Plancher ‘out a while’

Five different running backs carried the ball for USF in Saturday’s 41-10 win against McNeese State, but this week against Florida International University – and possibly for much longer – the Bulls will be without No. 1 running back Moise Plancher.

Plancher, a redshirt freshman, made his first career start against the Cowboys, but his college debut was cut short after injuring his knee in the first quarter.

“He’s going to be out a while,” coach Jim Leavitt said Tuesday after practice. “That’s two top running backs in the Big East that have been both No. 1 guys,” referring also to Louisville’s Michael Bush, who broke his leg Saturday.

Without Plancher, who had 26 yards on four carries before leaving the game, USF’s running game was still successful, with senior Walt Smith rushing for 70 yards and sophomore Benjamin Williams adding 54. Freshmen Keeley Dorsey and Colby Erskin also contributed with 53 yards and 5 yards, respectively.

“I’m sure they’ll all play,” Leavitt said Tuesday at USF’s weekly media luncheon about the four running backs who backed up Plancher. “I don’t know who’s going to play the most. I don’t know if it’s going to be five or four or three.”

Although Leavitt said they’ll all most likely play, he wouldn’t say who will start.

“We’re working (with) Walt, Keeley (and) Williams, and there’s not really a starter in the group,” Leavitt said. “I don’t think we’ll ever announce really who is going to start. They’re all dead even.”

With Ricky Ponton suspended, Williams and Smith are the only running backs on the depth chart with college experience prior to this season. Although he didn’t have any carries in 2005, Williams made an appearance in the Meineke Car Care Bowl, while Smith contributed to special teams.

“Williams has been here longer than any of them at running back,” Leavitt said. “So there’s an argument for that.”

Williams, who led USF running backs with nine carries Saturday, said he thought he “played all right” in the win over McNeese State and the backs support each other while battling for the starting spot.

“Anytime I can run the ball and make positive yards and get first downs, I’m satisfied,” Williams said. “We just build each other up, give each other encouragement.”

Leavitt said running backs coach Carl Franks will most likely make the call of who starts.

“I think what we would do is let Carl make that decision, unless I see something I really don’t like,” Leavitt said. “And I imagine Carl will play who practices the best this week.”