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From the Anchor Desk
Tuesday, August 14, 2007
By Brian Bailey

Young backs jockey for travel squad

By Brian Bailey
All rights reserved.

There’s nothing like a Saturday afternoon scrimmage to get you in the mood for football.

It happens to me every year. Okay, it happens every year that the media is allowed to see some of the scrimmage action. Sometimes in the past, the scrimmages have been totally closed.

This year, Coach Skip Holtz has agreed to let us videotape the last half hour of the workout, giving us a chance to show preseason highlights to a Pirate Nation desperate for some pigskin.

Saturday’s first scrimmage was all about the younger players. Most of the vets were held out of action. They’ll get plenty of work over the next couple of weekends.

Those young players included a couple of former Eastern North Carolina prep stars in J.H. Rose’s Jonathan Williams and Richmond County’s Norman Whitley.

I’ve seen Williams play for a couple of years at Rose. He really ran the football well on Saturday. The word within the team is that Williams is really working hard. Williams had a reputation for “attitude flair ups” at Rose, but that has not been a problem at ECU so far.

The big question around Williams is about his role this season. Will he redshirt? I think the coaching staff would like to redshirt him, but that may depend on injuries.

Whitley was injured last season. That redshirt year will pay dividends this season. Whitley is a little barrel of dynamite. He had a nice run in the scrimmage on Sunday. I really like watching him carry the football. I think he’ll be especially effective as a receiver out of the backfield.

“We have a lot of running backs back there,” said Whitley after Saturday’s scrimmage. “I think if we’re used right, everybody will be fine. It will let us all stay fresh throughout the season.”

Whitley carried the football eight times for 91 yards. Williams had 10 carries for 69 yards. Brandon Simmons took advantage of his two carries, gaining 46 yards. In all, nine backs combined for 239 yards on 37 attempts. That’s an average of 6.4 yards per carry.

Coach Holtz was pleased with the young horses in his running back stable.

“I thought Jonathan Williams ran hard as did Norman Whitley, Brandon Simmons and J.R. Rogers,” Holtz said. "Those are four guys that are competing for a spot on the bus this year, and that doesn't include Chris Johnson and Dominique Lindsay. It's going to be a tough decision over the next few days with all the talent that we have in the backfield."

Holtz compares scrimmages to work in spring drills.

“I was pleased with the scrimmage, effort, attitude and the way they ran around and hit," said Holtz. “This was like spring practice in that every play there is a winner and a loser. You get excited about a big play with the offense and then you say that was our safety that missed the tackle and vice-versa.”

The Pirates have two more scrimmages planned for the preseason. The squad will work this Saturday in the stadium and then go again a week from this Friday.

Next week, the veterans will be on center stage, many trying to earn their spot on the depth chart.

That last scrimmage a week from Friday will simulate game conditions for Blacksburg.

It’s hard to believe that we’re getting this close to the football season.


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08/14/2007 02:41:17 AM


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