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BC confident RBs can fill in for Harris

First there was one. Then there were three. And then it seemed like there might be only two.

The Boston College running back situation has fluctuated quite a bit in this training camp. First, it was all about Montel Harris. The player who wears No. 2 and is seeking to become the No. 1 rusher in BC and ACC history was the unquestioned star of the Eagles' offense.

But on the day of the team's second scrimmage of camp, Harris underwent an arthroscopic procedure on his left knee, the same knee he'd just (supposedly) finished rehabbing. He had a lateral tear of the meniscus, the same injury he suffered last season.

He's expected to be out for three to four weeks, which would take the Eagles through Week 2 of the regular season.

Suddenly, the focus was on three players: sophomores Andre Williams and Rolandan Finch and redshirt freshman Tahj Kimble. The triumvirate, led by Williams, would have to replace Harris in the BC backfield.

A few days later, Williams went down with a sprained ankle in the team's third scrimmage. Then there were only two healthy backs in the backfield -- the ones with the least experience.

"Certainly the Montel situation is a major concern," coach Frank Spaziani said on Monday of the running back triage. "We'd like to have him back, because we're a different football team with him. We have some depth at that position -- Andre has played and done some stuff.

"The guys behind him we like, but they haven't played in games so …"

Without Harris and Williams, the Eagles would be faced with starting Finch (six games and 28 carries on his résumé) or Kimble at tailback. Not exactly the scenario Spaziani and new offensive coordinator Kevin Rogers were hoping for, considering the team's starting quarterback (Chase Rettig) has nine starts on his own résumé and the offensive line may have three new starters on opening day.

Luckily for the Eagles, Williams' ankle injury does not appear to be serious. On Tuesday, Williams said it was a little sore but that he's walking better on it. He'll sit out a few more days, to allow the soreness to dissipate and to regain complete range of motion, but it does not sound like it will be close to the worst-case scenario.

Ask them, and the triumvirate will say they're sure they can get the job done in Harris' stead.

"We all practice like we're going to get the opportunity to play," said Williams, who took over for Harris late last season and rushed 73 times for 363 yards and two touchdowns in three starts. "Taking reps in practice you've got to put yourself in game situations."

Now that they'll be getting the opportunity to be in game situations, they say that each of them has a unique skill that will help them succeed.

At 6-foot, 220 pounds, Williams is the power rusher. "I'm explosive, I can break a lot of tackles," he said.

The 5-11, 210-pound Kimble is a nimble rusher with nifty footwork. His ability to freeze defenders with a quick step or a juke move in the open field earned him the nickname "Ice."

And the 5-10, 209-pound Finch is a patient, persistent rusher, waiting, waiting, waiting for the hole to open, then keeping his feet moving in the pile until the whistle blows.

"They give every indication that they can be productive," Spaziani said of the backs behind Harris and Williams. "Now, they haven't been in the real fire yet. Scrimmaging is one thing, practicing is one thing, playing in a game is another."

"On a scale of 1 to 10, my confidence level is a 10," Williams said of his faith in the unit. "I feel like we're going to be able to pick up the slack," Kimble said.

The Eagles' first opponent, Northwestern, was No. 92 in the country defending the run in 2010, allowing 185 yards a game on the ground. That number may be skewed a little by the Wildcats' competition, as four teams in the Big Ten averaged more than 200 yards rushing per game last season, but it does at least hint at the importance the running game may play when the teams meet Sept. 3.

Kimble and Williams both laughed when asked separately if they're ready to play someone other than their own defense. Tuesday marked the last two-a-day of camp, and Wednesday will bring the last intrasquad scrimmage. Then it's on to planning for Northwestern in earnest.

"Camp's been long and arduous," Williams said, "but I think it was well worth the time we put in."

Assuming Williams' ankle continues to recover, there will be three backs replacing the No. 1 man in the BC backfield in the early weeks of the season. And while all three would like to see No. 2 back on the field, the backs won't wait around for him.

They're in too much of a rush to use their unique talents against the Wildcats, to move the chains and to ensure the Eagles' season gets off on the right foot.

Jack McCluskey is an editor for ESPN.com and a frequent contributor to ESPNBoston.com.