The Energizer Bunny

RALEIGH, N.C. -- It's safe to assume that the only running back with any luck on the N.C. State roster is Jamelle Eugene.

After the first two guys went down during last season, Jamelle Eugene burst onto the scene and rushed for 667 yards and five scores.

It's still spring, but once again Eugene finds himself as the starter by default – the only scholarship ball carrier on the roster.

Voodoo notwithstanding, it's hard to figure out why the Wolfpack's deepest position for the second straight year is yet again also its most depleted with injury. Over 3,000 career rushing yards have been in the training room more often than the practice field this spring.

Toney Baker is sitting out action this spring, hoping to fully recover from the knee injury he suffered in last year's season opener that earned him a medical redshirt.

"It's been crazy."

Andre Brown suffered a foot injury this spring, and fourth-stringer Curtis Underwood Jr. is shelved with an ankle injury.

"It's been crazy, coming in here expecting four or five guys to be competing with you for a job and then two or three of them go down," Eugene said.

Much like the quarterback competition, it's safe to say the fight for the starting job at running back won't truly take off until fall practice begins.

"We're back to one healthy tailback and three walk-ons. Jamelle is the Energizer Bunny. He keeps on ticking back there. He just goes and goes and goes," coach Tom O'Brien said. "We're very fortunate to have him in the program."

With unfamiliar names like Corey Darrington and Ulysses Tuft listed behind him, it's safe to say this is Eugene's show for now. If that is to stay the same until the fall, he knows he'll have to make the most of the opportunity to stand out while receiving the majority of carries in practice and this weekend's Red/White Game.

When Brown, Baker and Underwood return, the competition for the starting job should be one of the more-watched position battles behind quarterback.

"Those guys have been training and working out – it's not like they're sitting around doing nothing – they've been trying to get better," Eugene said. "They're just not playing football [right now]."

Eugene is not one to shy away from challenges.

"They're going to push me, and I'm going to push them," he said.

Although he's the smallest of the four scholarship tailbacks, Eugene isn't afraid to run between the tackles and fight for extra yardage after the first hit.

"It was exciting."

"Just because you're big doesn't mean you're tough and just because you're small doesn't mean you're weak. I bring a little power to the game. I'm not exactly one of the weaker guys on the team," he stated.

"I feel like you've got to be able to run inside, outside, be able to block and all the other things. I work on my game in all those kind of ways and I don't try to be a scat-back or anything like that because I don't want to be deemed that kind of back, I want to be an all-purpose back."

Another challenge will present itself to Eugene this spring as he is one of two players, the other being Donald Bowens, battling for punt returning duties.

"I'm trying to get better at it," Eugene said. "I'm not exactly D-Black (Darrell Blackman) or anything like that. I'm trying to work on it and trying to get better."

But for a former third-string running back that led a 1-5 team to four straight wins, including 159 yards and three scores against rival North Carolina, any challenge on the field is one he feels ready for.

"It was exciting, feeling like you're really a part of the team's success," Eugene said. "It was better being a part of the success and I hope to continue doing that this season."


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