College Football's Top 10 Running Back Duos for 2013

Danny FlynnSenior Analyst IMay 8, 2013

College Football's Top 10 Running Back Duos for 2013

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    The sport of college football has featured some truly incredible running back duos throughout its history. 

    "Mr. Inside" Doc Blanchard and "Mr. Outside" Glenn Davis captured the nation's attention with their outstanding on-the-field exploits at Army back in the 1940s. 

    The "Pony Express" combo of Eric Dickerson and Craig James produced some eye-popping numbers back in the early 1980s. 

    Then, of course, more recently, there was Reggie Bush and LenDale White, who helped revive USC's great running back tradition. 

    Though we may not see any running back duos in 2013 that can match what we saw from those legendary one-two rushing punches,  there are still some very special backfield tandems that are worth getting excited about. 

    Here's a look at college football's top 10 running back duos for the 2013 season. 

1. Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall, Georgia

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    When Georgia's 2011 leading rusher Isaiah Crowell was dismissed from the program last spring, it left a gaping hole in the Bulldogs' backfield that needed to be filled. 

    Luckily, the team was welcoming in two of the top running back prospects of the 2013 recruiting class, Keith Marshall and Todd Gurley. 

    Though Marshall was rated as the better player by most recruiting services, it was Gurley who made the biggest immediate impact in his debut campaign. 

    The 6'1'', 218-pound beastly back overwhelmed opposing defenses, as he rushed for 1,385 yards and scored 18 touchdowns. 

    Gurley's performance earned him widespread praise, including freshman All-American honors. 

    Marshall also put together an impressive freshman season as well. He averaged 6.5 yards on 117 carries and scored eight touchdowns. 

    With Gurley and Marshall leading the way on the ground, and quarterback Aaron Murray and receivers Malcolm Mitchell and Michael Bennett making plays through the air, Georgia should have one of the most powerful offensive attacks in the country in 2013.

2. James Wilder and Devonta Freeman, Florida State

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    Florida State experienced a major rushing resurgence this past season thanks in large part to the efforts of running backs James Wilder and Devonta Freeman. 

    The Seminoles, who averaged just 112 yards on the ground per game and ranked 104th nationally in rushing offense in 2011, had a much more potent ground attack in 2012.

    They ranked 24th nationally in rushing offense, averaging 205 rushing yards per game. 

    Freeman and Wilder combined to average 5.8 yards per carry, and they scored 19 of the team's 40 rushing touchdowns. 

    The 6'2'', 226-pound Wilder may have the size advantage over the 5'9'', 209-pound Freeman, but the two backs are both powerful and explosive runners who complement each other extremely well. 

    With potential All-ACC standout linemen such as Josue Matias, Bryan Stork, Cameron Erving and Tre' Jackson blocking for them, the two junior backs should have some huge holes to run through this fall. 

    Expect Wilder and Freeman to do plenty of damage to opposing defenses once again in 2013. 

3. Melvin Gordon and James White, Wisconsin

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    Montee Ball will forever be remembered as one of the best running backs in Big Ten history. 

    Ball, who was selected by the Denver Broncos in the second round of this year's NFL draft, totaled a whopping 5,140 rushing yards and scored 83 touchdowns during his four years in Madison. 

    How could the Badgers possibly replace that kind of incredible production?

    Well, the good news is that they have two very capable replacements in Melvin Gordon and James White. 

    As far as pure talent is concerned, Gordon is one of the most gifted running backs in all of college football. Though he carried the ball just 62 times in 2012, the 6'1'', 205-pound sophomore averaged an incredible 10 yards per carry, and he displayed all the necessary skills needed to be a superstar. 

    White also produced at a high level in a limited role. He rushed for 806 yards on just 125 carries (6.4 yards per carry) and scored 13 touchdowns. 

    With both Gordon and White toting the rock in 2013, it may not take very long for Badgers fans to quickly forget all about Montee Ball. 

4. Joe Bergeron and Johnathan Gray, Texas

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    Texas fans haven't exactly been a very happy bunch in recent years. They've watched as their beloved Longhorns have gone from being a perennial powerhouse to being just another also-ran in the Big 12. 

    There's reason for folks in Austin to once again be optimistic, though, as this year's team is shaping up to be a true conference contender. 

    The reason for hope starts in the offensive backfield, where both Joe Bergeron and Johnathan Gray look like they could be ready to become breakout stars this fall. 

    Bergeron is coming off a sophomore season in which he ranked second in the Big 12 with 16 rushing touchdowns, while Gray is coming off a freshman year in which he amassed 852 total yards. 

    When you add in former blue-chip recruit Malcolm Brown to the mix, it's easy to see why every Big 12 defense better be afraid of Texas' intimidating backfield. 

5. Lache Seastrunk and Glasco Martin, Baylor

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    When you think about Baylor's offense, it's likely that the first thing that comes to mind is a high-powered passing attack. That's because the Bears have ranked in the top five nationally in passing offense in each of the past two seasons. 

    Now that QB Nick Florence and WR Terrance Williams are both gone, though, it's likely that head coach Art Briles will rely more heavily on the ground game in 2013. 

    It certainly helps that Briles will have arguably the most talented all-around running back in college football, Lache Seastrunk, and a proven and consistent veteran rusher, Glasco Martin, at his disposal. 

    Seastrunk displayed remarkable playmaking ability and game-changing speed during the second half of the 2012 season, as he rushed for over 100 yards in five out of his final six games.

    Martin was just as valuable to the offense, finishing the season with 889 rushing yards and 15 touchdowns. 

    The talented tandem seems to complement each other perfectly. Seastrunk is the type of player who produces dazzling highlight-reel runs, while Martin is the type of back who does the dirty work and makes the key plays that help win games. 

6. Ben Malena and Brandon Williams, Texas A&M

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    Defending Heisman-winner Johnny Manziel is going to be the Texas A&M player who receives the majority of the publicity this offseason. But Manziel certainly isn't the only player on the Aggies offense that teams better be afraid of in 2013. 

    Joining Johnny Football in the backfield will be the dynamic duo of Ben Malena and Brandon Williams. 

    Last year, Malena averaged 5.8 yards per carry on 138 total touches and scored nine touchdowns. 

    Williams, who sat out last year after transferring from Oklahoma, is a former 5-star recruit according to Rivals.com, who generated a big buzz with an impressive showing in A&M's spring game

    When you add in another former blue-chip recruit, Trey Williams, to the rushing rotation, it's clear that Manziel is going to have plenty of playmakers joining him in the backfield in 2013. 

7. De’Anthony Thomas and Byron Marshall, Oregon

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    For the second year in a row, Oregon is going to have to replace a running back who totaled over 2,000 yards of total offense the year before.

    Last offseason, the Ducks had to replace LaMichael James. This time around, they'll have to figure out how to fill the void left by Kenjon Barner, who totaled 2,023 yards and 23 touchdowns in 2012.

    While Barner will certainly be missed, the team does welcome back versatile threat De'Anthony Thomas, one of the most explosive and dangerous playmakers in the country, 

    Thomas may have had to defer most of the carries to Barner last season. However, he still found a way to make an impact any time he got the ball in his hands. The 5'9'', 176-pound junior averaged 7.6 yards per carry, caught 45 passes for 445 yards and scored 18 touchdowns in 2012. 

    The Black Mamba may not have the size to be a true featured back. But luckily, he doesn't need to be since he'll be able to split carries with stud sophomore Byron Marshall, who averaged 5.1 yards on 84 carries in his first season. 

    With budding star sophomore signal-caller Marcus Mariota back to lead the way, it's likely that the Ducks will pass the ball much more often in 2013. However, Thomas and Marshall should certainly still get plenty of opportunities to create big plays on the ground as well. 

8. Dri Archer and Trayion Durham, Kent State

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    Kent State was one of the most surprising success stories of the 2012 season. After going a decade without a winning season, the Golden Flashes broke through and won 11 games and took home a MAC East division title last year. 

    Their success was based largely on the performances of their two top offensive playmakers, running backs Dri Archer and Trayion Durham.

    Archer was the true star of the show. The explosive 5'8'', 175-pound senior ranked fifth in the country with an average of 184 yards per game and he tied for sixth in the country with 23 total touchdowns scored.

    Durham deserved plenty of credit as well, though. The 6'0'', 260-pound bruising back powered his way to 1,316 yards on the ground and 14 touchdowns. 

    The smaller, shiftier Archer and the bigger, stronger Durham may be two polar opposites in terms of playing styles and skill sets. However, ultimately that's what makes them such a unique and balanced backfield tandem. 

9. Kenny Hilliard and Alfred Blue, LSU

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    LSU lost two of its most talented running backs, Spencer Ware and Michael Ford, a year early to the NFL. 

    It also could be without the services of ultra-talented, yet oft-troubled sophomore back Jeremy Hill, who was recently suspended indefinitely following an arrest stemming from a bar fight.

    Luckily for Les Miles, he still has two very capable backs, Kenny Hilliard and Alfred Blue, at his disposal.

    HIlliard is coming off a solid sophomore season in which he averaged 5.6 yards per carry. Blue, on the other hand, looked like he was quickly developing into a breakout star early last season before going down for the year with a knee injury after just four games. 

    Both Hilliard and Blue possess tremendous physical ability, and both are loaded with potential. The only question is, will they be able to handle an increased workload in 2013?

10. Trey Watts and Ja’Terian Douglas, Tulsa

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    After winning 11 games and a conference championship this past season, Tulsa will enter 2013 as the clear-cut favorites to repeat as Conference-USA champions again this year. 

    The Golden Hurricane offense is absolutely loaded with playmakers. But the two players who opponents will have to worry about the most are running backs Trey Watts and Ja'Terian Douglas. 

    Over the last two years, Watts and Douglas have combined to total over 3,800 yards on the ground and 20 touchdowns. 

    Now that fellow back Alex Singleton is gone, the two senior backs will have even more opportunities to shine this season.

Other RB Duos to Watch out for

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    Dominique Brown and Senorise Perry, Louisville

    Zach Laskey and David Sims, Georgia Tech

    Damien Williams and Trey Millard, Oklahoma

    B.J. Catalon and Waymon James, TCU

    Andrew Buie and Dustin Garrison, West Virginia

    Ameer Abdullah and Imani Cross, Nebraska

    Carlos Hyde and Bri’onte Dunn, Ohio State

    T.J. Yeldon and Kenyan Drake, Alabama

    Marion Grice and D.J. Foster, Arizona State