With the Jackson State offense positioned near midfield, Sy’veon Wilkerson took a hand-off from Shedeur Sanders, made a sharp cut to his left and sprinted through a gaping hole before he was tripped up 26 yards later by Grambling State defenders.
On that same drive, Wilkerson — with Jackson State on the 4-yard line — plowed into the line of scrimmage and moved Grambling would-be tacklers backward into the endzone for a first-quarter touchdown.
It was his first score in a Jackson State uniform since joining the program after entering the transfer portal last December.
In Jackson State’s 66-24 win over Grambling on Saturday, Wilkerson recorded 23 carries for 141 yards and two TDs. The sophomore, who earned the starting job the previous week against Tennessee State, was named SWAC Newcomer of the Week for the second consecutive week.
“He’s very physical and hits the hole very decisively. It’s one cut, plant and go,” said JSU coach Deion Sanders. “He brings it to you whether you want it or not.”
Wilkerson, listed at 5-foot-9, 209 pounds, is a bruiser who is described by Sanders as a “quiet killer” because of his reserved demeanor combined with a fierce running style.
Wilkerson, the former All-MEAC running back and Jerry Rice Award finalist at Delaware State, is part of a revamp Jackson State running attack that has improved mightly after it was identified as a priority in the offseason for an upgrade after finishing dead last in the SWAC in yards at 89.1 per game.
“It’s nothing new to me,” Wilkerson said. “I’ve been in this position before where I’ve had to start at the bottom and work my way up. It’s really just normal. I just went out and played my game.”
Through the first three games of the regular season, Jackson State is averaging 158.7 yards per game on the ground thanks in large part to Wilkerson, fellow running back Santee Marshall and a retooled offensive line.
The intentional emphasis on running the football more has “ignited the offensive line,” said Sanders, and taken the pressure off Shedeur Sanders having to carry a heavy load.
Wilkerson, who figured to be a contributor in what is a deep offense, has created a new dynamic for the high-scoring unit in the conference.
“I’m proud of him,” said Sanders. “He worked his butt off, climbed up the depth chart, and when he got the opportunity he took advantage of it.”
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