Quarterback 'Duck' expects more balance in Samford offense


2016 record: 7-5, lost 38-24 to Youngstown State in FCS playoffs first roundSeason opener: Aug. 31 vs. Kennesaw StateDate against UTC: Oct. 28 in BirminghamPreseason ranking (coaches/media): 3/3Coming Wednesday: Virginia Military Institute

Devlin Hodges has a lot of accomplishments on his football resume. Among them, the Samford University junior quarterback was the 2016 Southern Conference offensive player of the year and a Football Championship Subdivision third-team All-American.

He threw for 4,088 yards and 36 touchdowns last season, both records at the Birmingham school.

But one honor stands out a little bit more than the rest, and it isn't on the gridiron.

Hodges was the 2009 Junior World Championships duck-calling champion after consecutive years finishing second.

That's part of the reason that Samford coach Chris Hatcher calls the 6-foot-1, 205-pounder "Duck" - which under any other set of circumstances would be a horrible nickname for a quarterback.

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"I think it's funny," Hodges said of the nickname last week at Southern Conference media day.

It doesn't hurt that he has completed 70 percent of his passes, with 48 touchdowns and only 14 interceptions, effectively ending any thought that accuracy could play any part of the nickname.

Hatcher has no reason to be concerned about his passing game. His focus, as well as the team's in 2017, is to work the rushing attack more. The Bulldogs finished last in the league in rushing yards per game (96.8) last season.

"We couldn't run it last year when we wanted to," Hatcher said. "We're always going to favor the pass, but when we need to run the ball, we've got to do a better job of it this year, so it's a huge point of emphasis."

There are some questions about youth at the receiver positions as well as along the offensive line, so Hatcher said the team probably will have to lean on a defense that forced 20 turnovers and returns seven starters.

But with an All-America quarterback and a senior running back returning in K'rondis Larry, Hatcher and "Duck" feel good about the Bulldogs this season.

"The rushing game is definitely going to help," Hodges said. "It's going to help open up the passing game, so it's been a big focus for us this offseason.

"We're just excited for this season going forward."

Contact Gene Henley at ghenley@timesfreepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @genehenleytfp.