Blanchard, Perkins ready to shine for DSHS, Walker
By Robin Fambrough
August 10, 2012
Kaleb is always one of those kids who liked to lift weights and work out all the time. When he couldn’t because of his shoulder, he felt like he was falling behind.” Dru Nettles, Denham Springs coach
Kaleb Blanchard was one of the Baton Rouge area’s up-and-coming stars. He rushed for 1,799 yards and 21 touchdowns as a sophomore for Denham Springs High.
That was before a shoulder injury that required offseason surgery derailed Blanchard’s junior season.
When one player goes down with an injury, another can seize the spotlight, which is exactly what Walker High’s Carlton Perkins did last fall. Perkins finished second in the state in rushing in the regular season with 1,807 yards and 24 TDs.
Now, the two running backs from rival Livingston Parish are primed for their senior seasons, setting off plenty of debate.
“I think there has been some talk in the communities about who can do what or who’s better,” Denham Springs coach Dru Nettles said. “You know that kind of stuff happens.”
Blanchard and Perkins aren’t the ones talking, though they have exchanged a couple of texts. Instead, the duo is focused on what they need to do this fall.
“I’ve heard all the people who have doubts,” Blanchard said. “They’ve all told me I’ll never be the same person or player again. They say I’ll never have the same speed or be able to do what I did two years ago. That motivates me.”
Blanchard’s separated shoulder popped out of place at least four times during the 2011 season. The injury happened in the preseason and limited Blanchard to just 387 yards on 74 carries with five touchdowns in 2011. Denham Springs went on to finish 7-4 overall.
The postseason surgery proved to be a key turning point. Once Blanchard was cleared to participate, he hit the camp circuit and ran the 40-yard dash in 4.44 seconds at LSU and later posted a 4.40 at Texas A&M.
An impressive showing at Arkansas’ junior day netted Blanchard a scholarship offer he accepted. At 6-foot-1, 210 pounds, Blanchard is 10 to 15 pounds heavier than last season.
While Perkins’ 2011 season was a very good one, he too comes into the 2012 season with plenty of motivation based on the Wildcats’ 3-7 finish.
“The thing that bothers me is I don’t think I finished as strong as I should have,” Perkins said. “And as a team we didn’t finish games like we should have.
“This whole summer I’ve been working, trying to set the tempo for both the offense and defense. We want to be in position to win games. Based on last season, I know we can do that. We have to keep working.”
Second-year Walker coach Dwayne Severio calls Perkins the “catalyst” for the Walker offense. Perkins also will have a defenisve role as either a safety or cornerback. The list of schools that have already offered the 6-foot-1, 185-pound Perkins scholarships is growing. The notables include Minnesota and the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. Like Blanchard, he is 10 to 15 pounds heavier than a year ago. And he too ran a 4.44 40-yard dash at LSU.
“Some schools are interested in him (Perkins) as a running back and others see him as a safety,” Severio said. “The good thing is he has options. He had a great offseason and was always going to camps and played on an elite 7-on-7 team. Even with all that, he never missed a workout here at school. It’s good when the leader of your offense is also one of the hardest workers you have.”
By contrast, Blanchard had to play a waiting game before beginning intense workouts. He didn’t get his medical release to until mid-June, said Nettles.
“Kaleb is always one of those kids who liked to lift weights and work out all the time,” Nettles said. “When he couldn’t because of his shoulder, he felt like he was falling behind.
“As coaches, we were cautious, too. We didn’t want Kaleb to do anything he wasn’t physically ready for.”
Nettles said he knew Blanchard was ready after one 7-on-7 play in late June. The senior–to-be caught a pass on the sideline, pivoted and darted downfield for a touchdown. After that, Nettles and other coaches stopped worrying.
What will be interesting for Blanchard will be the evolution of the DSHS offense.
Two other running backs, Anthony Bracey and Justin Martin, plugged the void left when Blanchard was sidelined. Both will have key roles this season.
“I love having Anthony and Justin on my team,” Blanchard said. “We push each other every day. We rely on each other.”
The situation for Perkins and Walker is somewhat different. The key for the Wildcats will be to find ways to use Perkins, whether it’s by running the ball or catching passes.
“Coach always says I can rest on Saturdays,” Perkins said. “My job is to put my team in position to win with whatever I can do.”
Their running styles are different. Blanchard has his share of moves, but is typically at his best when going straight ahead. Perkins is more of a “slasher” who cuts in and around a defense.
“I know Carlton a little, and we’ve texted a couple of times,” Blanchard said. “He’d encourage me to get healthy, and I’d tell him how much better he’ll be if put on a little weight.”
Thanks in part to their differences and their rival schools, the debate on which back is better will likely continue perhaps until Oct. 26. That’s when Walker is scheduled to travel to Denham Springs for a District 4-5A game.