I usually only write about Ohio State football, but occasionally I branch out.
This is my list of the top 10 running backs in the country heading into the 2010 college football season, and a few thoughts on why each of them made this list.
No. 10—Roy Helu Jr—Nebraska Cornhuskers
Helu will be a senior in 2010, and will look to build on a solid 2009 campaign in which he rushed dor 1,147 yards and scored nine touchdowns.
The Big 12 could be down in 2010, but many believe Coach Bo Pelini has Nebraska on the threshold of a return to the top 10. If they get there or not, Helu's production will be a big part of why they do or don't met those expectations.
No. 9—Lance Dunbar—North Texas Mean Green
As bad as the Mean Green have been, junior-to-be tailback Lance Dunbar has been conversely outstanding.
In 2009, he gained 1,378 yards and scored 17 rushing touchdowns. He also added 300 yards receiving and caught three TD passes. You can bet Dunbar will be the catalyst if North Texas exceeds their 2009 win total of two in 2010.
No. 8—Montel Harris—Boston College Eagles
Last season, Harris rushed for over 100 yards in eight of BC's 13 games, totaling 1,457 yards and 14 touchdowns.
In week seven against NC State, he had a career day, amassing 264 rushing yards and finding the endzone five times.
For much of 2009, the talk surrounding BC was about Mark Herzlich's battle with cancer, but in 2010, with Herzlich set to return after treatment, Harris is good enough that he might end up being the No. 1 topic of discussion pertaining to the Eagles. He could even find himself in the discussion as a darkhorse for the 2010 Heisman.
No. 7—Ricky Dobbs—Navy Midshipmen
Technically, Dobbs is a QB, but at Navy, the QB is a glorified running back.
He passed for over 1,000 yards and tossed six TD passes in 2009, so why is he on this list you ask? Because, it was the damage he did carrying the ball out of the Navy triple-option where he truly excelled and made his mark in '09.
Dobbs rushed for 1,192 yards and scored 27 rushing touchdowns in his first full season as a starter. Here's some perspective on just how good Dobbs was/is.
He missed two games last year or he might have had closer to 1,500 yards rushing and over 30 rushing touchdowns, numbers certainly attainable for him in 2010 if he remains injury-free.
No. 6—Noel Devine—West Virginia Mountaineers
Devine did indeed decide to return to Morgantown for his senior season and the Mountaineers are glad indeed to once again have his services. Last season, his first without star-QB Pat White next to him in the backfield, he rushed for 1,465 yards and scored 13 touchdowns.
In 2010, he could once again be asked to shoulder the bulk of the workload as outgoing QB Jarrett Brown must be replaced. Another 1,400+ yards and, give or take, 15 touchdowns certainly is a likely possibility for Devine, if WVU doesn't become too one-dimensional with a new, under-experienced signal caller.
I'm sure even though I have corrected my unintentional error and added him to this top 10 list in place of Marshall's Darius Marshall who I originally thought had returned to school, there will be those the believe he isn't ranked high enough.
To those of you that take that stance, that is certainly OK by me. We do not always need to see everything eye-to-eye.
I suggest you go write your own article, with your own top 10, and rank him wherever you want. IMO, he's right where he deserves to be on my list—so to those this applies to, thanks in advance for your new articles.
No. 5—Jacquizz Rodgers—Oregon State Beavers
In two seasons, Rodgers has rushed for over 2,700 yards and scored 32 touchdowns.
With USC's dominance now in question, and Oregon having a Miami-Florida type offseason so far, Oregon State could finally be the team to beat n the Pac-10.
Rodgers has done his part up to this point, and I expect nothing less than more of the same from him in 2010.
No. 4—John Clay—Wisconsin Badgers
Clay led the Big Ten in rushing as a sophomore in 2010 with 1,517 yards and he added 18 touchdowns.
He was voted the Big Ten Offensive POY, and should be on track for another big year with the progression of the Badger's passing game under QB Scott Tolzien. The passing game and running game should compliment each other very well in 2010, allowing Clay to post another huge year statistically.
He ran wild on practically every opponent but one last season. Ohio State held him scoreless and to only 59 yards on 20 carries in 2009. At least he only has to face them once in 2010.
No. 3—Ryan Williams—Virginia Tech Hokies
It's funny how things work out sometimes.
In 2008, freshman tailback Darren Evans was a beast for the Hokies. He gained 1,265 yards and scored 11 touchdowns, so when he tore his ACL prior to the 2009 season, Hokie Nation held it's collective breath, unsure of who, if anyone, could fill the void left by Evans.
Enter freshman Ryan Williams.
Not only did Williams fill the void, but he practically made Va Tech fans forget about Evans, as he gained 1,655 yards and hit pay dirt 21 times. With Evans returning, it's hard to say who will be Coach Frank Beamer's No. 1 guy, but that's a great problem to have.
No. 2—Mark Ingram—Alabama Crimson Tide
Despite not having the best overall numbers for a tailback last year, Ingram became the first Alabama player to win the Heisman Trophy. Don't get me wrong—Ingram is a great tailback, but I can't help but think Stanford's Toby Gerhart was the more deserving of the two, but I digress.
Ingram had 1,658 yards and he scored 17 touchdowns for the Tide over the course of the season, including 113 yards and three scores, and 116 yards and two scores, against Florida in the SEC title game, and against Texas in the BCS title game respectively.
If the Tide's O-line can fill a couple spots and open holes for Ingram in 2010 like they did in 2009, he will have a good shot at etching his name in the books next to Archie Griffin as the only two time Heisman winners.
No. 1—Dion Lewis—Pitt Panthers
If a true freshman has ever stated his case for legit Heisman consideration, Lewis was that guy in 2009.
When LeSean McCoy decided to skip his senior season at Pitt, I'm not sure anyone saw Lewis coming. After all, Lewis was only offered a scholarship from three schools—Pitt, Miami-OH, and Tulane. Regardless, he rushed for 1,799 yards (third best in the nation), crossing the goal line 17 times.
Did I mention, he was a true freshman who was barely recruited?
With QB Bill Stull graduating, Lewis may see even more carries and he could have an amazing season. Of course, the Panthers will have to hope they can replace Stull and pass the ball down the field to prevent defenses from stacking the box and keying on Lewis.
If they can succeed at that task, I believe Lewis could approach, if not top 2,000 yards and 20+ touchdowns in 2010. There sure are a lot of if's but if Lewis puts up similar stats, he might be the fourth straight sophomore to win the Heisman.
Photo copyright The New York Times