The running back prospects in the 2014 class are a talented group who will make their mark on college football. Although the position is being de-valued more and more by the season, these runners have the skills to make offenses re-focus on running the ball.
Each back has a bright future, but it's time some predictions be made. Those of you who regularly read B/R know predictions here are big and bold.
A top-tier running back prospect will make a bigger impact as a receiver, while another pair of backs will be better than the incumbents at their school. Also, a running back headed to an ACC school will rush for 1,000 yards—as a freshman.
Miami has a commitment from 4-star running back Joseph Yearby, who is a hometown recruit.
The 5'9", 190-pounder has exceptional quickness, great speed and runs with more power than the average back of his size.
Yearby also flashes the ability to be a great receiver out of the backfield. At Miami, he will lead the ACC in yards from scrimmage twice before he leaves. Yearby has the skills and talent to have a couple of 1,000-yard seasons, while approaching that same total in receiving yards.
A 5-star running back, Racean Thomas is committed to Auburn, where he is expected to make a big impact. The 5'11", 196-pounder is a natural runner, but he's an even better fit for the Tigers offense due to his receiving skills.
Head coach Gus Malzahn is one of the better offensive minds in the country. He will utilize Thomas' strengths as a receiver, which will help the running back total more than 1,500 career receiving yards on The Plains.
Thomas will also do some damage as a runner, too.
Traevohn Wrench is a 4-star runner who is the headliner of Kansas' recruiting class.
Wrench, who is 6'0" and 180 pounds, has the straight-line speed, instincts and elusiveness to become the focal point of the Jayhawks offense.
With Kansas not exactly being the most talented team in the country, Wrench will have a chance to make an immediate impact in Lawrence. He will sign with Kansas in February, and then go on to become a 4-star starter and three-time team captain for head coach Charlie Weis.
Among the most underrated players in the country is 4-star running back Donald Catalon. The Texas commit has the talent to be considered the headliner of the Longhorns' class.
At 5'11" and 190 pounds, the Houston native has the potential to develop into an excellent blend of size and speed. Texas has recruited a terrific amount of talented offensive linemen in the recent years, so Catalon will have some hogs upfront to clear alleys during his time in Austin.
With his talent and the offensive trenches having several good players at Texas, Catalon will be a two-time Big 12 rushing champion.
Arizona head coach Rich Rodriguez coached some running back named Steve Slaton during his time at West Virginia. In Rodriguez's spread-option offense, Slaton finished his career with 3,923 yards and 50 touchdowns.
Rodriguez has a commitment from 4-star running back Nick Wilson, who is 5'11" and nearly 200 pounds. Wilson has good power, can break tackles and has the speed to rumble for big gains.
He will produce more at Arizona than what Slaton did at WVU for Rodriguez.
Florida freshman running back Kelvin Taylor was one of the best recruits in the country in 2013. He is considered the running back of the future for the Gators, but he may be splitting carries more than he would like.
Dalvin Cook, a 5-star 2014 commitment, is headed to Gainesville and will not be looking to redshirt in 2014. Cook has wonderful speed, quickness and rare explosiveness with the ball. His vision is above-average, and he has good instincts. Plus, Cook flashes lethal ability as a receiver out of the backfield.
The 5'11", 190-pounder will be a better running back than Taylor within two seasons at Florida.
Joe Mixon, a 5-star running back from California, looks like a receiver initially at 6'2" and 195 pounds. That is because Mixon probably is a receiver who plays running back, rather than a running back who has receiver skills.
Mixon shows great hands, as he can pluck passes with his mitts after working on cornerbacks on the perimeter. In fact, don't be surprised if Mixon makes a few starts at receiver in college before he graduates.
He is from the greater San Francisco area, and will sign with California.
The Bears offense is run by Tony Franklin, who is no stranger at throwing the ball. Mixon will leave Cal with more than 100 receptions, as his skills are a perfect match for Cal's offensive attack.
Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall are two of the most talented running backs in the country. They make up a rare tandem, and routinely give SEC defenses fits for Georgia.
The pair has good speed and quickness, plus both can run with strength. Once Gurley and Marshall are gone to the NFL, look for Michel and Chubb to take over—and surpass the incumbent tandem's career combined rushing total.
North Carolina runs an offense with spread concepts, but 4-star running back Elijah Hood has the talent and running style to add another dimension to the attack.
At nearly 6'0" and 222 pounds, Hood has outstanding power, strength and leg-drive. He is deceptively quick and fast, but plays like a giant at the point of attack. Hood has the ability to be a dangerous downhill power runner, and will be ready to play as a true freshman.
Head coach Larry Fedora will start him in 2014, where Hood will run for 1,000 yards in his first season with the Tar Heels.
Kevin Faulk is LSU's all-time leading rusher with 4,557 yards, according to FBSStatistics.com. Faulk was great for the Tigers, but 5-star running back Leonard Fournette will sign with LSU and be better.
Fournette, who is 6'1" and nearly 230 pounds, is a New Orleans native with an incredible skill set. He has the ability to run with strength and power to challenge front-seven alignments, but also displays excellent speed and above-average elusiveness to run for big gains.
Fournette also has great hands, which can be utilized in the passing game. With LSU always being stocked with rugged and strong offensive linemen, Fournette will break Faulk's career rushing record.
Several of the running backs on this list can be located on the 2014 Bleacher Report College Football Recruiting Heat Map!
This interactive tool is a neat way to track the top prospects in the nation!
Edwin Weathersby is the College Football Recruiting Analyst for Bleacher Report. He has worked in scouting/player personnel departments for three professional football teams, including the New York Giants and Cleveland Browns.