Big East Football Position Preview: Running Backs

Gary BrownCorrespondent IIAugust 23, 2010

LOUISVILLE, KY - OCTOBER 02:  Dion Lewis #28 of the Pittsburgh Panthers runs with the ball while defended by Justin Matthews #6 and Richard Raglin #2 of the Louisville Cardinals during the Big East Conference game at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium on October 2, 2009 in Louisville, Kentucky.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

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Winter has passed, spring has left, and the start of the college football season means summer is almost over and fall is near.

In the Big East, that means the running backs in the conference want to show they have what it takes to be counted among the nation's elite. 

The running back position is either the second or third positional group talked about in most circles. There is always the talk about the guy leading the offense, and then, for the most part, it is either the defense or the running backs that are talked about next.

These guys are usually some of the fastest players on the team. They are some of the most athletic as well. Nowadays the all-purpose backs are the ones that prove to be the most valuable.

The running back position in the Big East had a youth movement last year, and all of those guys are back this year. Here is a look at the top talent behind the quarterback.


There is no way to talk about the Panthers without mentioning Dion Lewis. Lewis had an outstanding freshman campaign for Pitt, as he grabbed All-American honors with nearly 1,800 yards and 17 touchdowns. The kid is a stud, and unless he suffers from the sophomore slump, which is not likely, he will put up insane numbers again.

Dave Wannstedt knows how to recruit running backs, and he will be lucky to hold on to Lewis for more than one more year.

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Lewis allowed the Panthers to not drop off at all last year with the loss of LeSean McCoy, and he is poised to continue Pitt's rushing domination heading into the 2010 season. He was the only true freshman selected for the AP All-American team last year, and it would be a safe bet to pencil him onto the team yet again this year.

West Virginia

The Mountaineers have a back in Noel Devine who is one of the most, if not the most, exciting backs to watch. The guy can turn what looks like a busted play into an 80-yard touchdown run.

Devine's video-game speed and acceleration make him a threat on every play. If he catches that linebacker lagging behind the play even a little bit, he will be gone. There was one time last year in a game against Auburn when Devine evaded at least four tackles and then turned it on for a long score.

West Virginia offensive coordinator Jeff Mullen has already anointed Devine the best back in the country, and that statement could not be too far-fetched. All Devine has done in his career is run for more than 3,300 yards on 6.5 yards per carry. Not too bad for the guy who was backing up Steve Slaton during his freshman year.

Devine is about 1,700 yards from the West Virginia career rushing record, and barring injuries he could end the season as the program's all-time leading rusher.


Isaiah Pead split time in the backfield for the Bearcats' championship run last year, but this year Pead is all alone and will be expected to produce with former quarterback Tony Pike gone to the NFL.

Pead is not nationally well-known, but he could burst onto the scene for his junior season and lead Cincy back to the top of the Big East. Pead is primed to have a breakout year since he will get a lot of carries as the Bearcats work Zach Collaros into the offense. It should be a run-first offense with an experienced back behind Collaros.


Another possible sleeper to lead the Big East in rushing is Jordan Todman from UConn. Todman is another back who split time in 2009 and heads into the 2010 campaign as the outright starter for the Huskies. He will be spelled at times by Kelmetrus Wylie, but Todman is the man that will be toting the rock for UConn.

All he did last year was put up more than 1,100 yards as part of a duo with senior Andre Dixon, who also put up 1,000 yards.

Todman is another back not known in every part of the country, but college football fans should know who he is after this year. He could be 2010's version of Toby Gerhart.

The Best of the Rest

Joe Martinek is a rough-and-tumble senior back who Rutgers will count on to bring home a title. The Scarlet Knights also have depth with Mohamed Sanu and Tom Savage behind Martinek.

In Louisville, a shift of position has Victor Anderson ready to regain his position at the top of the depth chart at running back. Injuries set him back in 2009 after a blistering start to his career in 2008. Anderson should be a force to be reckoned with for the Cardinal.

Delone Carter of Syracuse is another upperclassman workhorse back ready to do his thing again, and Moise Plancher of South Florida will be back for a sixth year of eligibility to help the Bulls.

This CSM original content was written by Matt Nascone.


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