NCF Nation: Darnel Ballard
Posted by ESPN.com's Graham Watson
A year ago, East Carolina coach Skip Holtz was undecided at running back.
His starter, Dominique Lindsay, was lost for the season with a knee injury and the other running backs were either unproven or dealing with off-field issues.
Holtz is in a similar position now, only this year the problem is having too much talent from which to choose.
Lindsay and transfer Brandon Jackson have been taking the bulk of the reps and both players will share time in the season opener against Appalachian State. Jackson suffered an injured thumb during last Friday's scrimmage and has been limited, but Holtz doesn't see the injury keeping him out of the game.
Giavanni Ruffin and Jon Williams are the next two in line for carries.
"It's a long cry from where we were a year ago when we didn't have Lindsay, Jackson, Ruffin and Williams wasn't here for the second half of the season,” Holtz said during his weekly press conference. “Right now, the top four guys you're looking at are bigger, more physical backs. In the past, we have struggled in short-yardage situations and have not had the success we needed to have in the past in order to keep drives alive. I feel good we have improved the running back position tremendously and I feel good about the guys who are there and the guys who will play Saturday."
Running back is probably the deepest position for the Pirates this season. In addition to the top four backs, Holtz said Darnel Ballard and Norman Whitley have done some good things during camp to work their way into the mix. Whitley came into fall camp nursing a hip injury, but led the Pirates in rushing last season with 698 yards and four touchdowns.
Holtz said he didn't know which running backs would play in the season opener beyond his top two, but that all of the running backs would get some time with special teams.
"They will all play,” Holtz said. “I can't say they will all see time at tailback, however. I feel like we have four backs that can play. Right now, I'd be very comfortable looking up and seeing any one of those four out there."