Power Ranking the 10 Best Freshmen RBs in Fall Practice
The 2013 running back class is both top-heavy and deep—or at least it's deep where it is top-heavy.
On 247Sports' 100-point composite, which aggregates rankings from numerous recruiting services, 15 different backs earned grades of 96 or better. Which means 15 different backs can, in all good conscience, be regarded as true blue-chippers.
Of those 15, there have been some ups and downs in this year's fall camp. Some look poised to make immediate impacts as freshman while others might take a redshirt and learn for a year.
But everyone still has time to grow.
Note: For equality sake, only one player has been included from each college team.
10. Kelvin Taylor, Florida
Class of 2013 RB Rank: No. 3
Kelvin "Son of Fred" Taylor has been so-so in camp for the Gators, but not nearly the instant-impact threat he was supposed to be.
Florida fans expected him to challenge Matt Jones for the starting role, and even with Jones (viral infection) unable to practice, Taylor has been unable to usurp the position.
According to the Orlando Sentinel, Taylor ended a recent scrimmage with a long touchdown run, though. Hopefully he can carry that momentum into the season and make a tangible impact.
9. Derrick Green, Michigan
Class of 2013 RB Rank: No. 5
Green was expected to challenge Fitzgerald Toussaint for playing time right out of the gate, but he hasn't had quite that type of impact in camp. According to Nick Baumgardner of MLive.com:
[Head coach Brady] Hoke said Tuesday that if the season were to begin today, fifth-year senior Fitz Toussaint would be his starter in the backfield.
Citing a "clear" separation between Toussaint and the rest of the pack, Hoke seemed quite comfortable with the way his veteran back has looked in camp.
In that same piece, Hoke advises fans to patient with Green, saying he's had "limited" practice time and suffered some nagging injuries—so there's absolutely no reason to push the panic button.
But Green might take longer than expected to see big-time action.
8. Greg Bryant, Notre Dame
Class of 2013 RB Rank: No. 8
Rachel Terlep of The Elkhart Truth was impressed seeing Bryant in person, and once one gleans a first-hand look at his frame, it's easy to imagine why. He stands 5'11'' and every bit looks the part of an immediate contributor.
With a revolving (and unsettled) door at the Irish's tailback position, Bryant still has a chance of getting meaningful reps in South Bend this season. According to the Chicago Sun-Times, coach Brian Kelly agrees, saying that Bryant can help him "win now."
But he hasn't been off-the-walls spectacular on the field (as some had hoped), so he'll probably need to be eased into duty.
7. Keith Ford, Oklahoma
Class of 2013 RB Rank: No. 4
Ford had the highlight of fall camp (sort of) among freshmen running backs, making news in the Oklahoma drill for barreling over OU's top defensive lineman, Jordan Phillips.
The merit (and significance) of that run are up for debate, and to be honest, the hoopla is probably a bit overblown. But the rest of how Ford has looked has not been.
6. Thomas Tyner, Oregon
Class of 2013 RB Rank: No. 2
Like many of the freshmen on this list—but to a greater extent—Tyner isn't necessarily being counted on to have a huge impact. The Ducks backfield is loaded enough to survive without him.
But he's shown a nice blend of speed, power and hands in camp that suggests he might eventually be able to find some time in the lineup.
He still has a ways to go and got wheeled out of a recent practice with a leg injury. That bump isn't supposed to be serious, but it's enough to slightly hurt Tyner's fall-camp stock.
5. Taquan Mizzell, Virginia
Class of 2013 RB Rank: No. 12
"Smoke" has been living up to his nickname in Charlottesville and should become an (if not the) immediate focal point of Virginia's offense.
Pointing to fellow ACC running back Duke Johnson as his comparison, Mizzell has certainly set the bar high for himself. And according to the Washington Post, UVA's coaching staff plans to use him in a similar way:
Over the first three days of practice, his quickness seemed to add another dimension to new offensive coordinator Steve Fairchild’s scheme, particularly when he got out in space. The Cavaliers have used him in traditional hand-offs and screens, and Mizzell said he can even be split out wide as a receiver if need be.
Mizzell has rare speed and shiftiness, so even if he's not the on-paper No. 1 back, he might just be the most important.
4. Ryan Green, Florida State
Class of 2013 RB Rank: No. 9
Ryan Green might not make a huge impact this season, buried on the depth chart by a stable of talented veteran players. But he's still made his presence known in fall camp.
According to Tallahassee.com, which titled the article in question "FSU Freshman Green Turning Heads," fellow running back James Wilder said:
He’s special. And it’s an honor to take him under my wing. ... He’s very dedicated. He’s a hard worker and he asks a lot of questions. He wants to excel.”
If and when Green's number is called for the Seminoles, it sounds like he's going to be ready.
3. Derrick Henry, Alabama
Class of 2013 RB Rank: No. 1
It doesn't take long to fall in love with Derrick Henry. One look at his 6'3'', 240-pound frame should be enough.
A historically productive high school running back, Henry has already managed to bring his powerful physique and punishing running style to the college level. Linebacker C.J. Mosley took notice, per AL.com, from the early days of spring camp, saying he looked like a bigger version of former Tide (and current Cleveland Browns) tailback Trent Richardson.
Cecil Hunt of the Tuscaloosa News tweeted that Nick Saban was really impressed with Henry's running. With so much unsettled on the depth chart behind sophomore T.J. Yeldon, that might translate into significant early playing time.
2. Dontre Wilson, Ohio State
Class of 2013 RB Rank: No. 15
A late gift for Urban Meyer and the Buckeyes, Wilson left Oregon when Chip Kelly defected and has immediately become an impact freshman in Columbus. Age be damned, he's poised to be one of OSU's most explosive (and perhaps important) players.
Everything written about him this fall has reinforced that point. ESPN.com's Austin Ward wrote and article called "Hype Keeps Building for Dontre Wilson" and the Columbus Dispatch has mused on his "electric speed."
Urban Meyer has never been afraid to play high-octane youngsters. Their skill set complements his system, no matter how green their age. Look for Wilson to parlay this camp into big touches.
1. Alex Collins, Arkansas
Class of 2013 RB Rank: No. 6
Collins is the betting man's wager to lead BCS freshmen in rushing this year, no matter what the depth chart says about a potential timeshare.
Bret Bielema's system requires backs like Collins—perfect blends of size, power and speed. And his run-heavy scheme was always able to support two backs at Wisconsin, so the presence of Jonathan Williams shouldn't cap his yardage by much.
According to the Wichita Eagle, Collins stood out during the Razorbacks' first preseason scrimmage before saying that he would like to get 20-25 touches per game. It sounds overzealous, but if he keeps up the good form, it might be hard to deny Collins those numbers.