The SEC needs no introduction when it comes to producing quality NFL runners. The list of productive current running backs includes Darren McFadden, Trent Richardson and BenJarvus Green-Ellis. The conference has also produced the NFL all-time leading rusher in Emmitt Smith.
What's scary is that it seems like running backs are getting even better. Players are getting bigger, faster, stronger and they are learning the game at a quicker pace. You better believe there is a group of runners next in line to represent the SEC well.
Last season, the conference produced eight running backs who rushed for more than 1,000 yards.
You can expect to see a couple of Georgia Bulldogs and a few dark horses tear up the NFL within a couple of years.
Keith Marshall didn't quite live up to expectations his freshman season at Georgia. However, he has a bright future once he enters the NFL draft in a couple of years.
His acceleration, burst and top speed are unmatched. He can change direction quickly and loses very little speed in and out of his cuts. Marshall sees the field well and is always a threat to score once he gets in the open field. He has also shown solid receiving skills, hauling in 11 passes last year, including three in the bowl victory (45-31) over Nebraska.
The downfall with Marshall is his lack of size at 5'11", 219 pounds. He looks smaller than that on film, and it could be the reason he won't be an every-down back at the next level. Still, the explosiveness makes him a nice change-of-pace runner like Dexter McCluster or Darren Sproles.
Alfred Blue isn't the biggest name on the LSU roster, but he has a lot to offer some lucky NFL franchise.
From a size standpoint, at 6'2", 220 pounds, Blue is well built for an NFL role. He almost never goes down on initial contact and can bully his way through arm tackles. He is a productive downhill runner who does a great job of running between the tackles, and he has a natural feel to his game. His speed and quickness isn't off the charts, but it is impressive for a taller back, as he can make some moves in the open field.
Another thing to like is that he plays in an LSU backfield that doesn't ask him to do much. He only has 138 carries in three years. Blue will be a valuable draft pick due to his skill set and the lack of wear on his tires.
Alabama has had great history in producing NFL runners. Former Crimson Tide running backs such as Shaun Alexander, Mark Ingram and Trent Richardson have made a name for themselves at the next level. Eddie Lacy will be next in line.
Sooner or later T.J. Yeldon will get his shot.
Yeldon has good size at 6'2" 218 pounds and has shown the ability to take a hit. He is most known for his quickness in the open field and speed. He can make a defender look foolish with juke moves and cutbacks without losing much speed. His vision allows him to run between the tackles, but he appears to be best when in space.
Yeldon will only get better as he adds more muscle to his upper body.
LaDarius Perkins doesn't receive the credit he deserves due to playing on a mediocre Mississippi State team. Good thing professional teams couldn't care less about overall team success. A player will be selected as long as he has a good skill set and is ready to work.
Perkins is the real deal.
In fact, he may be the quickest running back in the country at 5'10", 190 pounds. He is quick in and out of his cuts and is a tall order to tackle in the open field. He runs with incredible balance, is patient and he is slippery when a defender goes in for the tackle. Perkins is also sure-handed, as he has caught 32 combined passes in two seasons.
Perkins will make a case as the best running back in the 2014 NFL draft.
Todd Gurley is likely going to be a player who leaves early for the NFL draft. That doesn't happen unless a player is a rare talent and ready to contribute right away.
Gurley has only played one season at the college level, but it doesn't take long to notice he is a different breed. His combination of power, quickness and size at 6'1", 232 pounds makes him arguably the best running back in the country. He is incredibly fast for his size and has shown the ability to break tackles and power through defenders.
His ability to run between the tackles and wait for his blocks to set up is indication that he could be a workhorse at the next level. Gurley has also displayed above-average ball skills, hauling in 16 passes last season, including six in the final three games.
There is little doubt Gurely will have a productive career in the NFL.