How strange it must have been for James Kenner to find himself fourth on the depth chart when this season began after leading Stony Brook in rushing a year ago. But from high school to junior college to SBU, Kenner has made a habit of starting at the bottom of the ladder and continuing to climb.
This season is no different. Kenner has gone from fourth-string to third in carries (50) and second in rushing yards (284) and average carry (5.7). Few would argue that he's first among the Seawolves (3-4, 2-1 CAA) in perseverance and has provided the spark for the two-game winning streak they carry to Elon (1-5, 0-2) Saturday afternoon.
When starter Stacey Bedell suffered a minor injury two weeks ago at Towson, it was Kenner who rushed for 79 of his 80 yards in the second half and the clinching touchdown in a 14-3 win. He came off the bench again last week to help jump-start the offense with 89 yards on 17 carries.
"I do see myself creating a spark, just like Stacey,'' Kenner said. "Any big run helps the team out, and it keeps our motor running. When you've got a back or two good backs keeping the rhythm going, you're all feeding off each other.''
With senior Marcus Coker struggling to regain his form after an offseason motorcycle accident, Kenner is the back who has best complemented Bedell in coach Chuck Priore's offense. But that happened only after he failed to get a carry in the first two games, rushed for 102 yards against American International and fell out of favor again with a poor game at North Dakota that led to no carries against William & Mary.
"James has gotten by in life by being a good kid and outworking people,'' Priore said. "It's nice to see when kids handle it correctly that something positive comes out of it. It really helps me as a coach with the rest of the team to say, 'This is how you handle it when you're not happy. Continue to work, and things can happen for you.' ''
Bedell and Kenner figure to be a formidable 1-2 punch against Elon, which is giving up 201.7 yards rushing per game. "Me and Stacey were texting, and he mentioned that to me,'' Kenner said of Saturday's opportunity. "He said, 'We've got to do what we've been doing,' and I said, 'Don't think too much; don't try to do too much; we'll take what they give us and capitalize on the fact they give up 200 yards running.'
"Once we get into that rhythm, we're going to capitalize and put our foot on their necks, and we're not going to take it off. That's how we play, and that's how we're going to continue to play.''