Thursday, August 21, 2008

N.C. State can't go wrong with tailback rotation

One of N.C. State coach Tom O'Brien's most difficult decisions heading into the Aug. 28 opener at South Carolina might be how to rotate talented tailbacks Jamelle Eugene and Andre Brown.

Eugene surpassed 100 yards rushing three times in the last seven games last season and was tabbed the starter entering training camp. Brown ranks 12th in N.C. State history with 1,772 career rushing yards entering his senior season.

"Jamelle has proven he can carry the load and play a lot," O'Brien said. "But Andre is a pretty good back, too."

The guess here is that if both backs are healthy, they will start the season playing about the same number of series on offense. N.C. State also is relying on Eugene on punt returns and kickoff returns, so Brown can provide him time to rest in the backfield.

Although Brown missed time early in camp because of a still-tender foot, O'Brien said he ran hard and with good vision during Tuesday's scrimmage. O'Brien said Brown's conditioning needs to improve, but that shouldn't be much of a problem if he's only playing half the game.

The next question will be what happens in the backfield when Toney Baker returns from knee surgery. Baker hopes to be back in a few weeks. And then O'Brien and his staff will have more difficult - but welcome - decisions to make at a position that might be the deepest on the roster.

– Ken Tysiac