Camp Questions - Who's the No. 1 Tailback?

Demetrius McCray

The expectation is that Marcus Thigpen, Demetrius McCray and Josiah Sears will once again share the tailback duties this fall. But could one of the three emerge as the clear-cut No. 1 in fall camp?

Bloomington, Ind. – Plans can always change once you get into camp.

As the Hoosiers prepare to open camp Monday, they'll do so anticipating to use a couple of different tailbacks this fall. A year ago Marcus Thigpen (98 carries), Demetrius McCray (88 carries) and Josiah Sears (40 carries) all had their moments, combining to rush for 939 yards and eight touchdowns. Each returns this fall expecting to contribute again in 2007.

It's an expectation shared by the IU coaching staff.

"Competition is a great thing at any position," said IU Offensive Coordinator Matt Canada. "Keeping those guys fresh and moving, then if a guy gets hot and gets going, Coach (Gerald) Brown will keep him in there and keep him going."

It's a strategy that resulted in big games for all three a year ago. Thigpen ran for a career-best 104 yards in the Hoosiers' win against Michigan State, McCray had a season-best of 84 yards on 13 carries in the upset win over No. 15 Iowa, and Sears posted his first 100-yard game of his career in the Big Ten opener against Wisconsin.

But plans can change. There's always a possibility that a big fall camp from one of the three could result in them monopolizing the carries once the season opens Sept. 1 against Indiana State.

The two most likely candidates to do that are Thigpen and McCray. McCray is a 5-11, 195-pound sophomore from Florida who is the most elusive of the Hoosier tailbacks. He was one of the most heralded players in the Hoosiers' 2005 recruiting class, having rushed for more than 1,600 yards while earning first-team All-State honors at Armwood H.S.

Thigpen, meanwhile, is a running back-turned wide receiver-turned running back who has the sort of track caliber speed that makes him a threat to break a big one once he gets past the first line of defenders and gets into the secondary. Thigpen is also the tailback on the Hoosiers' roster who has ever carried the ball 20 times in a game, hitting that mark in his 104-yard effort against the Spartans.

While the expectation is to once again rotate tailbacks this fall, the opportunity will be there in camp for one of the tailbacks to separate himself and ultimately handle a much larger percentage of the workload than the other two.

And there's no doubt the running game will be a big part of the Hoosiers' attack. Not only does IU have a much improved and more experienced offensive line than it did a year ago, but the staff is well aware that the offense was most effective last season when they were able to mix in the run along with the pass.

"When we had more productivity we ran it more and ran it better," said Lynch.

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