For most programs, having one or two experienced players in the backfield is something to be excited about. For Ball State, that feeling is even more intense as the Cardinals welcome back three players with significant experience to go with a newcomer who is already pushing for reps.
Ball State welcomes back its top two ground gainers from a season ago to go along with a Senior with over 30 games of experience under his belt.
Starting off is incumbent starter and all-around space player Darian Green. The smaller, but diminutive Green is a player that excels in space and is capable of busting big plays every time he touches the ball. The 5-8 176 Green had 730 yards rushing and 5 touchdowns while also gaining 5 yards a carry last season. Add to that his 14 receptions for 84 yards and a score and 25.7 yards to kick return and you have yourself a special talent. The goal for Head Coach Mike Neu and staff is to limit Green’s touches and make those touches more meaningful. Neu cannot be comfortable with Green getting 20 carries in a game as he will wear down over time because of his lack of size, which will cause issues with his explosiveness. In an ideal world, Green would get 10-12 carries, 2-3 receptions and a couple of kick returns in a game.
In more of an every down back role is sophomore returner James Gilbert. As a true freshman a year ago, Gilbert rolled in and notched 608 yards and 8 touchdowns. Gilbert, despite his smallish frame at 5-9 195, is a downhill runner and is tough between the tackles. Look for Gilbert, a year older and stronger, to be the go to guy in short yardage and regular running downs.
Also back is Senior Teddy Williamson. Although he has not put up the numbers as his backfield mates, Williamson is an adept all-around back. He, at 5-9 200, is probably the team’s best pass blocker, and he is a tough runner that is capable of bouncing outside and picking up big yards.
Vying for time among the crowded backfield is Redshirt Freshman Malik Dunner. At 5-10 185, Dunner is another long, lean runner who is very capable in space. Dunner has been making big plays in camp and will compete for playing time with his ability to be a home run threat with the ball in his hands. Dunner is also a legit threat as a pass catcher out of the backfield.