KAWASAKI – The X League champion Fujitsu Frontiers lost two offensive weapons — MVP quarterback Colby Cameron and longtime ace running back Gino Gordon — after last year’s national championship-winning season.
About 3½ months later, the Frontiers may have found someone to fill the vacant starting running back position. And he comes from the other side of the ball.
Linebacker Trashaun Nixon made his running back debut and scored three touchdowns as the Frontiers defeated the Meiji Yasuda Peanta-Ocean Pirates 49-10 on Sunday at Fujitsu Stadium Kawasaki in the Pearl Bowl Tournament group stage.
The 186-cm, 106-kg Nixon was almost unstoppable when he rushed 140 yards on nine carries. But Fujitsu coach Satoshi Fujita refused to call it a permanent move.
“It is just a tryout. He’s just raw playing the back in my opinion,” Fujita said of the former New Mexico State linebacker. “He has been saying he wants to play running back. He is a veteran linebacker and doesn’t have to practice defense much. So we decided to give him a shot.”
Running back is not an unfamiliar position for Nixon, who played running back and linebacker at high school. He was actually recruited by USC and UCLA as a running back, but his grades were not good enough to go to those football major colleges so he had to go to a junior college before transferring to New Mexico State.
“At college, I chose to play linebacker because I like defense. But maybe my best position is running back,” Nixon said. “I feel I did good. I played running back at high school, so I remember how to play it.
“I wanted to play running back. But when I told it to my coaches, they were like, ‘what?’ Last year, I couldn’t play running back because Gino was here. Now Gino retired, I want to play running back.”
Under X League regulations, more than two American players cannot play at the same time. Until last year, Cameron and Gordon played a lot together as starters, so there were no chances for Nixon playing running back.
Currently the Frontiers have no Americans in their offensive side and that opened the door for Nixon.
“I will play a lot at running back this spring,” Nixon said.
Another issue that the Frontiers face this spring is finding a new starting quarterback to replace Cameron, who left to join Southern Methodist University’s coaching staff. The Frontiers are looking for another in-house solution.
Veteran Keiya Hiramoto and fourth-year Tsubasa Takagi shared playing time against the Pirates with, both throwing touchdown passes.
“We all know that we’re in a tough situation after losing two key offensive players,” said Fujita. “It is difficult to fill their shoes, but we all have to step up to make up for the loss.”
In Sunday’s other game, Ryo Fujiwara threw four touchdown passes to lead the Nojima Sagamihara Rise to a 31-11 win over the Tokyo Gus Creators.