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Power Ranking the Top 10 Running Backs in the 2014 Recruiting Class

Andrew KulhaSenior Analyst IIIJune 4, 2013

Power Ranking the Top 10 Running Backs in the 2014 Recruiting Class

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    It's going to be hard to find a more talented position group than running back in the 2014 recruiting class.

    All 10 of the recruits ranked here will be playmakers in college, and at least a few have superstar potential. One actually happens to be the No. 1 overall recruit in the class, according to the 247Sports Composite Rankings.

    Several of these backs have put up video game-like numbers in high school, and they still have their senior season to play.

    Once this 2014 class makes it to the college level, expect the running backs to shine the brightest and make the most immediate impact. These 10 stand out among the best.

     

    Note: Rankings courtesy of the 247Sports Composite Rankings. All scouting and analysis done from film study via the tapes provided by each recruit's respective 247Sports profile pages. 247Sports predictions courtesy of the 247Sports Crystal Ball.

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10. Daniel Gresham, FB

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    Height: 5'9.5''

    Weight: 236 pounds

    Hometown: Fort Worth, Texas

    School: All Saints Episcopal School

    Ranking: 3-star 

    247Sports Prediction: Ole Miss 100%

    Bleacher Report Prediction: Alabama

     

    Scouting Report

    It's only fair that fullbacks get their due, and Daniel Gresham is the best of the lot. He's the No. 1 fullback in the nation, according to the 247Sports Composite. Gresham has great size, but he also has more than adequate speed to be a lead blocker or even a ball-carrier. Also according to 247Sports, Gresham runs a 4.73 40. 

    He's a back who's not afraid to be physical, and he'll be great in short-yardage situations. He's a physical runner who will lower his shoulder, absorb contact and keep moving. That said, he does have a surprising amount of elusiveness as well. As a blocker, he'll initiate contact and has good strength. He also has the speed to get to the second level against a linebacker or set the edge on stretch plays. 

    It's hard to find a hole in Gresham's game when scouting him as a fullback. When compared to the rest of the players on this list, though, it's going to be hard for him to move up. They are much quicker, more elusive and project to be better game-changers overall. 

    For the fan of fundamental football, though, Gresham is a great recruit.

    Gresham could really be utilized in many ways in Alabama's offense, and the Tide made him an offer early in March.

9. Justin Jackson, APB

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    Height: 5'11''

    Weight: 180 pounds

    Hometown: Carol Stream, Ill.

    School: Glenbard North High School

    Ranking: 4-star 

    Committed to Northwestern on 5/15/13

    Scouting Report

    Justin Jackson is the No. 2 all-purpose back in the 2014 class, according to the 247Sports Composite. He's an elusive runner with 4.55 speed in the 40, according to 247Sports. He has long strides and runs with a fluid motion, but he also has great footwork that allows him to juke his way through a crowd.

    He has an impressive cut move that gets defenders off balance, and he has the vision to find new running lanes quickly. Jackson can also be split out at wide receiver, where he is a deep threat because of his speed. He has good hands and great athleticism. 

    He's going to be a shifty "scatback"-type runner, and it wouldn't be surprising  to see him end up in the slot more often than not. He doesn't have the frame to run between the tackles at the college level, so that lack of versatility will keep him from being ranked higher here.

    Jackson has the potential to be a game-changer in the Big Ten, and he's a marquee pickup for Northwestern. Expect him to see playing time early on.

8. Nick Chubb, RB

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    Height: 5'11''

    Weight: 216 pounds

    Hometown: Cedartown, Ga.

    School: Cedartown High School

    Ranking: 4-star

    247Sports Prediction: Georgia 100 percent

    Bleacher Report Prediction Georgia

     

    Scouting Report

    Nick Chubb is a power runner who has tremendous size, but he also runs a 4.56 40, according to 247Sports. He has the speed to surprise defenders at the second level and does a great job of turning the corner, squaring his shoulders and getting upfield.

    He has a strong base and good balance, and he has strong legs that make him hard to take down. Defenders will have to wrap up, or they'll risk getting run over. He also has a nice cut move and can work his way out of traffic with a good set of juke moves. 

    Chubb has surprising speed for being such a powerful runner, but it will be good-to-average at the college level. If he wants to move up in these rankings, he's going to need to get a little quicker or perfect the art of being a power runner. 

    Chubb's a big in-state recruit for Georgia, and the Bulldogs have been pretty consistently on top of his 247 Sports interest list. Mark Richt and his staff have done a great job of using multiple backs, and Chubb could look forward to being a great one-two punch with Sony Michel. 

7. Dalvin Cook, RB

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    Height: 5'11''

    Weight: 190 pounds

    Hometown: Miami, Fla.

    School: Miami Central High School

    Ranking: 5-star

    Committed to Florida on April 6, 2013

     

    Scouting Report

    Dalvin Cook is a strong runner with a great burst of speed and good vision. He has quick, compact steps, runs low to the ground and has a good center of balance. He can explode through the hole before a defender is able to close, and he has a good second burst in the open field.

    He also has a quick cut move that allows him to bounce the ball outside where he's fast enough to outrun defenders to open space. Cook runs a 4.55 40, according to 247Sports. 

    Cook looks like he could be a good "scatback" at the college level. He'll be a home run hitter, but he may not be an every-down "workhorse" back.

    He's a one-dimensional back at the college level. He's good at what he does, but he can't go much higher than No. 7 here.

    Look for Cook to settle into a No. 2 role for the Gators, where he will be used to change the pace of the game and cause defenses to adjust to his running style. Kelvin Taylor will be "the guy" for Florida, but Cook can be a great backup. 

6. Joseph Yearby, RB

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    Height: 5'9''

    Weight: 190 pounds

    Hometown: Miami, Fla.

    School: Miami Central High School

    Ranking: 5-star

    Committed to Miami on Feb. 26, 2013


     

    Scouting Report

    Josephy Yearby is an elusive runner—credit his footwork and foot speed. He makes sharp cuts, and his subtle movements make it hard for defenders to close and come to balance in an effort to tackle him. He's always shifting and changing direction.

    The stutter step is easily his best move, as it freezes opponents for a second. Yearby can also be a powerful runner who will pick up yards after contact.

    While Yearby has good speed, he doesn't have that game-changing speed that would get him in the top five of these rankings. 

    Yearby will be an effective No. 2 back behind Duke Johnson. The Hurricanes will be able to rest Johnson occasionally, knowing that defenses still will have to respect Yearby as a runner. 

5. Derrell Scott, APB

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    Height: 5'11''

    Weight: 180 pounds

    Hometown: Havelock, N.C.

    School: Havelock High School

    Ranking: 4-star

    247Sports Prediction: South Carolina 91 percent, Florida State nine percent

    Bleacher Report Prediction: Florida State

     

    Scouting Report

    Derrell Scott is the No. 1 all-purpose back in the 2014 class, according to the 247Sports Composite. He's a fast, shifty runner who has game-changing ability. He has tremendous footwork, great vision and has a knack for making one cut and finding a completely new running lane.

    He reads the defense well and is a patient runner, but he also runs a 4.55 40, according to 247Sports, so he can explode through the running lane and outrun defenders. Scott can also be a great receiver out of the backfield on screen plays, and he can line up in the slot and be a vertical threat with his speed and good hands. 

    Scott doesn't need to be big because of his skill set, but it would be nice to see him put on a little more weight so that he can absorb hits better in college. If he can do so as a senior, he'll have a chance to move up these rankings.

    Scott had this to say about Florida State early in May, per Michael Clark of Scout.com: “Florida State is getting really close to passing South Carolina. Those schools are tied at the top for me now.”

    Florida State looks like it's on the rise for Scott, and it's hard to deny how good Jimbo Fisher, Jeremy Pruitt and Co. have been on the recruiting trail. 

4. Sony Michel, RB

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    Height: 5'11''

    Weight: 205 pounds

    Hometown: Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

    School: American Heritage High School

    Ranking: 5-star

    Committed to Georgia on April 26, 2013


     

    Scouting Report

    Sony Michel is a running back with great speed and elusiveness. He runs a 4.50 40, according to 247Sports. He has top-notch footwork, changes direction quickly and has a good burst of speed or "second gear."

    Michael has long strides as a runner and a devastating stiff arm. He's a one-cut-and-go-type runner, and he'll also be effective as a pass-catcher out of the backfield. 

    He has star potential. The only reason Michel isn't ranked any higher is 1) the backs in front of him are that good, and 2) he's much more of a patient runner than an explosive runner. He'll need to hit the hole a bit harder at the college level, where defensive lineman will be much quicker. 

    Michel is going to be a great No. 3 back behind Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall, and eventually he'll take over as the starter once both players move on. 

3. Racean Thomas, RB

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    Height: 5’11’’

    Weight: 196 pounds

    Hometown: Oxford, Ala.

    School: Oxford High School

    Ranking: 5-star

    247Sports Prediction: Auburn percent 85 percent, Alabama 15 percent

    Bleacher Report Prediction: Auburn

     

    Scouting Report

    Racean Thomas is going to be a human highlight reel at the college level. He's elusive, has great feet and has a variety of spin moves that can help him get out of a jam. He's not a huge running back, but he runs with good strength.

    He has a prolific stiff-arm move, and while his spin isn't quite Eddie Lacy-esque yet—it has that potential. Thomas will often go "east and west" to find an opening. But once he creates open space, he's explosive and hits the hole hard. He also has top-notch speed to go along with everything else, so the expectations for his college career should be high. 

    That said, Thomas doesn't have that big "bruising" mentality that running backs No. 1 and No. 2 have, so that's what keeps him at No. 3. There's nothing wrong with being an elusive back—and he does have an element of power to his game—but he's not a complete back just yet. 

    The depth chart at Alabama is solid in regard to running backs, and one can only imagine what Gus Malzahn would be able to do with an athlete like Thomas in his backfield. Malzahn runs a wide-open offense that scores a ton of points. Thomas would be a great fit. 

2. Jalen Hurd, RB

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    Height: 6’3''

    Weight: 230 pounds

    Hometown: Hendersonville, Tenn.

    School: Beech Senior High School

    Ranking: 5-star

    Committed to Tennessee on March 14, 2013

     

    Scouting Report

    Jalen Hurd has star potential as a running back. He's as big as a linebacker, but he has the size, speed and agility of an elite running back. He's a strong runner between the tackles and runs with great forward momentum.

    He also has good agility, quick feet and can make defenders miss. Hurd will also be good coming out of the backfield as a receiving option. He could even line up in the slot. 

    If the No. 1 running back in these rankings wasn't so good, Hurd would be a shoo-in for the top spot. He has everything that you look for in a great running back, and he's incredibly versatile. He's going to be able to do a lot at the college level.

    Hurd has the potential to be a star for the Volunteers. Butch Jones will be able to use him in plenty of ways as a freshman. Eventually, he'll be the featured back, but don't be surprised if you see him lined up in the slot or as a kick returner early on. 

1. Leonard Fournette, RB

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    Height: 6’0.5’’

    Weight: 225 pounds

    Hometown: New Orleans, La.

    School: St. Augustine High School

    Ranking: 5-star

    247Sports Prediction: LSU 89 percent, Alabama 11 percent

    Bleacher Report Prediction: LSU

     

    Scouting Report

    Leonard Fournette is the best running back recruit in the nation. In fact, according to the 247Sports Composite and B/R 200, he's the No. 1 recruit in the 2014 class. He's a "bulldozer" of a runner who will be great between the tackles at the college level. He runs his legs on contact, lowers his shoulders and can break through arm tackles with ease.

    That said, he also has quick feet and great straight-line speed, so he can beat defenders to the edge and outrun them to the end zone. Fournette is a complete back, and he's arguably one of the better running back recruits in years. He has the potential to be a transcendent player.

    Right now Fournette doesn't need to change a thing, as he's on his way to greatness. All he needs to do is have another strong year and, especially, stay healthy.

    Fournette fits the grind-it-out, smash-mouth running style that Les Miles likes to feature at LSU. That fit, plus the crowd at running back at Alabama, makes LSU an easy prediction here. 

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