By Matt Welch
Times West Virginian
Every offense needs a wild card.
And North Marion coach Daran Hays thinks he’s found that wild card in a unique position: wing back.
By nature, the Huskies aren’t a Wing-T offense. But that doesn’t mean they won’t mix it up a little bit and incorporate it into the offense.
It only makes sense for a running team like North Marion to add an extra running back to their onslaught.
But what is a wing back?
By definition, a wing back can be a running back, a wide receiver or a blocker.
In layman’s terms?
“It’s a unique blend and a hard kid to find,” Hays said.
While most running teams take their best athlete and stick them under center — look at Martinsburg, Bridgeport and Wayne, all three state champions last season — the Huskies are doing essentially the same thing but with a wing back.
And they think they’ve found the guy.
Senior Tristan Riggs, who is making the move from tight end, is expected to fit in nicely for Hays and the Huskies.
“We’re not going to base our offense around a wing, but as far as the older guys go,” Hays said, “Tristan gives you a lot of options and can do a lot of stuff as the wing.”
Despite not having a single carry last season, Riggs has already accepted the challenge and feels confident with the rock in his hands.
“I love it,” Riggs said following the first full week of the three-week live period. “I get the opportunity to run the ball and get my hands on the ball and score touchdowns to help win games for our team.”
While Riggs works out with both the receivers and backs at practice, getting the ball in his hands is what he likes the most. And the easiest way to do that is to run the ball.
“Honestly, I like it all. But if I had to pick, I’d choose to be a running back,” Riggs said. “(As a) receiver, you get an opportunity, but if you’re not open you won’t get the ball. As a running back, you know you’re getting the ball. You have specific plays just for you.”
But being the wing back is much like being labeled as the utility man, a role Chase Banker filled last season for North Marion.
Two seasons ago, Banker tied for the lead in receptions in the Big 10 and then assumed a utility role as the do-it-all man, passing, running and catching — sometimes all in the same game.
Banker, though, believes Riggs can handle the challenge.
“Tristan is a hard worker, I know that. I know last year he came to play every day. He works hard in the weight room, more than anybody,” Banker said. “Last year he got put on the offensive practice squad and that’s when he showed that he could run the ball.
“He always told me he looked up to me as a player. If he gets his head on right and he can be a leader, he can have a pretty good season.”
With a unique skillset of quick feet, good hands and strength, Riggs is the right man to step into that role, Hay believes.
“He’s a really unique kid. He can run, he can catch the ball, and he’s big and strong enough to kick out and block,” Hays explained. “And we’re going to do a better job of getting our wing involved, whether it be kicking out and blocking or running the ball.”
While Riggs won’t be doing any throwing this season, the senior is glad that his coaches trust him enough to fill such an important spot in their offense.
“It makes me happy to be able to be that kind of guy,” he said. “I can go anywhere around the field and just work and help the team any way that I can.”
The wing back position, in itself, is a toss-up position by nature in that the opposing defense doesn’t know what’s coming at them. With two backs behind the quarterback and another split out off the tackle, anything is possible.
That aspect excites Riggs, though, who says he’s ready to make plays happen.
“I can do anything with the ball if they give me a hole to run through,” he said. “Then I’ll work as fast as I can to get a touchdown.”
Email Matt Welch at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @MattWelch_TWV.