For college football fans, it is never too early to start thinking about the upcoming fall season. Spring practices are already under way, and the pads are about to come on full force this summer.
The incoming freshman class for each school determines the future of a program. A great class could turn the program into a BCS title winner. A bad class could leave a program out of contention for five years.
In this 2011 class, there are a lot of impact players that will make a difference right on day one. A crowded running back class leads me to think:
Who will be the top freshman running backs this season?
Clemson has a crowded backfield with Andre Ellington already in place for 2011.
You can add Mike Bellamy to make a three-headed monster attack. Bellamy brings something that you cannot teach...speed. He may be the fastest back in this class and is always a threat to pull off the big run every time he touches the ball.
Clemson is going to have to find a way to get him on the field though.
Georgia has not had the best of programs since Matthew Stafford left the team two years ago.
Isaiah Crowell and Ray Drew lead the 2011 class and hope to get the Bulldogs back atop the SEC.
Crowell has great size and speed and the ability to be a return man on special teams.
Crowell definitely has the opportunity to make an impact in the fall.
Brandon Williams is another 5-star recruit who could be making it to the next level with some college seasoning.
Williams chose Oklahoma, which looks like a good idea to me. DeMarco Murray is now in the NFL, and the Sooners rarely gave the ball to anyone but Murray.
Roy Finch was second on the team in rushing and had a few breakout games.
If Williams can gain some more weight and muscle, he should be the No. 1 back by the end of the season.
Trent Richardson is no slouch, but he may have some competition heading into the 2011 season.
Demetrius Hart is a show-stopping running back that can cut on a dime and bolt up the field as quick as you can say, "Who, or what, the heck is that?!"
We all know what Mark Ingram did in Alabama, and Hart looks like he can follow in his footsteps. He is a small back with a strong frame and lightning-quick speed.
James Wilder Jr. has an opportunity to split carries with Chris Thompson right away at Florida State. He is going to have to battle with Ty Jones as well though, who put up 6.1 yards per rush in 2010.
Wilder is by far the most powerful and strongest running back in this class. At 6'2" and 220 pounds, he has the opportunity to play both on the offensive and defensive side of the ball.
As a big running back, he is the perfect complement to the smaller, swifter Thompson.
Malcolm Brown is hands down the best running back in this year's class. He has the power, size and strength to be the next elite college running back.
At Texas, he should have an opportunity to play right away. The Longhorns had a running back by committee approach last year, having five players record at least 20 rushes.
Texas had a very disappointing season in 2010, but with a great freshman class coming in, things are looking bright for the Longhorns in 2011.