Although the Pac-12 is looked upon by many as a pass-happy conference, the talent laced at running back out West cannot be denied.
The nation’s No. 1 rusher from last season was a member of the Pac-10, and that fleet-footed runner returns to dazzle us with another spectacular season.
While LaMichael James will undoubtedly fall as No.1 on most people’s running backs list, there are several other great names in the Pac-12 that could steal the spotlight.
Let’s take a look at the top running backs in the Pac-12.
With the spotlight shining so bright on Andrew Luck, it is easy for Stepfan Taylor to get lost in the shadows.
Taylor rumbled his way into the end zone 15 times last season, enough to land at second among Pac-10 running backs. While everyone knows Stanford’s offense runs through Luck, the balance brought to the squad by Taylor will be equally as important to the Cardinal’s success.
Johnathan Franklin was a pleasant surprise for UCLA’s offense last year. As a sophomore, Franklin finished third among returning Pac-10 running backs with 93.92 y/g, by far the most productive part of the Bruins' temperamental offense.
Franklin is certainly capable of improving on these numbers, and if UCLA can finally find a quarterback, the Bruins' offense could be a threat.
Rodney Stewart’s numbers have consistently improved since his freshman season, finishing third in the Big 12 last season with 109.67 y/g.
Because of Colorado’s follies at quarterback, Stewart needed to bear the Buffaloes' load, leading his conference with 22.92 carries per game. However, with Colorado’s potential at QB spiking this spring, this could relieve some of the pressure on Stewart during the year.
If you haven’t started paying attention to Chris Polk, you are definitely missing out. Polk ranked second in the Pac-10 last season with 108.85 y/g, and he will be leaned upon heavily by the Huskies in 2011. With a new quarterback taking the reins, Polk should be incorporated into Washington’s offense even more.
With these extra chances to shine, Polk definitely has the talent to challenge James for the top rushing spot in the conference.
LaMichael James led the nation with 144.25 yards per game (y/g) last year. The Heisman Trophy candidate should not have a problem producing similar numbers in 2011. With the majority of the Ducks’ offense returning, James should, once again, consistently light up the scoreboard.
Keep track of the Pac-12 at The Pacific Dozen: A Pac-12 Football Blog