Running backs can be key cogs to keeping offenses running smoothly when they're on the top of their game. If an organizations find a special back, the team can ride him a long way, perhaps all the way to a championship. The trick is finding a back that you really believe has exceptional tools and skills.
This 2014 class has a good crop of runners who have been either highly productive, powerful, quick, speedy or a combination of the aforementioned traits. I'm going to take this time to roll out an early ranking of the top 10 RB prospects for the 2014 class.
Whether your program needs a speedy runner, a power back or someone to help out in the passing game of the backfield, they have options with this group.
Here's the early list of the top 10 RBs for 2014.
Scott is a guy who can do a little bit of everything for an offense. He's 5'11", 175 pounds, can run with speed and quickness and is capable at catching passes out of the backfield as well.
Scott raced around North Carolina fields as a junior, totaling 1,742 yards and 34 TDs. I believe he can contribute as both a punt and kick off returner.
South Carolina leads Florida State and Ohio State in the early stages of this recruiting race, per 247Sports.
Owens is a huge load at 6'2" and 240 pounds. The New Jersey native can play at linebacker or running back, but the latter i his preferred position.
Owens bullied his way to over 1,700 yards and 27 total TDs as a junior. Not just a big and power guy, Owens can be dangerous in a straight line in the open field and is a nightmare for smaller single defenders to bring down.
I can see him ending up at Michigan State, becoming the next T.J. Duckett.
The 5'11" 196-pound Alabama native nearly clipped 2,000 total yards and 26 scores as a junior.
He can run with a dynamic skill set that can cause headaches for opposing defenses.
Thomas can slice through alleys with good quickness, while also running with good power and has tackle-breaking ability. Alabama could be the favorite, but Thomas could opt to go be the main man at a smaller program in hopes of getting immediate playing time.
Yearby has a 5'9", 190-pound frame and he runs with deceptive strength and power. Yet, the elusive Yearby also possesses the agility that often characterized backs his size.
Yearby, hailing from Florida, can race by defenses, jump to the edges and square his shoulders to the goal posts to jet upfield. Yearby has been very productive in his high school career vs. good Florida competition.
He committed to Florida State during the spring of his sophomore year.
Yearby shares his carries with another great runner in Dalvin Cook. A bit bigger than Yearby, Cook has great wiggle to his running style, even though he's already 5'11", 190 pounds.
Cook ran for 1,422 yards and 22 TDs as a junior, which earned him the offer and commitment to Clemson. Coach Dabo Swinney has to be stoked to be getting a highly productive and talented back like Cook.
Michel also is from Florida like Cook and Yearby, playing in the Ft. Lauderdale area. Michel stands 5'11" and weighs about 205 pounds.
He runs hard, with good vision, solid strength and can catch a few passes out of the backfield too. 247Sports reports Georgia and Notre Dame lead right now.
Michel has the skills to fit in various schemes, from a power blocking attack to a finesse zone blocking scheme.
The quality of competition in Las Vegas is a lot better than people think, so when a 5'11", 200-pound RB goes off 1,821 yards and 27 TDs (as Starks did) as a junior, he's bound to get some looks.
That's why Nathan Starks is viewed as one of the top backs for 2014. With his good size, power, instincts, vision and speed Starks has the potential to be a good starter at the collegiate level.
He could follow former Sin City sensation Demarco Murray's footsteps to Oklahoma.
Some knock Hurd for his upright running style, but Eddie George was fine and, more recently, Darren McFadden has been productive (when healthy) for the Raiders.
Hurd is 6'2" and change, weighs about 210 pounds and is from Tennessee. He rushed for 3,357 yards (10.6 yards per carry) and 43 TDs as a junior due to good speed, tackle-breaking ability, awareness and instincts.
247Sports lists Ohio State and Florida the co-leaders, among Hurd's suitors.
Scarborough is a 6'2" ATH who sees plenty of action at RB. He lines up at receiver sometimes, but he already weighs close to 220 pounds and may be a better RB at this stage.
The Alabama native is committed to the Tide and is one of the top overall players in the country. He is a good athlete with impressive speed and quickness. I also think he runs with more power than most scouts and fans realize.
Fournette weighs 215-220 pounds, stands over 6'0" tall and has an outstanding blend of speed, explosiveness, strength, instincts and ball skills.
He can be a factor as a receiver out of the backfield and is a third-down threat. The Louisiana native can run in between the tackles with strength or bounce outside, with quickness to get himself in space.
Fournette's the best RB in the country for 2014 and his final decision could come down to Alabama and LSU.
Edwin Weathersby is the College Football Recruiting Analyst for Bleacher Report. He has worked in scouting/player personnel departments for three professional football teams, including the New York Giants, Cleveland Browns and the Las Vegas Gladiators of the Arena League. He spent a year evaluating prep prospects and writing specific recruiting and scouting content articles for Student Sports Football (formerly ESPN Rise-HS). A syndicated scout and writer, he's also contributed to WeAreSC.com, GatorBait.net and Diamonds in the Rough Inc., a College Football and NFL Draft magazine.