SAN JOSE -- San Jose State has a diverse group of running backs competing to carry the load in the backfield this season.
Two transfers from BCS conference schools, a speedster with experience on both sides of the ball and a true freshman from Texas hope to replace the departed Brandon Rutley.
"I feel like we've got three or four good ones and maybe more," Spartans coach Mike MacIntyre said.
MacIntyre is open to a rotation in the backfield, with the idea that if one player gets hot, he might receive extra touches.
"It depends on the flow of the game, but ideally I'd like each guy to carry it 10-12 times and catch some passes and stay fresh and keep going the whole season," he said.
The list starts with De'Leon Eskridge, a 5-foot-11, 215-pound senior transfer from Minnesota. A two-time leading rusher for the Golden Gophers, Eskridge sat out last season after transferring. The Serra High product is happy to be back on the field.
"I just realized how much I missed the team camaraderie," Eskridge said. "When you have the two-a-days and meetings, it can get real stressful. But just to have your teammates and joke around in the off time is fun. I missed that a lot. I'm real happy to be back out here playing."
SJSU likes his ability to run with power and the big-game experience he has from his three seasons in the Big 10 Conference.
"De'Leon is a true power back. You can tell that he's a Big 10 guy," running backs
David Freeman, a 5-8, 202-pound senior, is battling a groin strain after missing the bulk of last season with a dislocated elbow. He played at Washington as a freshman in 2008 and began last season as starter for the Spartans before the injury. He figures to add a change of pace.
"Freeman is a slasher," Giudici said. "He's got great balance. Good hands out of the backfield. He's really a smart player."
Tyler Ervin's status is still unknown. The 5-10, 176-pound sophomore saw time at cornerback, running back and kick returner last year and could play a similar role this season.
"As of right now, I think I'll be playing running back, so I'm just trying to fine tune everything," Ervin said. "You never know, I might end up going to DB. I'm just keeping an open mind and just trying to be there for my team."
The toughest decision might be related to freshman Jalynn McCain, a 5-10, 220-pounder from Houston. He could be the team's back of the future, but the coaching staff likely won't use up a year of eligibility unless he plays a significant enough role.
McCain's goal is clear: he wants to play this year and has ideas on how to make that happen.
"Taking no plays off at practice. It starts there," McCain said. "Working hard in the weight room, studying my playbook, watching film every day."
The decision of whether or not to redshirt McCain will come from MacIntyre and offensive coordinator Brian Lindgren, but Giudici is confident McCain will be a big player at some point for SJSU.
"Young players are usually swimming mentally and they crash and burn physically after a week of training camp," Giudici said. "But this kid has been on top of it. He's smart, he understands the game, he can pick things up well. He's got speed, he catches well and he's going to be a heck of a player for the Spartans."