CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- It's no secret that George Washington has leaned on game-breaking running backs in recent seasons.
The Patriots have lined up a 2,000-yard rusher in their backfield each of the last three years - two-time Kennedy Award winner Ryan Switzer the two previous seasons, and Felix Mollett in 2010.
Not surprisingly, that production helped GW win 34 of its 39 games and advance deep into the Class AAA playoffs each time.
But there's likely a changing of the guard in store for next season, as the Patriots attempt to rework their offense for another postseason run.
GW lost three of its top four rushers from last season, returning only senior Jacob Jackson (5-foot-11, 170 pounds), who gained 340 yards on 41 carries and scored four touchdowns as a solid backup for Switzer, who ran for 2,379 yards and 32 TDs.
Patriots coach Steve Edwards Jr., though, foresees Jackson's role as sort of a runner-receiver hybrid, much like fellow senior Austin Giacomo (6-1, 180).
"Jackson can do a little bit of both,'' Edwards said Thursday as his team wound down its workouts in the three-week summer practice period.
"He'll have to wear a lot of hats. He's a very good athlete, capable of leading us. We have great expectations for him in the receiving spot, and he's also a very gifted defensive back. He's a quality tailback, and we're fortunate to have a guy like that who's good at all those things. He's worked really hard and waited his turn. I think he's capable of opening some eyes this year.''
Another option carrying the ball will be senior fullback Zach Malone (6-1, 210), who shined at linebacker last season, especially after all-stater Dustin Crouser was lost following the eighth game with a knee injury. Malone led GW with 141 total tackles.
"He'll step in and he'll get some more touches on offense,'' Edwards said. "He's a really good blocker and very talented himself. He's as good a linebacker as there is around this area that I'm aware of.''
Directing the offense will be junior quarterback Jon Alexander, who played 15 games at South Charleston the past two years and was a 1,000-yard passer each season.
After being pulled at halftime of a Sept. 21 game against Capital last year, Alexander left SC five games into the season to attend Hargrave Military Academy (Va.), but has since returned to the Kanawha Valley.
With the Black Eagles, Alexander hit on 153 of 280 passes for 2,069 yards and 21 touchdowns with 19 interceptions. He also ran for 523 yards and six scores.