Reyes latest in string of top runners at Syracuse

Updated: October 9, 2003, 7:32 PM ET

SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- His cousin Maurice Clarett is more celebrated, yet Syracuse tailback Walter Reyes is doing all the running this season.

While the suspended Clarett is making news off the field a year after leading Ohio State to the national title, Reyes is trying to run the Orangemen back to their winning ways.

Four games into his junior season, Reyes leads the nation in rushing, points and all-purpose yards. When he arrived at Syracuse, one of the first things Reyes did was dust off film of two players who made the Orangemen a national power nearly a half-century ago.

"I had heard so much about how JimBrown was such a physical runner, and how swift and smooth Ernie Davis was. I wanted to see with my own two eyes what these guys did," Reyes said. "Amazing."

Reyes, 5-foot-10 and 210 pounds, is averaging 170 yards rushing, 15.5 points and 193.5 total yards per game. He has 10 rushing touchdowns and at least one TD in nine straight games -- one shy of the school record set by Jim Nance in 1964.

Reyes is simply the latest star tailback at a school that producedBrown, Davis, Floyd Little, Larry Csonka and Joe Morris. Although he knows the spotlight could disappear on his next carry, Reyes is sort of enjoying the attention.

"It's OK, I guess," Reyes said. "You get a lot of attention, but at the same time you're also happy that your team is 3-1, too."

Reyes began the season with a career-high 191 yards on 28 carries and scored three touchdowns in a 49-47 triple overtime victory at North Carolina. The next week, Louisville beat Syracuse 30-20 and held Reyes to 87 yards on 16 carries.

"If we stay on the field, not many teams can stop us," quarterback R.J. Anderson said. "To me, Walt's the best back in the Big East, maybe even the country. But you're never going to see that with 16 carries."

Against Central Florida, with tailback Damien Rhodes ailing with a bad ankle, Reyes had 31 carries for 241 yards and four TDs -- all career highs.

Reyes, who set the Ohio state high school record in the 55-meter sprint and covers 40 yards in 4.28 seconds, followed that by deflating Toledo, upset winners over then-No. 9 Pittsburgh. In the first half, he rushed for 148 yards on 12 carries and had scoring runs of 61 and 43 yards. He finished with 162 yards as Syracuse won 34-7.

"On top of being really patient, he's really explosive," Toledo defensive end Frank Ofili said. "He doesn't force anything. He waits for the hole to open and takes it."

Reyes played in 12 games as a freshman, rushing for 139 yards and one touchdown on 42 carries. When projected starter Diamond Ferri was sidelined last year for breaking team rules, Reyes had a chance to play.

He began to excel with regularity after the Orangemen struggled to a 1-6 start. Reyes rushed for 368 yards and eight touchdowns in a three-game winning streak, the last a 50-42 triple-overtime win over No. 8 Virginia Tech. Reyes rushed for 118 yards on 21 carries and scored three TDs in that one, and finished the season with a school-record 17 rushing touchdowns.

"I knew I had to wait my time, but I waited patiently and my time has come," said Reyes, whose power, speed and elusiveness made him one of Ohio's top high school running backs with 40 TDs and a Struthers High School-record 3,005 yards rushing. "I'm just trying to make the most of it. Just give me the ball and let me make things happen."

Reyes has 28 rushing TDs in his career, tying him with Davis and Dee Brown for third place on Syracuse's career list. Little had 35 from 1964-66.

"If they don't tackle him at the line, he's got so much speed that he can outrun the backside defenders," said coach Paul Pasqualoni. "He has a great feel for it, great vision, and a clear understanding of what the blocking scheme is in front of him. He's kind of waiting for the blocks to be made, which is obviously a sign of maturity."

JimBrown would star with the Cleveland Browns, leading the NFL in rushing eight times in his nine-year career and was considered by many as football's greatest running back.

Davis, Syracuse's only Heisman Trophy winner (1961), led the Orangemen to their only national title in 1959. He died of leukemia before he could realize his dream of playing besideBrown in Cleveland.

Before the season, Reyes set a personal goal of rushing for 1,600 yards, which again would place him in exclusive company.

"Just to be mentioned in the same sentence with JimBrown and Ernie Davis is enough," Reyes said. "If when it's all said and done and I'm worthy of that, I'll let you know how I feel."

This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index