Big East Football: Top 10 Running Backs for 2012
The Big East produces elite, NFL-caliber running backs every season, and the class of 2012 will be no different.
Cincinnati's Isaiah Pead, Syracuse’s Antwon Baily and South Florida’s Darrell Scott have all moved on to the NFL.
At the professional ranks, Big East alums Ray Rice (Rutgers), LeSean McCoy (Pitt) and Michael Bush (Louisville) continue to be among the league's elite rushers.
Now it is time for the new running back talents in the conference to take over and continue on to NFL stardom.
Here are the top 10 running backs in the Big East heading into the 2012 college football season.
10. Lindsey Lamar (SR), South Florida
Senior running back Lindsey Lamar is a dangerous threat all over the field. He is a second option, behind Demetris Murray, and adds a nice change of pace with his prolific speed.
Lamar rushed for 150 yards last season and scored three receiving touchdowns. He also gained 187 yards returning kicks for the Bulls.
Standing at 5’9’’, Lamar is a speedster that can zigzag his way between defenders and will be one exciting player to watch in the Big East.
9. Isaac Bennett (SO), Pittsburgh
Isaac Bennett made his way on to the field by chance in 2011 after Ray Graham suffered a knee injury.
The sophomore running back from Pitt never looked back.
Bennett rushed for 237 yards and scored two touchdowns in the final three games for the Panthers. While he never rushed for over 100 yards in a game, Bennett produced solid back-to-back games of 69 yards against Louisville and West Virginia in an offense that was sputtering.
Bennett will likely spell Graham, as long as highly recruited freshman Rushel Shell does not take his spot.
8. Jermey Wright (JR), Louisville
Sophomore Jermey Wright was supposed to be one of the premier running backs in the Big East. He was expected to battle Victor Anderson for the starting gig in 2011, but could not come up with a big performance when needed.
Wright rushed for 344 yards and scored one touchdown last season with the Louisville Cardinals, mostly splitting time with Anderson and Dominique Brown.
Wright is an exciting talent in the Big East and excels at returning kicks. There is a possibility that he could explode on to the scene this year and become a dominant back.
He needs to show his team that he can take the job from Dominique Brown and shake off a couple mediocre years.
7. George Winn (SR), Cincinnati
The Cincinnati Bearcats lost Isaiah Pead, and senior George Winn will try to fill some very large shoes.
Winn only rushed for 219 yards and two touchdowns last season. He did gain 81 yards against Miami (Ohio) and had a monstrous 76-yard run against Vanderbilt in their bowl game.
Although Winn is a relative unknown, he has had some flashes of greatness in his career. He could be a surprise running back in the Big East this season.
6. Dominique Brown (JR), Louisville
While Jeremy Wright struggled to find his role in the offense last season, Louisville’s Dominique Brown gained some momentum.
The junior running back rushed for 533 yards and scored four touchdowns. He rushed for a season-high 91 yards against Kentucky.
Louisville has one of the most intriguing running back situations in the Big East. It will be interesting to see if Brown pushes through for the lead role, or Wright gains back his confidence.
5. Demetris Murray (SR), South Florida
The 2012 college football season could be a huge campaign for senior Demetris Murray.
Murray rushed for 503 yards last year and scored eight touchdowns on the ground. Although he has only rushed for around 500 yards in each of the past two seasons, Murray will now be the feature back since Darrell Scott is in the NFL.
Standing at 6'0'', 215 lbs, Murray is a one of the biggest backs in the Big East and is hard to tackle.
South Florida will have a nice one-two punch ground attack with Murray carrying most of the load and Lindsey Lamar throwing in some speed.
4. Matt Brown (SR), Temple
It will be interesting to watch senior Matt Brown as the season progresses. Brown rushed for 916 yards last season and scored six rushing touchdowns.
The 5’5”, 170-lb running back from Temple may have trouble staying healthy for an entire season, especially since this is the school’s first season in the Big East.
Smaller running backs tend to be harder to see; not that it matters with the amazing speed Brown possesses. He should be fun to watch.
3. Jawan Jamison (SO), Rutgers
There are a few young Big East running backs that could develop into a special collegiate player. Jawan Jamison is one of them.
The sophomore running back rushed for 817 yards as a freshman and scored nine touchdowns.
He accumulated 100 yards against Navy and had a 200-yard performance against Cincinnati.
When Jamison gets himself into the open field, he is simply untouchable. He will be a major contributor to the Rutgers Scarlet Knights' success this season.
2. Lyle McCombs (SO), Connecticut
Sophomore Lyle McCombs had a huge season for the Connecticut Huskies in 2011.
McCombs lead the Big East with 1,181 rushing yards and added seven touchdowns on the ground.
He had great performances against Fordham (141 yards) and Syracuse (152 yards).
McCombs' performance shouldn't be a surprise to Huskies fans. Connecticut has had three running backs break 1,000-yard seasons since 2008.
It is scary to think how good McCombs could be in 2012.
1. Ray Graham (SR), Pittsburgh
Pitt senior Ray Graham ran for 958 yards and scored nine rushing touchdowns in only eight games in 2011.
His record-setting season was cut short due to a knee injury that required surgery.
Coach Paul Chryst expects Graham to be ready for fall football camp.
If he can make a complete recovery with his knee, then Graham could flourish under Chryst’s new run-first offense.
Expect big games from Graham as he looks for redemption on the rest of the Big East.
Others to Note
Ralph David Abernathy IV (SO), Cincinnati
Abernathy will share time with George Winn and could add a spark to the Bearcat offense.
Savon Higgins (SO), Rutgers
Higgins is a great running back talent who missed much of last season with a knee injury. If he is healthy, Rutgers could have one of the best backfields in the Big East.
Rushel Shell (FR), Pittsburgh
Shell could be one of the most hyped players to come to Pitt since Tony Dorsett and Dan Marino. Could take Bennett’s spot and share some carries with Graham.
Kenneth Hopper (SO), Temple
Hopper will see plenty of carries as he spells Brown.
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