Projecting the Top 20 College Football Rushing Attacks for 2010
As the game of football has evolved, more teams have shied away from the traditional ground game and have concentrated on developing pass-oriented offenses.
However, old-school fans (this writer included) still enjoy a relentless, smash-mouth running attack.
In this slideshow, we will take a look at 20 teams whose rushing offenses should be among the best in the coming season.
If you think that rankings like this can be silly and subjective, you're not alone. Often times they devolve into nothing more than a popularity contest; there's just too many unknown variables.
Therefore, assigning a specific ranking to each team this far from any meaningful action would border on the ridiculous.
Instead, this slideshow is the result of factoring in the KNOWN variables of the various FBS schools and will spotlight the teams that should be among the best in 2010 when it comes gaining those hard-earned rushing yards.
However, as the list progresses, you will find the more prolific ground attacks toward the end.
On the other hand, some might surprise you.
If your team didn't make the list, it doesn't mean that they won't be good at running the ball; it just means that there were enough question marks surrounding their rushing game to warrant exclusion from this particular list.
So buckle up your chinstrap and enjoy this list of 20 teams that should be among the elite rushing attacks in 2010.
Even in the football-hungry Dallas/Ft. Worth Metroplex, North Texas gets nary a mention.
Instead, it's all-Cowboys-all-the-time.
And when it's not the Cowboys, it's the Mavericks, Rangers, Stars, Spurs, Astros, Longhorns, Aggies, Red Raiders, Sooners, Horned Frogs and even the SMU Mustangs.
Sure, the Mean Green play in the Sun Belt Conference, they were a lowly 2-10 last year and their uniforms look more like those of a high school team, but it's time to give the 28th-best rushing offense in 2009 some love.
Or more specifically, their stud running back, Lance Dunbar.
Dunbar was the "lone star" on an otherwise forgettable team. As a sophomore in 2009, Dunbar toiled away in obscurity but still managed to gain 1,378 yards and score 17 touchdowns.
This season, Dunbar will once again be the focal point of an offense that, for what it's worth, will return 10 starters, but will also have a new offensive coordinator.
Their Texas-heavy recruiting class was 117th in the nation according to Scout.com. As it pertains to the running game, the class included an offensive guard, an offensive tackle and a running back, all with two-star ratings.
As bad as the Mean Green were, the newcomers have a decent chance to make an impact, even if North Texas will keep 90 percent of its roster.
Will North Texas be bad again this year?
If they are, however, it won't be the fault of Lance Dunbar.
The Beavers face a problem similar to many other teams, the problem of coping with the loss of a seasoned quarterback.
However, in Oregon State's case it was no ordinary signal caller; it was All-Pac-10 first-team QB Sean Canfield.
Luckily, the Beavers have RB Jacquizz Rodgers to help ease the transition.
Though Oregon State finished nowhere near the top 20 rushing offenses in 2009, they warrant discussion simply because of Rodgers' superb play.
Last season, Rodgers ran for a remarkable 1,440 yards and 21 touchdowns.
This year he may be called on to do even more as the Beavers groom a new quarterback, especially since there's not a lot of depth behind Rodgers.
In fact, they're so thin at running back, that Jacquizz's brother James, a Beaver wide receiver, was the second-leading rusher on the 2009 squad.
To make matters worse, Oregon State dismissed RB Ashton Jefferson, which is significant because of the scant number of carries dished out to the next two most productive backs, Jovan Stevenson and Ryan McCants.
Believe me, the use of the word "productive" here is most generous.
Also, a small recruiting class which yielded only one RB and one O-lineman, both three-star prospects, won't help matters much either.
However, on the O-line, Oregon State will return four starters, which might make the situation marginally better.
Rodgers and his teammates will also have added motivation after missing out last season on their first Rose Bowl bid in 45 years, especially since it came as the result of a loss to in-state rival Oregon.
If Jacquizz and his fellow Beavers can untangle some hairy patches, namely games against Boise State and TCU, they might have a shot at the Pac-10 title again.
You might not agree with the Beavers being on this list.
Admittedly, it was a close shave.
But Jacquizz Rodgers is special and any discussion of potent rushing attacks should include him.
The Bulldogs should be an interesting case study in 2010, or so my personal pipeline of Georgia football information tells me.
Like many other teams, they will be breaking in a new quarterback in the coming season.
So why does last year's 47th best rushing offense make this list?
It's partially because they're breaking in a new QB, but also because they're five deep at running back and will be returning their entire offensive line.
The Bulldogs top two RB's from 2009 were Washaun Ealey, who rushed for 717 yards and three TD's as a freshman and Caleb King who piled up 594 yards and seven TD's as a sophomore.
All of their top four backs, however, showed explosive ability as they all had scoring runs of 44 yards or more. Sophomore Richard Samuel ripped off the longest one of the bunch, an 80-yd scoring scamper.
The experienced O-line also includes senior OT Clint Boling, a second-team AP All-SEC selection.
While Georgia's 2010 recruiting class didn't receive much national attention, the Bulldogs did score a couple of four-star prospects to add to their rushing attack: in-state RB prospect, Ken Malcome and OT Brent Benedict, who was rated by Scout.com as the 10th-best player at that position.
While Georgia needs to solve their situation at quarterback, all the pieces are present in the running game to help keep the Dawgs in the SEC hunt.
Last year's second-best rushing offense in the Big 12 (and 30th in the nation) needs a little work.
The bulk of that work will start up front as the Aggies will only return two starters on its offensive line in 2010.
Other than that, there is a lot to like about this rushing unit.
For starters, A&M will return two young running backs who both rushed for over 750 yards each and a dual-threat QB that added over 500 yards of his own.
The two backs, Christine Michael and Cyrus Gray, and QB Jerrod Johnson combined for 2,107 yards and 23 TD's.
Johnson and Gray were also All-Big 12 selections.
And while there are holes in the offensive line, help is coming.
The Aggies managed to land Rivals.com's 17th-best recruiting class, laden with quality O-line prospects.
Chief among them is Jake Matthews, the top overall OG according to Scout.com, and a trio of four-star tackles: Luke Joeckel, Shep Klinke, and Cedric Ogbuehi.
Because of the immediate need on the line, there is ample opportunity for the prospects to step up into a starting role.
However, the potential of the 2010 signees isn't limited to the line.
Rivals.com rates all three of A&M's new running backs, D.J. Jones, Ben Malena and Mister Jones at four stars apiece.
That's right, his name is Mister Jones.
Hailing from Littleton, Colo., Jones is said to possess a good mixture of both size and speed.
It will be tough sledding for the Aggies in the Big 12 South, where the balance of power has firmly shifted. Texas and Oklahoma have had a stranglehold on the division since 1999 and the enitre conference since 2004.
While A&M might not break the cycle this year, it appears that they're building a good foundation with their running game.
A foundation that will keep the Aggies competitive and perhaps, one day, help them rise to the top.
Last year, Nebraska's offensive woes were painfully apparent to all of Husker Nation.
Injuries to their top two running backs slowed down the ground game and forced Zac Lee to try and play through the pain of a torn flexor tendon in the elbow of his throwing arm.
The results were not pretty.
Fortunately for the Huskers, head coach Bo Pelini and his brother/defensive coordinator, Carl, had effectively overhauled the Blackshirts defense.
In 2010, Nebraska hopes to keep their RB's healthy to lessen the pressure on Lee or back-up QB Cody Green if he manages to win the starting spot.
Senior RB Roy Helu Jr., hopes to have a better season than 2009 when he was hampered by a shoulder injury that got progressively worse over the course of the season.
Despite that injury, Helu managed to run for 1,147 yards and nine touchdowns.
The Huskers' feisty change-of-pace back, Rex Burkhead, who suffered a foot injury last year during an October practice, also hopes to contribute more.
The offensive line should return four of five starters. The only missing component from last season's line will be center Jacob Hickman.
As a result, Cole Pensick, a redshirt freshman, will move from the defensive line to center for spring practice.
Meanwhile, Nebraska's 2010 recruiting class wasn't great, but it was good.
The top prospects from the class are four-star RB Braylon Heard, who played for the same high school as Pelini, and QB Brion Carnes, a second cousin to former Husker great, Tommie Frazier. According to Rivals.com, Heard was the fifth-best high school RB in the country.
Also, the Huskers have already secured a verbal commitment from QB Jamal Turner of Arlington, Texas, for their 2011 class.
The Husker offense should also have a different look in 2010. According to offensive coordinator Shawn Watson, who took a lot of flak last year, Nebraska will show more "multiplicity.".
It means increased fullback play, more rushing out of two-back power sets and physical runs out of the shotgun.
Late last season, the Husker offense showed a hint of things to come when they wheeled out the wildcat formation. Nebraska used it to great effect in a 33-0 rout of Arizona in the Holiday Bowl.
Expect to see more of that as Watson would like to utilize the talent of back-up QB Taylor Martinez alongside Burkhead.
The Huskers are this year's favorites to win the Big 12 North. With the Longhorns bringing in a new quarterback, Nebraska hopes to atone for their last-second defeat in the '09 Big 12 Championship and secure a bid to a BCS bowl.
The seemingly eternal Joe Paterno and his Nittany Lions are yet another program in a long line of programs that must replace a departing quarterback.
However, with senior Heisman candidate Evan Royster returning, things in Happy Valley should stay, well, happy.
Royster, who is poised to become Penn State's all-time leading rusher, ran for 1,169 yards and six touchdowns in '09. Expect him to see even more action as he shares the backfield with a first-year starter at QB.
Behind the powerhouse Royster, are a trio of juniors, Stephfon Green, Brandon Beachum and Joe Suhey. Together they combined for 500 yards and four touchdowns for the nation's 41st-best rushing offense.
Former quarterback, Daryll Clark, scored seven times on 211 yards, though nearly a quarter of his total yardage came on one run.
The offensive line saw the departure of tackles Dennis Landolt and Ako Poti, but is anchored by perhaps the best center in the nation, Stefen Wisniewski.
Also, this year's Nittany Lions' recruiting class was the best in the Big Ten and addressed a couple of the rushing offense's needs with a few acquisitions, most notably four-star OT Tom Ricketts and five-star RB Silas Redd.
Ricketts is an in-state product that might see action this fall. Word is that he has all the talent and intangibles to become a fixture on the O-line for years to come.
Meanwhile, Redd, out of Stamford, Conn., is a versatile back who, because of the fact that Joe Pa has Royster at his disposal, is not needed right away. But, considering his talent, it wouldn't be surprising if he is not redshirted this year.
With superb players like Royster and Wisniewski leading the charge on the ground, it's quite possible that the Nittany Lions' rushing attack might improve their overall numbers in 2010 and help the team win a Big Ten title.
Dion Lewis set the college football world on fire last season when, as a freshman, he rushed for 1,799 yards (third best in the nation) and 17 TD's.
Literally coming out of nowhere (only three FBS teams offered him scholarships), Lewis hopes to improve those staggering numbers this season.
With Lewis' blocking back, junior Henry Hynoski, and back-up sophomore RB Ray Graham returning, the former freshman phenom might actually surpass his own incredibly high standards.
However, following the departure of QB Bill Stull, the Panthers could be forced to lean on Lewis even more, which could either help Lewis' production or hurt it if opposing defenses stack the box.
Meanwhile, in an attempt to add depth to their backfield, coach Dave Wannstedt signed a trio of three-star running back prospects to the Panthers' 2010 recruiting class: Derrick Burns, Andre Givens, and T.J. Peeler.
On the offensive line, Pitt has two returning starters, Lucas Nix and Jason Pinkston. Pinkston, a fifth-year senior, is the more notable of the two as he was named an All-Big East selection in 2009.
According to Scout.com, the Panthers also snagged the best offensive lineman prospect in New Jersey this year, Brandon Sacco.
His former school, Don Bosco Prep, was the No. 1 ranked team in USA Today's final 2009 Super 25 poll.
Though in the end, all eyes will be on Lewis as he sets out to prove that he wasn't just another flash in the pan.
Boise State, America's favorite BCS party-crashers, are no longer the little engine that could.
Instead, they have become an express train that CAN.
In 2010, they will return every single offensive starter from 2009 and, in case you're keeping score at home, 10 of 11 starters on defense.
This year, expectations are high and rightfully so.
Success can do that to a program.
If the denizens of the "Smurf Turf" hope to finally punch their own ticket to the national championship game, their rushing attack (which placed 26th nationally last year) will do a lot of that punching.
The top two stallions in the Broncos' stable of running backs are Jeremy Avery and Doug Martin.
Avery, a second-team All-WAC honoree in '09, galloped for 1,150 yards and six touchdowns. In his senior season, he hopes to trot away with even more.
Meanwhile, Martin, who had 765 yards and 15 scores, will be riding high in the saddle as a junior.
The offensive line, which allowed the fewest sacks in the country last year, will again have All-WAC first-teamer Nate Potter as one of its workhorses.
Head coach Chris Petersen had the smallest signing class in the nation this year, a by-product of having the smallest Senior class last year.
While the Broncos didn't sign an offensive lineman, they did manage to rope a dual-threat QB, Grant Hedrick. Hedrick, despite being a passer, was considered by some to be the best high school running back in Oregon.
If the Broncos' tale seems to be short, it's because it is.
As good as they were in 2009, they have all the earmarks of being even better in 2010.
If the thoroughbreds in the Broncos' running game can carry their share of the burden, they might finally ride off into the sunset with that national championship.
Last season, the Buckeyes' rushing offense ranked 18th in the nation.
Part of that was attributable to the Buckeyes' woeful passing attack, which ranked 106th.
Sometimes, necessity breeds success.
Ohio State's leading rusher in 2009 was Terrelle Pryor, who hasn't quite lived up to his billing as the No. 1 overall prospect in 2008, at least with his arm.
Fortunately, Pryor can run a little bit, even with a partially torn PCL.
Pryor's 779 yards were 40 more than those gained second-team All-Big Ten RB Brandon Saine. Pryor scored seven TD's to Saine's four.
Meanwhile, RB Daniel Herron also scored seven TD's in addition to racking up 600 rushing yards.
All will return in 2010 along with sophomore Jordan Hall and Jaamal Berry, who redshirted his freshman year due to a bad hamstring.
Berry has been tabbed by ESPN as a player to watch in the coming season and could provide a spark in the backfield.
The offensive line will have four starters returning, including Justin Boren, another second-team All Big Ten selection.
Though they lost a versatile player in Jim Cordle, the Buckeyes are hoping that Mike Adams can fill the vacancy.
Two years ago, Adams was the top-rated lineman in the nation. Since then, he's been plagued with injuries and hasn't fulfilled his expectations.
It was a down year recruiting-wise for Ohio State, by their usual high standards anyway.
2010 saw several top in-state recruits leave Ohio in search of greener pastures.
However, many around the program believe that this year's crop of Ohio prospects was one of the thinnest in recent memory, therefore the Buckeyes didn't miss out on much.
The players who Ohio State did sign include two-four star RB's, but only one offensive lineman.
However, the lineman in question is five-star rated Andrew Norwell, ranked as the second-best OT prospect by Scout.com. Though recovering from a broken leg, Norwell should be ready by fall.
On the brighter side, one of the RB prospects, Carlos Hyde, is already on campus and should get a head start on his fellow four-star future teammate, Roderick Smith.
Though no single piece of this rushing unit seems overly spectacular (yet), the sum total should be great enough for the Buckeyes to seek yet another Big Ten title and perhaps a national championship.
The challenges will be many for the Auburn Tigers in Gene Chizik's second year as head coach.
Primary among those challenges will be finding a new starting quarterback and a replacement for workhorse RB Ben Tate who turned in 1,362 yards and 10 TD's in his final season.
So why, you might ask, are the Tigers mentioned in a list of the top rushing attacks for 2010?
It's because last year's 13th best unit shows an incredible amount of promise such as; an experienced offensive line, a stable of capable backs and a massive influx of talent from their 2010 recruiting class that was ranked fourth in the nation by Rivals.com.
Let's start with the offensive line which should prove to be one of the team's strengths.
The line will be anchored by four seniors, each with at least two years of starting experience.
Two of the four, C Ryan Pugh and T Lee Ziemba made the AP All-SEC team as a second teamer and an honorable mention, respectively.
Though the end of the 2009 season saw the departure of RT Andrew McCain, Chizik inked four-star JUCO transfer Roszell Gayden to increase competition.
Auburn's recruiting class of 32 strong also yielded OT Shon Coleman, a Rivals.com five-star prospect.
But perhaps the jewel of the group is five-star RB Michael Dyer. Dyer shattered a slew of high school records in Arkansas and his many honors included being the number-two ranked running back prospect in the nation.
While Coleman probably won't crack the senior-laden O-line, Dyer is primed to make plays for the Tigers.
Although Auburn returns their second and third-best rushers (Onterio McCalebb and Mario Fannin), who will try to impress this spring, things will get very interesting when Dyer arrives in the fall.
Ultimately, the lack of an established quarterback could actually be beneficial to this eclectic group as the Tigers might be forced to rely on the running game in 2010.
The sun is shining brighter in Morgantown ever since Noel Devine decided to skip the NFL draft and return to the Mountaineers for his senior season.
Especially since West Virginia will be without the services of former QB Jarrett Brown.
Devine, a unanimous first-team All-Big East selection, slashed opposing defenses in 2009 for 1,465 yards and 13 TD's and is now the fifth-leading rusher in WVU history.
In short, Devine is simply divine.
Along with Brown, FB Ryan Clarke and the duo of Tavon Austin and Jock Sanders in the slot, the Mountaineers had the 24th best rushing offense last season.
Clarke, who ran for 250 yards and eight scores, and the Austin/Sanders tandem that produced 222 rushing yards and two TD's will rejoin Devine next season.
However, Brown's rushing output (452 yards and six TD's) will be missed as his hand-picked successor, Geno Smith, is not a dual-threat QB.
On a related note, West Virginia's spring practice has been pushed back to allow a broken bone in Smith's foot to heal.
However, despite Smith's playing style, the West Virginia ground attack promises to be as wild as their mascot's namesake.
The offensive line will return everyone except OT Selvish Capers who, following his redshirt senior season, was invited to the NFL combine.
This season's Mountaineer recruiting class, while not as heralded as some, did contain one four-star offensive lineman, Quinton Spain, one three-star lineman and one three-star running back.
Spain was listed as Rivals.com's second-best OG and showed the ability to play fullback in high school, where he scored four TD's and six two-point conversions.
With Devine's return, expectations are high among the Mountaineer faithful. Regardless of the season's outcome, West Virginia's speedy rushing attack should be fun to watch.
2009's third-best rushing offense makes our list for one reason and one reason only:
Every single Falcons player that logged even a single rushing yard will return in 2010.
That includes Jared Tew (pictured), who ran for 970 yards and nine touchdowns, and Asher Clark who tallied 865 yards and seven TD's.
In all, the Falcons had seven players who rushed for at least 218 yards and they all found the end zone at least once.
Now for the downside.
The Falcons lost their entire starting offensive line and their offensive assistant, Patrick Covington, left for a position at Coastal Carolina.
Also, being a service academy, they have a distinct disadvantage when it comes to recruiting.
This year, they focused primarily in Texas although one of their more intriguing recruits, FB Mark Weisman, hails from Illinois.
Weisman started for three years in high school and gained over 4,000 yards without a single fumble.
The Falcons may never fly very high in the public consciousness, but they know how to maneuver on the ground.
When your team is slated to return a running back who was the Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year and all five starting offensive linemen from 2009, they get automatic consideration for the Top 20 Rushing Attacks for 2010.
Such is the case with the Wisconsin Badgers.
The Badgers had the best rushing offense in the Big Ten last season and ranked 15th nationally.
Yet, in the ever-changing landscape of college football, a sunny outlook can quickly be tinged with a few dark clouds.
Such is also the case with the Wisconsin Badgers.
John Clay's award-winning sophomore season (1,517 yards and 18 TDs) was overshadowed by the performances of other running backs such as Toby Gerhart and Mark Ingram.
Adding injury to insult, Clay was forced to undergo ankle surgery and will miss the entire spring practice.
To those who see the glass half-full, this could be a good thing; sophomore RB Montee Ball and senior RB Zach Brown will see more reps as a result.
However, in other bad news, OL Jake Bscherer left the team prior to his redshirt senior year and redshirt freshman RB Erik Smith transferred to Illinois State. Bscherer would have been the Badgers' most experienced back-up offensive lineman.
While it's certainly not time to hit panic button, the continued health of the rushing offense has now become a larger priority.
Meanwhile, Wisconsin's latest recruiting class underwhelmed the national pundits, mainly because of the Badgers' inability to land any offensive recruit rated higher than three stars by the two major scouting websites.
Though to be fair, the 2008 class was also perceived as weak and yet two-star recruit Travis Frederick started the '09 season at center.
A bright spot of the 2010 recruiting class could be RB James White. Rated as the 42nd best running back in the country by Rivals.com, White shows promise as both a rusher and a receiver.
In the final analysis, the good seems to outweigh the bad.
After all, in addition to John Clay's accolades, two of the five returning offensive linemen, John Moffitt and Gabe Carimi, made the All-Big Ten team.
If Clay returns at full strength and the offensive line avoids injury, the 2010 Badgers could very well be sleeper picks both for the Big Ten title and a BCS bowl.
Obviously, having the No. 1- rated recruiting classes in 2008 and 2009 paid dividends for the Crimson Tide as they were able to add a shiny crystal football to their trophy case in January.
Alabama's success was due in large part to Heisman Trophy winner, Mark Ingram.
Ingram rushed for 1,658 yards and 17 TDs enroute to becoming only the third sophomore to win the prestigious award and the first in Alabama football history.
This season, Ingram will defend his crown in an offense that returns seven other starters from last year's championship season.
Among those seven are All-SEC OT James Carpenter and back-up running back Trent Richardson, who ran for 751 yards and eight TDs.
It is notable, however, that two of the three starters missing from last year's 12th ranked rushing offense were fixtures of the rushing game.
Gone are OT Drew Davis and OG Mike Johnson, as well as RB Roy Upchurch.
However, the recent influx of top talent in Tuscaloosa should allow the Tide to effectively fill the gaps.
This year's recruiting class, while dropping slightly in the national rankings, features four offensive linemen and two running backs, most notably three four-star prospects in Arie Kouandjio (OT), Corey Grant (RB) and Jalston Fowler (FB).
After all, as the old saying goes, teams like Alabama don't rebuild, they reload and their running attack should be fully loaded for 2010.
Love 'em or hate 'em, one would have to admit that the Florida Gators were one of the more interesting story lines in college football last season.
Between Tim Tebow's tears following the thrashing by Alabama or Urban Meyer's off-again, on-again approach to the head coaching position, watching the Gators was like watching reality television.
Before we go any further, it's likely that many of you are thinking that Florida made this list on name recognition alone.
While it's true that Tebow was the Gators' leading rusher in 2009 with 910 yards and 14 touchdowns, Meyer has been hoarding talent in Gainesville for seasons.
Florida still has three experienced backs returning who possess an unique blend of speed and power.
Also, since the Gators lost Tebow and three very good wide receivers, those three backs may have to step their game up a notch if last year's 10th-ranked rushing offense wants to help their team weather those losses. Especially since Tebow's replacement, John Brantley, is not as mobile as his predecessor.
Last year, the trio of Jeffery Demps, Chris Rainey and Emmanuel Moody tallied almost 1,700 rushing yards and 15 TD's between them.
Opening holes in front of them will be an offensive line that will return four of five starters since Mike Pouncey decided not to follow his twin-brother, Maurkice to the NFL. Pouncey, however, will transition from right guard to center to fill the vacancy left by his brother.
Even with all of the questions swirling around this team, Meyer's indecision did not hurt recruiting.
Scout.com ranked the Gators' class the best overall, while Rivals.com placed them second, behind only USC.
That's good news for Gator fans in what Meyer considers a "rebuilding year."
Though it focused mainly on defense and wide receiver, the group included a couple of four-star offensive line prospects in Chaz Green and Ian Silberman, as well as a four-star RB Mack Brown.
If the Gators hope to keep pace with Alabama, they're going to need a lot of production from their ground game and, from the looks of things, they'll probably get it.
Last year's No. 1 rushing offense was only one of two schools to compile over 4,000 yards on the ground in '09 and was the first team in NCAA history to have three 1,000-yard rushers.
Stat-wise, Nevada was head-and-shoulders above everyone else with an average of almost 345 yards per game.
Expect that total to drop in 2010 as head coach Chris Ault tries to establish a better balance between pass and run from his WolfPack.
Following an embarrassing 45-10 loss to SMU in the Hawaii Bowl, there was a shake-up in the coaching staff which ultimately brought in a new offensive line coach.
That offensive line, however, returns four starters and should include JUCO transfer Jordan Mudge to fill the hole at center.
Two of Nevada's 1,000-yd rushers are slated to play again this season, QB Colin Kaepernick and RB Vai Taua, while the missing piece of the puzzle, Luke Lippincott, will be replaced by Courtney Randall.
Kaepernick and Taua ran for over 1,350 yards in '09 and received All-WAC honors in both their sophomore and junior seasons.
If the 2008 WAC Offensive Player of the Year, Kaepernick, can elevate his passing game, the WolfPack offense won't be as reliant upon the run but should still be a formidable force on the ground in 2010.
Unlike the days when LaDainian Tomlinson thundered through the opposition and racked up gaudy stats, the 2009 version of the Horned Frogs approached the ground game with a rushing-by-committee philosophy.
None of the TCU rushers from last season ran for more than 800 yards.
However, that didn't stop the Horned Frogs from having the fifth-best rushing offense in 2009 with almost 240 yards per game.
In all, they had 11 rushers with nine carries or more, proving that head coach Gary Patterson gets the most from his players.
Though they'll lose their leading rusher from last season, Joseph Turner (754 yds & 11TD's), it wasn't as if he shouldered the entire load.
Besides, the Frogs will return their next three leading rushers: RB Matthew Tucker, RB Ed Wesley and senior QB Andy Dalton.
Both freshmen last year, Tucker and Wesley ran for 676 and 638 yards respectively and combined for 12 TD's, while Andy Dalton chipped in with 512 yards and three TD's on his way to All-MWC first-team honors.
The next seven leading rushers compiled a total of 526 yards and eight TD's.
Not too shabby.
In 2010, TCU will also enjoy depth and experience on the offensive line. Four of their starting offensive linemen will return, including two All-MWC selections, senior C Jake Kirkpatrick and senior OT Marcus Cannon.
With TCU's recent run of success, they've been able to land higher-quality talent which Patterson, as shown, has been able utilize to great effect.
Though their recruiting class wasn't spectacular, they did manage to snag Ethan Grant out of Coconut Creek, Fla. Rivals.com listed Grant as a four-star recruit and the 15th best running back prospect in the nation.
With a good mixture of youth and experience, a favorable schedule and Patterson's demanding reputation, there's no reason why the the rushing offense should falter in 2010.
As a result, TCU will most likely be a part of the BCS discussion again this year.
Though Paul Johnson vacated the head coaching spot at Navy following the 2007 season, his triple option flexbone offense remains with the current skipper of the Midshipmen, Ken Niumatalolo.
And why shouldn't it?
The complex, yet precise rushing attack has proven to be difficult to defend, not only to the other service academies, but even to "upper-echelon" teams like Ohio State, Notre Dame and Missouri.
More importantly, it's led to seven consecutive seasons of eight or more wins, including a 10-win campaign last year capped off by a commanding win in the Texas Bowl.
It's also led to a pile of rushing yards.
Navy had the fourth best rushing offense in 2009, after winning the rushing title for an NCAA-record four years in a row from 2005-08.
Leading the charge was QB Ricky Dobbs, who rushed for 1,203 yards and an NCAA quarterback record 27 TD's.
Fullbacks Vince Murray and Alexander Teich combined for 1,347 yards and six touchdowns while slotback Marcus Curry added 585 yards and five touchdowns.
However, Curry failed a drug test in December, yet has been allowed to remain in Annapolis. The Naval Academy's decision to not expel Curry has caused some to cry foul, saying that it is yet another example of the academy's preferential treatment towards athletes and minorities.
If Curry is allowed to return for 2010, the Midshipmen will retain their six leading rushers (Curry, Dobbs, Murray, Teich, as well as SB Gee Gee Green and QB Kriss Proctor) and three starting offensive linemen from 2009.
That's good news for the Navy program as Rivals.com ranked their 2010 recruiting class 116th out of 125 FBS programs.
The poor ranking comes as no surprise to the Midshipmen; the academy's five-year service commitment has long prevented the team from acquiring the higher-caliber prospects that the larger, more successful programs routinely attract.
Nevertheless, if the Midshipmen stay on course in 2010, they should have another successful season running their wickedly deceptive offense and earn an eighth straight bowl berth.
Just a few short weeks ago, the speedy Oregon Ducks could have easily found themselves at the top of this list.
After all, last season's sixth-rated rushing offense was returning their entire offensive line and two pre-season candidates for the Heisman, including one who was also the Pac-10 Freshman of the Year.
Besides that, Oregon also has another capable tailback that earned an all-conference honorable mention as a freshman, though mostly for his special teams play.
So obviously, they're a shoo-in for the top of this list. Right?
Not so fast.
By now, everyone is aware of QB Jeremiah Masoli's off-the-field troubles that caused head coach Chip Kelly to suspend him for the entire 2010 season. Masoli, a coaches' All-Pac-10 second-team selection, ran for 668 yards and 13 TD's in 2009.
In addition, RB LaMichael James, the Pac-10 FOTY, will be suspended for one game due to an unrelated altercation. James had 1,546 yds and 14 TDs last season.
So the Ducks' goose is cooked.
Again, not so fast.
Following the Ducks' game vs. New Mexico, James will be able to join the action with his back-up Kenjon Barner.
Long before that, however, Oregon fans will be keenly watching spring practice for at least two key reasons:
First, to see which back-up QB, either Nate Costa or Darron Thomas, takes the starting spot, though it's doubtful that either will be able to replicate Masoli's '09 rushing performance.
And secondly, to get a look at their three highly-touted RB prospects, all from Lone Star State.
Josh Huff and Dontae Williams are both four-star recruits, while Lache Seastrunk from Temple High is a five-star signee who was also rated as the third best RB in the nation by Rivals.com (fourth best by Scout).
So make no mistake, the Ducks will still be good, but they'll miss Masoli's contribution to their overall rushing total.
A word of warning to the rest of the ACC: Darren Evans will be back.
This according to reports out of Virginia which state that Evans has met his rehabilitation from a torn ACL with the same intensity that he met opposing defenses in 2008 when he rushed for 1,265 and 11 TD's.
Which could be downright scary.
Scary because the Hokies also have the reigning ACC Rookie of the Year, Ryan Williams, who broke Evans' freshman school rushing records with a jaw-dropping 1,655 yards and 21TD's.
Add the shifty senior QB, Tyrod Taylor, now with three years of starts on his resume, to arguably the best tailback tandem in the land and Virginia Tech should have one of the most dynamic backfields in the country.
However, the loss of two all-ACC blockers (Sergio Render and Ed Wang) will be an issue that the Hokies will have to address.
Frank Beamer, who has placed an emphasis on improving the athleticism of the offensive line, managed to sign four OL recruits this year.
One of them, OT Laurence Gibson comes in as the No. 2-rated prep school recruit by Rivals.com and could help make an impact. Gibson enrolled early and will be available for spring practice.
Last year, the Hokies had the 14th-best rushing offense in the nation and, despite having to retool the offensive line, could easily improve their ranking among the top 20 college football rushing attacks in 2010.
If I've learned anything while researching and writing this article (and I actually learned a lot), it's that Georgia Tech fans are quite passionate about their beloved Yellow Jackets.
Just read the comments section below.
And why shouldn't they be?
After all, Georgia Tech was the nation's second-best rushing offense in 2009, behind only Nevada.
So in an effort to atone for my sin of inadvertently leaving GT off this list, let's take a look at the Yellow Jackets running game and how they'll stack up in 2010.
As earlier mentioned, GT head coach Paul Johnson is the man behind Navy's fiendishly clever approach to running the ball, the triple option flexbone offense.
Upon his arrival in Atlanta, Johnson installed the system at Tech.
Though it has it's share of detractors, Johnson defended it thusly in a 2008 ESPN interview, "If we can run it against Boston College at Navy, why can't we run it against Boston College at Georgia Tech? If we can beat Pitt with this system at Navy, why can't we beat Pitt at Georgia Tech? Are we going to get worse players at Georgia Tech?"
The answer to his last question is an unequivocal no.
Nothing against the Midshipmen, but a program like Georgia Tech can easily out-recruit Navy. However, due to Navy's service commitment requirement, it's a bit like comparing apples to oranges.
Nevertheless, with superior talent at Georgia Tech, Johnson has been able to accomplish quite a lot with his triple option.
In 2009, Johnson was named the ACC Coach of the Year for a second consecutive time.
Last season's wins over Florida State (GT's first win in Tallahassee) and a Top 5 ranked Virginia Tech squad prove that those honors are well-deserved.
Though the Yellow Jackets lost their leading rusher, Jonathan Dwyer (1,395 yards & 14 TD's), to the NFL, the Yellow Jackets' rushing offense will still have a very potent sting.
First-team All-ACC QB Josh Nesbitt, who ran for 1,037 yds and 18 TD's last year, is returning for his senior season.
Tech's relentless rushing attack will also feature A-Backs Anthony Allen and Roddy Jones. Between the two, they added an additional 963 yards and nine TD's in 2009.
While the offensive line lost two starters, they do have All-ACC first team center Sean Bedford as their anchor in the middle.
On the recruiting front, while the Yellow Jackets' 2010 class was not rated in the nation's Top 40, Johnson is not concerned.
His approach to recruiting, while very Georgia-centric, is not predicated on how many stars a prospect might have. Instead, Johnson looks for a special breed of players that are a good fit for his unorthodox system.
While Georgia Tech has some issues on defense that prompted the hire of new defensive coordinator Al Groh, the Ramblin' Wreck's rushing attack should continue to wreak havoc on opposing defenses for many years to come.