I usually only write about Ohio State football, but occasionally I like "talking shop" about college football in general.
As fall camps and the start of the 2010 college football season nears, I made a few changes to an article I had previously posted here on B/R, and this is the end result. I figured, where's the harm in getting a bit more mileage out of this topic, eh?
These, in my opinion, are the top 10 running backs in the country heading into the 2010 college football season, along with a few thoughts on why each of them made my list.
Honorable Mention—Brandon Saine—Ohio State Buckeyes
It has truly been a long time coming, but Saine, who is in his final season at Ohio State, should get his chance to be the No. 1 back for the 2010 Buckeyes, although Dan Herron will also see the field plenty as option 1-B for the Bucks.
If not for the fact that I am unsure of just how much Herron (possibly along with Jaamal Berry and Jordan Hall) might be used in place of Saine throughout the season, I'd probably have him in my top 10.
He possesses a nice combination of speed and power, which allows him to run inside or out on the edges, and he's also dangerous as a receiver out of the backfield or in the slot.
If he can avoid the injury bug that has plagued his career at Ohio State, I fully expect Saine to have the breakout year every Buckeye fan has been expecting from him since he first arrived on campus in 2006, and ultimately for him to ascend into the top 10 by seasons' end.
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 for 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. Helu's production will play a big part in whether they get there or not.
No. 9—Lance Dunbar—North Texas Mean Green
Sometimes despite the team or the conference a player is on or in, you can't help but notice them and give them the recognition they deserve.
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 quietly 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 end zone 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 decided to return to Morgantown for his senior season, and the Mountaineers and their fans are glad 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 15-plus touchdowns is certainly a likely possibility for Devine. That is, if WVU doesn't become too one-dimensional with a new, under-experienced signal caller.
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 in the Pac-10.
Rodgers, who has been mentioned as a possible early Heisman candidate, 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 2009 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 Badgers' passing game under QB Scott Tolzien. The passing game and running game should complement 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, and it will be at home in Madison, within the friendly confines of Camp Randall Stadium.
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-ever 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 Ingram can keep his "backup" Trent Richardson off the field (which may prove to be an impossible task), and if the Tide's O-line can fill a couple spots and open holes for Ingram in 2010 like they did in 2009, he might have a shot at etching his name in the record books next to Archie Griffin as the only two-time Heisman winners in college football history.
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 be able to pass the ball down the field effectively enough 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-plus touchdowns in 2010. There are a few "if"s to overcome, but should Lewis puts up similar stats to those he posted in 2009, he very well could become the fourth straight sophomore to win the Heisman Trophy.
Whether or not he ultimately wins the Heisman, I believe that Lewis deserves this ranking as my No.1 running back in the nation.
That's it, that's the list.
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