2012 All Pac-12 Picks for Running Backs: Where Are Curtis McNeal and USC?

Michael TierneyAnalyst IJuly 26, 2012

Nov. 26, 2011; Los Angeles, CA, USA;  Southern California Trojans running back Curtis McNeal (22) runs 73 yards for a touchdown in the first quarter of the game against the UCLA Bruins at the Los Angeles Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-US PRESSWIRE
Jayne Kamin-Oncea-US PRESSWIRE

Many analysts will look at last year’s football statistics and give you their preseason picks based on who is returning and where they rated in the previous season. All too easy – isn’t it?

The top ten rushing leaders based on total yards in 2011 were LaMichael James, John White, Chris Polk, Stepfan Taylor, Isi Sofele, Cameron Marshall, Curtis McNeal, Johnathan Franklin, Kenjon Barner and Rodney Stewart. But James, Polk, and Stewart went to the NFL. So 2012 leaders should be White, Taylor, Sofele, Marshall, McNeal, Franklin, and Barner in that order, right? Wrong!

The Doak Walker (National Running Back Award) watch list was released and those seven are all on it. So is Silas Redd. Also, Walter Camp also released its Player of the Year Award watch list. It only includes John White and left off Stepfan Taylor (it did include Silas Redd).

So, we probably can easily figure that Stanford and Utah have perhaps the best two running backs in the Pac-12 based on stats and preseason award lists. But the way I see it, Utah’s offense, all things being the same, will perform similar to last year. With a new quarterback, Stanford will run the ball more and Stepfan Taylor will see 2,000 yards. Some will argue that teams will load the box on Stanford and he won’t get last year’s total. Really, with tight ends Zach Ertz and Levine Toilolo returning as blockers? Not to mention a blocking fullback and pulling guard, I think Taylor will get his 2,000 yards. Oh, did I mention that Stanford’s O-line is almost as good as USC’s? And with Utah rebuilding their O-line, Taylor - as first team All Pac-12 - is a safe bet.

As for McNeal, well, with that passing game to receivers Woods, Lee and Farmer; or tight ends Grimble and Telfer, McNeal won’t have the same amount of carries as Taylor or White. The fullback Vainuku will get his small share too. And if Silas Redd transfers, well, cut another piece of that pie please. I expect McNeal to fall in behind Taylor, White and Sofele.

A quick distinction here, McNeal is not the choice to win All Pac-12 First Team because of total yards, but Curtis McNeal is the best back in the Pac-12 and averages almost 7 yards a carry. In fact, this list is much different when you consider yards per carry (Silas Redd, Stepfan Taylor and John White would be pulling up the rear on the YPC production list).

Here is a quick look at the preseason picks for the best Pac-12 Running Backs (based on total yards - not YPC).



Stepfan Taylor

  • Stanford Cardinal
  • No. 33, 5'11", 215 lbs, Senior
  • Was a Scout.com 4-star commit
  • NFL: Projected Fifth Round in 2013



John White 

  • Utah Utes
  • No. 15, 5'8", 185 lbs, Junior
  • Was a Scout.com 3-star commit
  • NFL: Projected Seventh Round in 2014



Isi Sofele

  • California Bears
  • No. 20, 5'8", 183 lbs, Senior
  • Was a Scout.com 3-star commit
  • NFL: Projected Seventh Round in 2013



Curtis McNeal

  • USC Trojans
  • No. 22, 5'7", 190 lbs, Senior
  • Was a Scout.com 3-star commit
  • NFL: Projected Undrafted in 2013



Kenjon Barner

  • Oregon Ducks
  • No. 24, 5'11", 195 lbs, Senior
  • Was a Scout.com 3-star commit
  • NFL: Projected Sixth Round in 2013


Johnathan Franklin

  • UCLA Bruins
  • No. 23, 5'11", 195 lbs, Senior
  • Was a Scout.com 4-star commit
  • NFL: Projected Sixth Round in 2013


Other preseason picks:

All Pac-12 Picks for Quarterbacks

All Pac-12 Picks for Centers

All Pac-12 Picks for Offensive Guards

All Pac-12 Picks for Offensive Tackles