After the Military Bowl in December, Bowling Green running back Anthon Samuel left school to return home to Florida. It was a personal, family-based decision, but the door was left open for Samuel's possible return to BGSU in the fall. He attended classes in Florida during the spring semester to maintain his football eligibility.
That door has apparently been closed permanently. According to a personal Instagram account registered to Anthon Samuel (and reported by the BG News), Samuel is transferring to Florida International University and is attempting to get a waiver from the NCAA so he can play during the 2013 season.
Clearly, this is a tough loss for BGSU. It's hard to replace any back that can account for 1,842 yards, a 5.3 average, and 16 touchdowns over two years -- including 998 yards and 11 touchdowns during the 2012 season. However, the good news for the Falcons is that this loss had been anticipated to some extent. It's not like Samuel was here for spring practice and then decided to leave; BGSU head coach Dave Clawson was able to use spring practices to work out other backs and get a better feel for what he will have this fall.
The Falcons have three options with game experience at their disposal. Jordan Hopgood will be a senior in 2013 and has 145 career carries and 10 career touchdowns, although he saw limited action in 2012 with only nine carries. Hopgood also presents an added ability to play an occasional down at quarterback to change things up for the defense. Andre Givens will be a sophomore after carrying the ball 20 times for 134 yards in 2012. That total included a 47 yard run at Virginia Tech. The Falcons also have Jamel Martin. Martin was having a solid second season in 2012 that included 39 carries and 205 yards (5.3 yards per rush) before sitting out the last several games with a knee injury.
Bowling Green also has four recruits in the 2013 signing class at the running back position, and all hail from Florida. Fred Coppet rushed for 58 touchdowns in high school at national power St. Thomas Aquinas in Fort Lauderdale, while Brandon English scored 23 touchdowns in just his senior season while attending high school in Orlando. Eric Harrell, also from Orlando, rushed for over 1,000 yards and 25 touchdowns as a senior, and Marcus Levy accumulated nearly 3,000 yards and 37 touchdowns in his final two high school seasons.
I think most people would say that this was the way they expected this situation to play out, even if they had held out hope that Samuel would eventually return to Bowling Green. To that extent, this is not a surprise and should not worry fans too much.
On the other hand, this news puts pressure on the remaining backs to produce and to stay healthy. While there were flashes of success from Givens, Hopgood and Martin, their ability to stay on the field was a concern in 2012. If BGSU cannot find a consistent running game in 2013, it will be much more difficult for Matt Schilz to rebound from a lackluster 2012 season, and the offense as a whole will find points harder to find.
One thing is for certain -- another level of intrigue has been added as the season of #MACtion looms just six weeks away.