Ypsilanti – It's no surprise that, during the first week of Eastern Michigan football camp, competition for the starting running back job is wide open.
No one expected it to be this wide open, though.
A total of six backs are seeing regular work between the first- and second-string offensive units. That group includes three true freshmen.
"We have some young guys who are really showing some ability and talent, and we're trying to move them along as much as possible," running backs coach Scott Weaver said. "The more competition we have, the better off the position is going to be."
"There's a lot of uncertainty as to who's going to start," said Head Coach Jeff Genyk.
Fifth-year senior Anthony Sherrell struggled with a leg injury during the 2004 season, and then had a tumultuous off-season. He left the team in January to explore transferring, and re-joined the Eagles prior to the start of spring practice.
"Anthony's doing fine physically. He had a decent summer," Weaver said. "We've always asked Anthony to be a physical runner, and we're continuing to try to push him to get to that stage."
Even with Sherrell's ambiguous status, EMU still has plenty of tailback experience coming back, with senior Nelson Drew and junior Pierre Walker. Both are solid all-around backs, but neither has put up consistent numbers on the ground.
That's why coaches are taking a long look at freshmen like Tim Conner, a Cleveland native, and Miami native Dwayne Harrison.
"From the perspective of grasping the offense, Tim Conner has really stepped forward," Weaver said. "And Dwayne Harrison has shown the things we want him to do."
Weaver says Conner must put on weight, and Harrison must master the EMU spread offense before either can expect to contribute for a full season. The same goes for Detroit Mumford grad Corey Everson, who caught several passes out of the backfield at Tuesday's workout. Though the Eagles have had just five practices, Weaver says he's already trying to fit personnel for EMU's Sept. 1 season opener
"Our focus is on Cincinnati. We're trying to find the right guys that are going to be on the field."
Click on the audio icon above to hear Brian's interviews with Genyk and Weaver.