Don't Walk Too Slow: The Top 10 Candidates for the Best Running Back in 2011

Matt SmithContributor IIIApril 1, 2011

Don't Walk Too Slow: The Top 10 Candidates for the Best Running Back in 2011

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    If the NFL Draft this season has one particular lack of depth at a position, that position would be running back. Sure there are some good mid-late round pick ups, but not too many deserving of getting picked in the first round.

    So what does that mean?

    This year in college football has some serious talent in the running category, with several players expected to rise to the occasion and lead their teams.

    The rushing crown is up for grabs, but there are already several favorites.

10. Isaiah Crowell, Georgia

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    Sure, there are plenty of deserving College RBs, but why not include a soon-to-be Freshman in this.

    Crowell is no slouch, as he recorded over 2,100 total yards in his junior season, as well as a combined 25 TDs.

    Though Crowell likely won't replicate his high school performances in one of the toughest conferences in college football, he shouldn't be overlooked just because he is a freshman.

    The odds are stacked against Crowell, but he'll be a stud.

9. Lance Dunbar, North Texas

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    Something tells me that Lance Dunbar isn't very well known. Especially when you can't find any images of him on Getty Images.

    And that is the reason why he is not higher on this list.

    Since he plays for a relatively unknown college such as North Texas, his productivity won't matter unless he blows out the competition.

    Dunbar ran for 1,553 yards while finding the end zone thirteen times.

    He was also a reliable supplement to the passing game, adding 28 receptions for 332 yards while scoring three times.

    The scary part is he's improved every year.

8. Montee Ball/James White, Wisconsin

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    I'm cheating on this one. Just a little.

    Last season, White and Ball shared the backfield with John Clay. And by share I mean John Clay gets above 15 carries when he plays and the other two might not even get ten.

    White had four games last season with less than ten carries, and Ball had four games with less than five carries.

    And both missed a game.

    Somehow, Ball had around 1,000 yards rushing and 18 TDs, while White had about 1,050 yards and 14 TDs.

    Though they lose key lineman in Gabe Carimi and John Moffitt, there is no reason why both of them can't improve with John Clay out.

    It's just a matter of who gets more carries. 

7. Michael Dyer, Auburn

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    Perhaps overshadowed by fellow member teammate Cam Newton, Michael Dyer had a spectacular freshman season.

    Though the Tigers do have some good QB's on their roster such as soon-to-be Freshman Kiehl Frazier, Michael Dyer will be asked to carry the ball more than last year.

    Dyer should build on last years season when he averaged 6 yards per carry.

    Dyer almost hit the 1,100 yard mark and found himself in the end zone five times.

    If Onterio McCalebb was gone, then Dyer would be higher up on this list. Nonetheless, Michael Dyer will have a guaranteed solid season. 

6. Marcus Lattimore, South Carolina

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    Marcus Lattimore was expected to be solid for South Carolina coming out of high school, but not many predicted he would have this kind of a year.

    When people are already mentioning your name as a dark horse candidate in the Heisman race, then you know you've got to be good.

    Whenever the Gamecocks' QB Stephen Garcia experienced a rough stretch, they knew the could count on Lattimore.

    Lattimore scored 17 times on 249 carries for 1,197 yards. The only thing mediocre about him was his yards per carry, and if he can make a little more out of all his touches, then watch out. 

5. Knile Davis, Arkansas

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    Knile Davis is another case of his solid play being overshadowed by the star on his team, the quarterback.

    But luckily for him, Ryan Mallett is out of the spotlight. 

    Like any of the running backs on this list, Davis should only benefit from the absence of his team's other star.

    Davis barely played in the first four games, yet totaled over 1,300 yards while getting rewarded thirteen times with a score of six.

    Davis possesses the shiftiness and speed that makes him dangerous, and is also tough to pull down.

    Expect a great junior campaign.

4. Trent Richardson, Alabama

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    In his freshman year, Richardson had 145 carries, ran for over 750 yards, and scored eight touchdowns. But no one knew about him.

    It's safe to say that fans across the country were interested to hear that in the second week of this past season the Tide had a running back run for over 140 yards whose name wasn't Mark Ingram.

    Unlike other running backs on this list, Richardson shouldn't really benefit from Alabama's QB being gone as McElroy was more of a game manager than someone asked to carry a heavy load.

    But with Mark Ingram gone, expect him to explode. 

3. Ronnie Hillman, SDSU

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    Hillman was one of the top running backs in the nation by racking up over 1,500 yards and scored 17 times. The scary thing is he did it as a freshman.

    He also did it while his quarterback attempted over 400 passes. That's an average of 32 times per game.

    Hillman came out of high school as a WR, but many thought he would serve well as a running back.

    Though the MWC is not really a challenge, Ronnie Hillman is a stud. There's no other way to describe him.

    Unfortunately, he might not win even if he has the stats to prove it because he isn't in a power conference.

2. Chris Polk, Washington

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    Chris Polk's two fantastic years have been overshadowed by Jake Locker, who it seems the media is always interested in.

    Polk gets the nod over Hillman on this list because Jake Locker will be gone and he is from a stronger conference giving him more serious consideration.

    Polk improved in just about every category last season, and should continue to improve and get a load of carries.

    While their isn't much room to do it, I believe Chris Polk will take his skills to another level.

    He would win the Doak Walker award if it weren't for this next man.....

1. LaMichael James, Oregon

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    As if you couldn't have predicted this one.

    When it comes to running backs, LaMichael James is the definition of one.

    No one did more on the ground than him when he accumulated 21 touchdowns to go with his 1,731 yards on the ground. To add to that, James had 17 receptions for 208 yards and another three scores.

    He also missed the first game.

    James is one of the premier returning players in the country.

    If he doesn't win the award, you can bet that most people will be shocked.

    But even if he doesn't win, James will have a fantastic season.