College Football Predictions: 10 Great Running Backs Ready to Emerge in 2011

Brandon GalvinFeatured ColumnistMarch 11, 2011

College Football Predictions: 10 Great Running Backs Ready to Emerge in 2011

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    Each year we have an influx of great running backs expected to emerge and breakout. There are a ton of fantastic running backs in college football already, but some are not receiving the credit they deserve.

    We already have our crop of next superstars waiting in the shadows to join the nation’s elite in 2011. Their names will be jumping off everybody’s tongue in college football discussions next season as we watch them in awe each and every Saturday.

    Potential 2011 Heisman winners: Michael Dyer of Auburn, Trent Richardson of Alabama, Marcus Lattimore of South Carolina and LaMichael James of Oregon. Those are a handful of the names you already know.

    You probably have already heard of Stanford's Stepfon Taylor, Ohio State's Dan Herron (probably for other reasons than his game), Arkansas' Knile Davis and Boise State's Doug Martin.

    You may even have heard of San Diego State’s Ronnie Hillman, Mississippi’s Brandon Bolden and Western Kentucky's Bobby Rainey.

    Oh, and who can forget Wisconsin's lightning and thunder duo of Montee Ball and James White, as well as Chris Polk from Washington?

    Runners galore heading into 2011!

    Here are 10 great running backs ready to add their names to the amazing list of remarkable college runners.

10. Vick Ballard, Mississippi State Bulldogs

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    Ballard was one of the nation’s best at punching the rock into the end zone in 2010, amassing 19 touchdowns on the ground.

    Still, he needs to work on gaining yards between the end zones to raise his stock heading into the 2012 NFL draft. He failed to rush for 1000 yards but will be called upon early and often to lead the Mississippi State offense.

    Returning for his senior season, Ballard should display even more power in 2011, which will be his greatest asset—pounding the rock.  

9. Kenjon Barner, Oregon Ducks

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    When potential Heisman winner LaMichael James needs a rest, the Oregon Ducks don’t lose much, if anything in the backfield.

    Kenjon Barner is that talented. Whenever James decides to go to the NFL, Barner will be ready to continue the Ducks’ offensive explosion with his incredible speed and quickness.

    Right now, Barner is making the most of his limited touches on offense and special teams. He’s one of the most dangerous on both sides of the ball.

    Last year, he received less than 100 carries. Somehow, the electric runner gained 551 yards and scored six times.

    Watch out…

8. Isaiah Pead, Cincinnati Bearcats

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    Pead is ready to emerge for the Bearcats now that he’ll be receiving the most carries of his career after only getting 157 attempts.

    Regardless of his middle of the pack rushing attempts, he made the most of them in Cincinnati. He managed to gain over 1000 yards and score six touchdowns, a great feat.

    With his speed and agility, Pead could rush for around 1300 to 1400 yards and double-digit touchdowns if given more carries. Pead always keeps his head up and eyes forward to prepare for his next move to make his defender miss and pick up massive yardage.

    The explosive Cincinnati runner is surely itching to get his paws around the rock again.

7. Silas Redd, Penn State Nittany Lions

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    Evan Royster graduated, leaving Silas Redd the entire backfield for himself. With wide receiver and quarterback woes, the offense will flow through Redd.

    He is entering his sophomore season and everyone will be able to witness his fantastic foot work, cutback ability and agility in 2011.

    As a freshman in 2010, he averaged 5.7 yards per carry as he ran for 437 yards and two touchdowns on just 77 attempts.

6. Jeff Demps, Florida Gators

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    Very few people will ever want to see Jeff Demps in the open field. His lightning quickness and Road Runner-type speed is beyond awesome. He’s ready to attempt the challenge of bringing Florida back towards the top of the nation as quick as possible.

    Returning for his senior season, he will be better equipped for more carries. His touches were limited to end the season but he started his junior year with a bang, scoring two touchdowns in the opening two games.

    He should be relied upon heavily in his final season as Florida.

5. Rex Burkhead, Nebraska Cornhuskers

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    Roy Helu Jr. is heading to the NFL, leaving Rex Burkhead the keys to the Cornhuskers backfield tractor to mow down the opposition.

    He received 157 carries in 2010, which will certainly increase this year so he can go beast-mode on every defender lurking in his cornfield. He gained 951 yards and seven touchdowns with those limited touches in a crowded backfield.

    This scarecrow is going to explode in 2011 with his awesome balance, foot work and power.

    Oh yeah, did I mention he has good hands? That’s pretty important too.

4. Cierre Wood, Notre Dame Fighting Irish

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    You don’t want any part of this elusive runner who shows very good agility and foot work.

    Nope.

    This Fighting Irish junior will fight back as he’s not afraid to take a hit or seek to dish out some punishment of his own. He’ll lower his shoulder at the end of the run to make sure he falls forward for additional yardage.

    My type of runner, who always keeps his legs churning to make sure he stays upright and gains yards.

    He received 119 carries and took them for 603 yards and three touchdowns. Notre Dame is inching their way back to respectability after years of an invisibility act on the radar.

    With Michael Floyd returning for his senior season as one of the top wide receivers in the nation, Wood should have even more room to work with. The experience he gained in 2010 will prove to be invaluable as he looks to lead Notre Dame.

3. Roy Finch, Oklahoma Sooners

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    DeMarco Murray will be in the NFL as one of the best third-down rookies in the league.

    His departure opens the door for Oklahoma’s host of running backs, but none have more potential than Roy Finch.

    It’s very important for Finch’s success that Landry Jones and Ryan Broyles are there to take pressure and defensive attention off him. The lanes should be wide open for him to pick up a lot of real estate in 2011.

    He displayed beast-like power as a true freshman and could go down as one of the toughest runners in 2011.

    After missing five games due to injury, he garnered 398 yards and two touchdowns on just 85 attempts.

2. Marcus Coker, Iowa Hawkeyes

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    Coker is easily one of the brightest young stars in the nation and will have every opportunity to make sure people know his name. Adam Robinson was dismissed, which is excellent news for Coker and his fans because he’s going to be able to dominate the backfield touches.

    That’s what Coker does—dominate.

    He has great speed and even better power that he constantly puts on display.

    He was incredible against Missouri in the Insight Bowl, rushing for 223 yards and two touchdowns. If that’s what we’re to expect, Coker can take over in 2011.

1. Andre Ellington, Clemson Tigers

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    Entering his junior year, Ellington is ready to emerge as one of the nations very best running back. He has excellent vision, balance and foot work. Once he makes his defender miss, he can quickly turn on the jets to accelerate past the linebackers and leave even the secondary huffing and puffing behind him.

    He shows very good patience to wait for the hole, but he is so quick that he often doesn’t even have to wait and will create his own edges to get around.

    The Clemson Tiger essentially missed all five games to end the 2010 college season, but he still had a great campaign. He carried the ball 118 times, gaining 686 yards (5.8 yards per carry) and 10 touchdowns.

    We have another Heisman hopeful runner on our hands.