10 Running Backs Who Will Break Out in 2013
There's always a breakout running back on the horizon in college football.
With senior running backs graduating, hungry, young lions are sitting behind them anxiously anticipating their opportunity to carry the team on their backs.
Just look at what Kenjon Barner did with Oregon after LaMichael James left the Ducks.
So, with that said, who's the next great breakout running back in college football? Expect to see these names produce big numbers in future box scores.
Jeremy Hill broke out of his shell in 2012, but he's going to become one of the best running backs in college football in 2013.
Sophomore slumps are a common existence in college football, but Hill can avoid it because of his raw, natural abilities.
This is a guy who has quickness to break away from defenses (see South Carolina game), and he has the raw natural power to pick up the tough yards on key downs.
He's a feature back who should get more and more playing time, despite Alfred Blue returning from injury in 2013.
How fun is it to watch Storm Woods play?
Against Texas in the Valero Alamo Bowl, Woods excelled on the football field with his flash and great running ability.
He had 118 yards rushing and two touchdowns in the game, and that put him at 940 rushing yards and 13 touchdowns on the year. But this is just the beginning for him at Oregon State.
Woods is a freshman running back who is a great receiver out of the backfield. In order for Oregon State to remain as a contender in the Pac-12, the Beavers will have to feed Woods early and often in 2013.
Filling Stepfan Taylor's shoes will be much easier said than done.
Taylor was a workhorse for Stanford's offense, but Anthony Wilkerson can provide that same type of production if he works hard in the offseason.
Wilkerson saw very limited action in 2012 because he was sitting behind Taylor. In fact, he has seen very little playing time in his career, as he's always been in Taylor's shadow.
Well, not anymore. In 2013, if Wilkerson works hard enough to become the feature running back, he can provide the Cardinal offense with that same type of bruising running style that constantly leads this Stanford team to success.
As a freshman, Matt Jones saw some limited action in a Florida Gator uniform.
However, when he got the ball, he showed that he is more than capable of carrying the load for the Gators in the future.
Jones carried the ball 49 times for 259 yards and two touchdowns, and he had a career-high 81 yards rushing against Florida State. You know, one of the best defenses in college football.
With Mike Gilleslie graduating, Jones should become the feature back for the Gators, and we all know how Will Muschamp likes to pound the rock. That should lead to a breakout season for Jones in 2013.
How explosive is Melvin Gordon?
Just ask Bo Pelini how explosive he is, and he can talk to you about it in detail. In the 2012 Big Ten Championship Game, Gordon had his breakout party.
Against Nebraska, he rushed for 216 yards and one touchdown. His average yards per carry in that game was 24 (NBD). Sign of what's to come in the future?
Wisconsin fans hope so. Montee Ball is graduating, and that leaves the door wide open for this freshman running back to bust through next season.
OK, T.J. Yeldon has already broken out in 2012.
But in 2013, he will be the feature running back at Alabama, which means that he should surpass this season and be one of the best running backs in the nation next year.
Yeldon accounted for 1,000 yards and 11 touchdowns in his freshman season with the Crimson Tide, but as Eddie Lacy enters the NFL draft in 2013, Yeldon should get even more carries.
He will be the backbone of this Crimson Tide offense in 2013, and with Nick Saban steadily trying to soften defenses up with him, a sophomore slump is highly unlikely.
Come on, you have to have an Oregon running back on here.
It's a repeating pattern for the Ducks: One running back moves on and the next steps up and becomes one of the nation's top rushers.
It's what happened with LeGarrette Blount, LaMichael James and Kenjon Barner. But in the words of Bill Goldberg, "Who's next?"
Look for Byron Marshall to be the next standout. In his freshman season with the Ducks, Marshall carried the ball 86 times for 445 yards and four touchdowns. More importantly, he looked good doing it.
B.J. Catalon showed glimpses of his talents in 2012, but 2013 will be the year he puts it all together.
Catalon led the TCU Horned Frogs in rushing with 582 yards this season as a freshman, but he accounted for zero touchdowns.
With Matthew Tucker graduating, Catalon's workload should improve ,and his first collegiate touchdown is inevitably going to take place in 2013.
The real question with this talented back, though, is not when he scores, but how often?
Ameer Abdullah broke out in 2012, but teammate Imani Cross will breakout in 2013.
Cross is a much more physical running back who can take a pounding and keep coming. In his freshman season with the Nebraska Cornhuskers, Cross gained 324 yards on the ground and seven touchdowns.
Abdullah may be ahead of him on the depth chart for now, but if Cross has a great spring and solid fall camp, he should receive more playing time in 2013.
That should open the doors for him to become a household name in 2013.
Johnathan Gray is a physical runner.
He's not the flashiest running back in the country, but he doesn't have to be to get your attention.
As a freshman, Gray received the most carries, and he showed glimpses of greatness with his 683 rushing yards and three touchdowns.
He eclipsed 100 yards twice this season, and with a full year of experience under his belt, expect him to bloom into a marquee guy in college football next season.