The SEC West: Running Backs
The SEC has been known for their great running backs and last year was no exception as four backs ran for over 1,000 yards. Two of those four, (Knowshon Moreno and Glen Coffee), opted out of their senior years for the NFL draft but several great rushers remain in the conference. The SEC West features multiple backs who are looking to have a big year in 2009.
CHARLES SCOTT - LSU
Charles Scott from LSU had a breakout year in 2008 as he ran the ball 217 times after combining for only 91 rushes in his freshman and sophomore seasons. Scott ran for 1,174 yards and 18 touchdowns with career highs in nearly every category.
While many doubt that the Tiger defense is stout enough to win the SEC West, the offense could be the most talented and balanced in the division. Jordan Jefferson looks to emerge as one of the top passers in the SEC and LSU returns three of their starting offensive linemen from last year.
Scott was selected to the 2009 SEC Coaches Preseason All-SEC Team and looks to have a big year and be the key factor for the LSU offense. Running the ball on the road is important in the SEC and the Tigers will rely on Scott as they play at Georgia, Alabama, and Ole Miss.
Running back Michael Smith also received honors being voted to the 2009 SEC Coaches Pre-Season All-SEC Team. While Arkansas struggled in 2008, Smith gave Razorback fans a ray of hope for the future with his dazzling 1,072 yards rushing in only 10 games.
The running game for Arkansas has a lot of question marks in 2009. While Smith has shown that he is a great back, the offensive line will struggle to provide the blocking that he needs. The biggest loss comes as the Arkansas Center and Remington Trophy winner Jonathan Luigs moves on to the NFL. Three of the linemen from a year ago are returning but two of them will be playing new positions.
Look for Smith to produce decent numbers in 2009 but be cautious of expectations due to the changes on the offensive line. Also, if Ryan Mallett is asked to pass the ball 30 times a game then Smith will struggle to get the carries he needs to put up big numbers.
ANTHONY DIXON—MISSISSIPPI STATE
One of the minor miracles in college football last year was Anthony Dixon's decent year running the ball behind what was arguably one of the worst offensive lines in the nation. The Bulldogs ranked 105th nationally in rushing and 114th in sacks allowed.
Dixon had a very up and down year in 2008. He had six games with 50 yards rushing or less but he also posted three games with more than 100 yards on the ground. If he can become more consistent his numbers could be very solid in 2009.
The offense is changing this year for the Bulldogs and Dixon's numbers should improve. The offensive line will come back more experienced but they have not shown yet that they can run block. If the new offensive coordinator can clean up the line Dixon could emerge with a great year in 2009.
MARK INGRAM - ALABAMA
Last year Alabama placed two players among the top six rushers in the SEC in total yards. While Glen Coffee has moved on to the NFL Mark Ingram returns for his sophomore season becoming the full time starter.
Ingram should get a lot of carries since Alabama will run the ball a lot with the loss of John Parker Wilson. The offensive line loses three starters from a year ago but the talent level is very high. Nick Saban will reload on the line but it could be a setback early for the Tide.
Look for Ingram to break out in 2009 with a big year running the ball. Alabama will focus on moving the ball on the ground and Ingram has already shown he can be an effective back.
Which running back in the SEC West will have the biggest year in 2009?
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