Courtesy of 247sports.com
The graduation of Johnathan Franklin leaves a very significant hole at runningback. Franklin was an AP Second Team All-American this past season, and became UCLA's all-time leading rusher. In addition, he was a captain and perhaps the most respected member of the entire team.
Those are some pretty big shoes to fill, and they could be potentially filled by incoming freshman Craig Lee.
The Redlands, Calif. product is a very impressive back at first glance. He's physically big enough to contribute right away at 6'0" 190 pounds. While he would not be classified as a pure power back, he runs with surprising physicality—always churning his legs forward for extra yards.
Lee also has great burst and balance. A majority of his yards come after contact, and his top-end speed is pretty impressive. Lee does need to get stronger in the lower body, but he has the talent to contribute on the collegiate level immediately.
The starter at runningback is completely up for grabs at this point. Damien Thigpen was the logical choice to start in 2013. However, he suffered a torn ACL towards the end of the season, and is a question as to when he will be fully healthy.
Jordon James looked very tentative running the football this past year. He often danced too much, and didn't hit the hole with much decisiveness.
The wildcard in this competition is redshirt freshman Paul Perkins. A bigger back, Perkins impressed the coaching staff throughout the season with his play on the scout team.
James and Thigpen aren't true every-down backs, so it could very well be a Perkins/Lee combination, with Thigpen and James sprinkled in as the change-of-pace backs.
One thing is definite, there won't be a reliance upon one runningback, a la Franklin this past season. It most likely will be a "running back by committee" scenario for the Bruins in 2013.