2013 College Football RBs with the Best Field Vision
As football evolves into a faster and more complex game, the list of traits required of a successful running back grows longer.
In the modern game, backs can't skate by based on strength, speed and athletic ability alone. College football star runners also must display excellent field vision, patience and intelligence.
The following is a list of college football running backs who have displayed elite vision in the backfield and will be regarded as some of the most dangerous ball-carriers in the nation in 2013.
Ka'Deem Carey, Arizona
Christian Petersen/Getty Images
As a sophomore in 2012, Arizona's Ka'Deem Carey averaged more yards per game (148.4) than any other running back in college football.
He did so in the unique run-based spread offense of Rich Rodriguez—a scheme that demands runners with patience and vision.
In speaking with Anthony Gimino of the Tuscon Citizen, Carey's center Kyle Quinn called Carey a magician with the eyes of an eagle:
That guy is a magician back there, I swear. I think he’s got the eyes of an eagle. He can see the lanes forming before they’re even there.
While that description sounds like it belongs in World of Warcraft, it is actually quite accurate, as Carey posted video game-type numbers with 23 touchdown runs in 2012 and a carry of 13 or more yards in every game.
Todd Gurley, Georgia
Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports
Georgia's Todd Gurley forms arguably the best running back tandem in the country along with fellow sophomore Keith Marshall.
Both lived up to the hype and showed off incredible talent in their freshman seasons, but it was Gurley who emerged as the star of the duo.
While running for 1,385 yards and 17 touchdowns as a freshman, Gurley showed that he not only has elite vision, but he has the power to move through tacklers if need be.
UGA has had some incredible running backs come through Athens and Gurley is the next in that long line—and much of that is thanks to how well he sees the field in front of him.
Venric Mark, Northwestern
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
At 5'8", 175 lbs, Northwestern running back Venric Mark survives and thrives off his vision in the backfield.
As a junior, Mark showed off that vision and the remarkable acceleration to go along with it while running for more than 100 yards per game.
Mark was also one of the best punt and kick returners in the nation—a trade that requires excellent vision, patience and decisiveness.
Now going into his senior campaign, Mark will be looking to show off his skills yet again as Northwestern continues its rise to prominence in the Big Ten Conference.
Duke Johnson, Miami
Joel Auerbach/Getty Images
Similar to Gurley, Miami's Duke Johnson enjoyed a breakout freshman campaign in 2012 thanks to the vision and patience of an upperclassman.
Johnson showed that he's the total package in the backfield, not only boasting strong vision, but also quickness, agility and elite speed.
Additionally, Johnson is a deceptively powerful runner, despite his 5'9", 194-pound stature.
The freshman All-American is also a talented returner.
Tre Mason, Auburn
John David Mercer-USA TODAY Spor
If Auburn had performed better as a team in 2012, Tre Mason might have been in the running for All-America consideration.
Now under a new offensive-minded coaching staff, Mason is poised to reach that level in 2013.
Mason is a balanced back with a great blend of size, speed and vision. He is built low to the ground with outstanding downhill running style.
Under Gus Malzahn's spread attack, he'll be able to put all of those skills on display for the Tigers in what should be an improved offensive attack in Auburn.
Charles Sims, West Virginia
Bob Levey/Getty Images
Somewhere West Virginia head coach Dana Holgorsen is thinking about his new running back Charles Sims and smiling.
The Mountaineers landed what ESPN's Travis Haney called the No. 1 impact transfer of the 2013 offseason when they lured Sims away from Houston.
As a graduate transfer, the former Cougar back will be putting his vision and NFL-caliber skill set to work in Morgantown immediately.
In addition to being a capable runner, Sims is excellent at catching passes out of the backfield. As any running back will attest, lack of vision in that area will land a player directly on the wrong end of a big-hit highlight reel.
Now in Holgorsen's clever air-raid attack against the Big 12 Conference, Sims will be showing off his skills at a whole different level in 2013.
Bishop Sankey, Washington
Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images
Bishop Sankey was relatively unknown in the Pac-12 Conference before his breakout sophomore season in 2012.
Even last year, it was tough for Sankey to be noticed with the likes of Carey, UCLA's Johnathan Franklin and Oregon's Kenjon Barner and De'Anthony Thomas stealing the West Coast spotlight.
Still, Sankey had an excellent 2012 season and made his name known, not just out west, but across the nation thanks to some impressive vision.
Watching Sankey, it's easy to notice his burst through the hole, but if it wasn't for his patience to begin runs, that burst would be for nothing and he wouldn't have totaled more than 1,400 yards and 16 touchdowns on the ground.
T.J. Yeldon, Alabama
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
Alabama already had an established, skilled and experienced running back in Eddie Lacy going into the 2012 season—but that didn't deter T.J. Yeldon from showcasing his own skills.
As a freshman, Yeldon ran broke the 1,000-yard mark as the No. 2 back to Lacy.
At 6'2" and 218 pounds, it was known that the Daphne, Ala., native had the physical tools to be effective at the collegiate level.
However, his less-tangible traits—vision, patience and decisiveness—made him arguably the best freshman back in the country.
It's scary to think what he'll do as the feature back in Year 2.
Lache Seastrunk, Baylor
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images
Lache Seastrunk's 2012 season was a near perfect microcosm of Baylor's year as a whole.
As Baylor entered last year with low expectations, Seastrunk wasn't even the starter.
Then the transfer from Oregon began to earn his way onto the field and the Bears began playing better and better.
One of the greatest home-run threats in the nation, Seastrunk relies on quick thinking, sideline-to-sideline vision and incredible speed to make his name.
The Temple, Texas native is thinking Heisman in 2013—and he just might have the skills to take the trophy.
Dri Archer, Kent State
Danny Wild-USA TODAY Sports
Kent State running back Dri Archer was one of the most versatile players in the nation in 2012, perhaps second only to West Virginia's Tavon Austin.
Archer joined Austin and Tennessee's Cordarrelle Patterson as the only three players in the nation to record a rushing, passing, punt return and kick return touchdown last year.
He averaged an unthinkable 9.0 yards per carry last year and reached the end zone 16 times off handoffs.
At just 5'8", 175 pounds, Archer might not survive if he doesn't use his eyes. His field vision is a big reason why he's one of college football's most dangerous ball-carriers.