback on offense, where he'll ocassionally replace junior starter Rob Gallik and give the defense a different look.
Bolden is the team's second-leading rusher (67 yards on four carries) and leading punt returner. He also has one of the defensive unit's five interceptions.
Bolden's path to two-way status wasn't planned, even though he played both ways at Springfield High School. Eash asked him last season to consider moving to defense when Gallik had emerged as the starting quarterback.
"We didn't want a talented athlete standing next to us (on the sidelines)," Eash said.
Bolden said he had to think about if for a week before deciding whether he wanted to play defense. Then shortly before the start of this season, backup quarterback Alex Hale left the team, creating a need for another signal caller.
"I place expectations on players, then I expect them to respond. I don't know if he had much choice in it," Eash said, noting that Bolden has responded to whatever has been asked of him.
Aside from the endurance required on the field to play a large percentage of downs, Bolden said the biggest adjustment is studying up on both units each week.
"The only tough thing is preparing for each team's offense and defense and knowing pretty much everything the other team does," Bolden said.
Bolden said he doesn't place priority of one spot over the other. Basically, his favorite position is "wherever I'm on the field."
Return from bye week
The Titans (2-0) will close out their non-conference schedule on Saturday when they travel to Holland, Mich. to play Hope (1-2). The schedule is a departure from recent seasons when the Titans took a bye week prior to their conference opener.
Eash said it will help having a game immedately before the league opener vs. Millikin on Sept. 29.
"I'm looking forward to having this game to propel us right into the conference season," Eash said.
Even though the Titans averaged 51 points per game in their first two wins, senior tight end Parker Carolll said he knows the offense can do better.
"We're just trying to build off that and be perfect. The numbers don't lie, we've put up good numbers, but there's still enough to improve upon," Carroll said.
Injury bug at running back
The Titans could be shorthanded in the offensive backfield even after a bye week. Running backs T.J. Stinde (ankle), Cameron Allen (hamstring) and Anfernee Roberts (shoulder) are all doubtful to play.
Stinde ranks fourth in the College Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin with 181 rushing yards.
Eric Stock can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.