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Posted on Fri. Apr. 25, 2014 - 12:01 am EDT

'Busco grad Nicodemus ready to build on rookie year with Saint Francis

Running back moved into starting role last season due to injuries

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What: Saint Francis football's annual Black N' Blue spring game

When: 7 p.m., Friday

Where: Bishop D'Arcy Stadium

Cost: $10 for adults, $5 for students showing student ID

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Despite being a record-breaking running back in high school at Churubusco, Jason Nicodemus thought he would be like most other freshmen entering the Saint Francis football program. He would work hard for a year or two without getting even a sniff of game action, positioning himself to be a key contributor as an upperclassman.

He thought wrong.

Injuries to Antoin Campbell and Garrett Harvey early last season opened the door for Nicodemus on the depth chart and he took advantage, eventually finishing the season as the leading rusher for Saint Francis with 497 yards and three touchdowns on 115 carries.

Now a sophomore with significant game experience, Nicodemus hopes to build on what he accomplished a year ago.

“I definitely didn't expect that much playing time,” said Nicodemus, who earned All-State honors at Churubusco in 2011 and 2012. “I was expecting some stuff on special teams, but stepping in at running back … it was big.”

Campbell, a dynamic runner who expects to be 100 percent by the fall, tore an ACL that ended his 2013 campaign after just three games.

Harvey went down in the sixth game of the season, leaving a lot of uncertainty on the depth chart.

The 6-foot, 200 pound Nicodemus stepped up to fill the hole, despite learning on the fly in many instances with the difficult transition from high school to the college game.

“Everything was a little bit bigger, a little bit faster,” Nicodemus said. “Really, all it was for me was settling down. At the beginning of the year I was nervous in games, but by the end of the season I had figured out the offense a little bit.”

Coming from a run-dominant Churubusco team to a squad that likes to sling the ball around in Saint Francis, Nicodemus had to adjust to his different responsibilities, including pass blocking.

It also was different finding out he could not just barrel over defenders like he did in the NECC.

“When you are playing linebackers than are 250 pounds and (fast), it's not as easy,” said Nicodemus with a laugh.

Nicodemus is thankful he did have to languish on the sidelines too long at the beginning of his college career, instead being able to step right in and compete for significant playing time due to circumstance.

“It was kind of cool being able to pick up where I left off (at Churubusco),”

Nicodemus said. “I put on a little bit of weight and had to adjust to the new speed of the game, but it just worked out pretty well to be able to step in and … not sit on the bench too long.”

Nicodemus has not seen much action this spring for the Cougars as he nurses a pulled hamstring he suffered a few weeks ago in practice. He tried to return to practice recently but tweaked the hamstring again.

He hopes to get some playing time in tonight's spring game set for 7 p.m. at Bishop D'Arcy Stadium.

If not, he knows his role is secure with the Cougars as one of the more proven backs in Coach Kevin Donley's arsenal.

Not bad for a sophomore.

jkenny@news-sentinel.com


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