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As long as there is the I-formation, there will be fullbacks, but the position is changing in the college game as much as it is in the pros.

Hans Carmien, a 6-foot-2, 245-pound senior, was the only official fullback on SIU's roster this year. He helped the Salukis average 4.3 yards a carry and rush for 15 touchdowns, but was more known for his receiving ability. Carmien caught 15 passes for 84 yards and five touchdowns in 42 career games. This year he caught four passes for 31 yards and one touchdown, in the opener against Mississippi Valley State.

Jaylon Graham, a 6-3, 253-pound tight end, also played some fullback for SIU, and is expected to play there this year. A few years ago SIU began grouping the fullbacks and tight ends together during practice, because their roles became similar. In the days of spread offenses, shotguns and Air Raids, the fullbacks, lined up just behind the line of scrimmage as H-backs, are just as likely to catch passes as the running backs that line up behind the quarterback.

Everybody wants guys like Dallas Goedert of South Dakota State, athletic tight ends who can outrun linebackers but still block well enough on the line of scrimmage. Jake Varble and Jaylin Carter are SIU's guys on the edge.

Without Carmien, who earned his master's degree last year, SIU coach Nick Hill went out and recruited Jacob Garrett, a 6-2, 230-pound tight end/fullback from Sellersburg, Indiana.

"Spread offenses have taken over the high school game, and you don't see a lot of guys just lining up and playing true fullback, but Jacob Garrett is somebody that can line up back there, and he can do more," Hill said. "He can catch the ball. He runs good routes, so, more H-back than that true fullback."

You could see Graham or Garrett, or both, lining up in front of Daquan Isom this year in the I-formation for SIU, but it's a dying art. Only half of the Missouri Valley Football Conference's 10 teams still had a fullback in 2017, including national champion North Dakota State, which had three. Only South Dakota State had more, with four. Illinois State had three on its 2017 roster, and Northern Iowa had a tweener, fullback/tight end Trey Recknor.

Indiana State, Missouri State, South Dakota, Western Illinois and Youngstown State didn't have a true fullback on its roster. South Dakota and Western Illinois both made the playoffs.

Only two teams in the league rushed for more yards than it threw for, Youngstown State and North Dakota State. Even though those are the easiest yards to earn, look for that to be the norm going forward. Even fullbacks can catch now.

TODD HEFFERMAN covers SIU athletics for The Southern Illinoisan. Contact him at, 618-351-5087 or on Twitter at @THefferman.


Sports reporter

Todd Hefferman has covered SIU athletics since 2008. A University of Iowa grad, he is a member of the U.S. Basketball Writers Association and a Heisman Trophy voter.

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