Lindsay leading the way for Pirates|Senior RB the key to ECU’s offense

Published 12:33 am Thursday, October 22, 2009

By By BRIAN HAINES, Sports Writer
GREENVILLE — East Carolina entered the 2009 season with a slew of running backs in it’s stable and even more questions about who, and when they will be used.
As September grew near, so did the potential for a running back controversy. Kentucky transfer Brandon Jackson came in as a highly regarded player who could run inside and out. Junior Jonathan Williams showed a ton of promise last season as the 6-1, 196-pound back displayed a nice blend of speed and power until off-field issues sidelined him for the second half of the season.
Norman Whitley, last year’s leading rusher (698 yards) also was expected to figure heavily in the running back mix despite some off field issues along with some injuries.
Also figuring into the equation was junior transfer Giavanni Ruffin and senior J.R. Rogers.
Then there was senior Dominique Lindsay, the X-factor in this year’s summer camp. Lindsay was penciled in as the 2008 starter until he tore his ACL right before the season opener. The Charlotte Independence product became the monkey wrench that could either unlock the mystery of a crowded backfield, or make it much more murkier.
There was never any question about his talent or heart, but nobody knew what to expect from him in the preseason because no one can predict how a skill position player will come back from major knee surgery.
Fast forward a few months later and Lindsay is once again an X-factor, only this time instead of emerging as the key player in an overstocked backfield, he has become the key player that unlocks the Pirates’ offense.
Jackson has shown flashes of potential, and is the Pirates’ second leading rusher with 264 yards ((3.6 per carry).
Williams contracted a case of fumbleitis, and coughed up the ball in consecutive weeks against UNC and UCF. Both fumbles came when the ECU had prime field position. After being delegated to the bench, Williams got a chance to play against SMU, but hurt his knee and will be out for a while.
Whitley is still in the dog house and has three carries all season.
J.R. Rogers hurt his knee in the preseason but could be coming back soon, while Ruffin gets a few carries a game and is averaging 2.3 yards per attempt.
Seven weeks into the season there is no controversy, there is no debating who should be the featured back or how to divvy carries; it’s Lindsay in a landslide.
The offense functions much more fluently when he is in the game, and struggles mightily to move the ball when he is not.
“He brings confidence to the offense,” East Carolina coach Skip Holtz said. “We are a much better team when he is in the game.”
Aside from being the Pirates leading rusher with 431 yard (5.6 per carry), Lindsay is a warrior.
As if battling back from a major knee injury wasn’t enough, the senior has to contend week after week with a shoulder injury he sustained during the second game of the season against West Virginia.
That injury forced him to miss two games, and he is still the Pirates’ leading rusher.
The jitterbug back (5-10, 202) showed he had a Jerome Bettis-sized heart on Oct. 10 in Dallas when he fought through flu-like symptoms to rush for a career-high 144 yards on 24 carries.
“Offensively, we had the best day running the ball that we’ve had this season,” Holtz said on the Monday following the game. “I think Dominique Lindsay put in an all-star effort, especially when you look at what he was going through. He has been sick and was during the game as well. He wouldn’t come out, though. He just kept going and going.”
While the speedy Lindsay slides through the offensive line and out of the arms of would-be tacklers like a serpent, fans can’t help but wonder if he is snake bitten.
During East Carolina’s blowout 49-13 win over Rice, in which Lindsay rushed for a team-high 78 yard on 12 carries, the running back sustained another setback.
At some point early in the second quarter the Pirates ran a play that required him to pass-block for quarterback Patrick Pinkney. During the course of that play, Lindsay’s was in a pile up in which his ankle got twisted.
Lindsay never returned to action, and now the Pirates are hoping that he can make it back in time for their Conference USA clash with Memphis on Tuesday (8 p.m., ESPN2).
The East Carolina staff is doing everything they can to get him ready for the Tigers, but Holtz said on Wednesday that it will likely be a game-time decision.
“Dominique didn’t practice today, and I wouldn’t expect him to practice much this week,” Holtz said. “With him being a skill player, he has to be out in space. He not only has to have the full speed, but he has to be able to put his foot down and change direction. We will see how he progress.”
Holtz said that the team will run him through a series of tests while giving him a steady diet of ice leading up to game day.
If Lindsay can not play Jackson will slide into the featured back role, while Ruffin will jump into Jackson’s vacated spot.