Tuesday, April 7, 2009

The News-Sentinel: IU running back Payton puts down the pen, picks up the ‘pistol' formation

This article on me, written by Pete DiPrimio for The News-Sentinel in Fort Wayne, is very well done. Thanks Pete for the article, I appreciate the hometown love.

BLOOMINGTON — The columns are scrapped, but not forgotten. School and football have a way of taxing even someone as efficient with his time as Indiana University running back Bryan Payton.

So Payton’s newspaper writing — including sports and men’s fashion — will wait until a summer internship, although a blog (http://bryanpayton.blogspot.com) is still running.

A passion for writing is hard to ignore.

“I do the blog to keep honing my skills,” he said.

For now Payton, a former Concordia Lutheran High School standout, hones his spring semester academics and football timing.

Oh, yes. There’s a little thing called the “pistol” formation to master.

“It’s great for me personally and great for our offense,” he said about the new offensive wrinkle.

Payton is a 5-foot-9, 207-pound tough-minded presence in a backfield that badly needs it. Coach Bill Lynch is committed to boosting the rushing attack, and that means modifying the spread attack to include the pistol. Basically, that means the running back lines up directly behind the quarterback in a shotgun formation, as opposed to being off to the side in the true spread.

“From a running back standpoint, you get the ball a little deeper, maybe a yard,” Payton said, “but you’d be surprised about how big a difference that makes in seeing the holes, making the cuts, making the reads.”

In the spread attack, if the running back was lined up on, say, the right side, the play almost always went to that side. Now the play can go to either side. Payton took advantage of that to rush for 58 yards on six carries (including a 40-yard burst) during last Saturday’s scrimmage.

“A lot of times, if we lined up on the right, the linebackers figured we’d go that way, and 90 percent of the time they were right,” Payton said. “Now they don’t get their reads until deep into the play. That delays them and gives us a head start.”

Payton has a head start on fellow running backs Demetrius McCray, Shawn Major-Winston, Trea Burgess (a converted linebacker who gained 65 yards Saturday) and heralded freshman Darius Willis (out with a groin injury).

Payton rushed for 339 yards and two touchdowns in nine games last year before an ankle injury sidelined him for the final three games. Still, he had a career-best 4.3-yards-per-carry average.

IU coaches want that kind of production — and more — next season.

“What I’m looking more from him than anything else is leadership,” running backs coach Dennis Springer said. “He’s done a great job with that.

“Bryan has worked hard since I started coaching him. He’s working even harder now. He’s looked good this spring. He’s into it. I’m excited about where he’s at.”

Added Lynch, “Bryan had a tremendous offseason. He’s a great leader and an interesting young man. He’s a well-rounded guy, but he loves football and works as hard as anybody.”

Payton and all the Hoosiers are working to rebound from last year’s 3-9 disappointment.

“We’re very optimistic,” he said. “With the talent we have and the leadership with the senior class, things are going well.”

But not perfect, he added, as IU prepares for its April 18 spring game.

“We still have to tighten the screws a little bit. For example, I think our practice was a little subpar today. We’ll come back and get things straightened out. That’s how we need to be. Leadership will get us through. We’re (way above) where we were last year.”

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