College Football 2011: LaMichael James and the Top 10 Pac-12 Running Backs

Maiah HollanderContributor IIIJune 16, 2011

College Football 2011: LaMichael James and the Top 10 Pac-12 Running Backs

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    GLENDALE, AZ - JANUARY 10:  LaMichael James #21 of the Oregon Ducks runs down field against the Auburn Tigers during the Tostitos BCS National Championship Game at University of Phoenix Stadium on January 10, 2011 in Glendale, Arizona.  (Photo by Christia
    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    The Pac-10, now 12, conjures up images of footballs being thrown all over the field and for good reason. However, it may surprise the casual fan that the Pac had six—count ‘em, six!—1,000-yard rushers last year, with another player topping the 900-yard barrier.

    So let's take a look at the underrated Pac-12's top 10 rushers for the upcoming season. 

James Montgomery

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    JIM BATES / THE SEATTLE TIMES
    JIM BATES / THE SEATTLE TIMES

    If any player deserves a dose of good luck, it's James Montgomery. He fought through several injuries to get his shot as a starter this year.

    Montgomery ran for almost 500 yards last season for a woeful WSU team, but both Montgomery and the team are on the upswing. 

Isi Sofele

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    SEATTLE - DECEMBER 05:  Isi Sofele #20 of the California Bears catches the ball during the game against the Washington Huskies on December 5, 2009 at Husky Stadium in Seattle, Washington. The Huskies defeated the Bears 42-10. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Gett
    Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

    For the last decade, Cal has been RBU. With Shane Vereen off to the NFL, it's up to Isi Sofele to carry on the tradition.

    While he averaged almost five-yards per carry last year, his small stature (5’7”) will provide a major challenge for yet another possible 1,000-yard runner at Cal. 

Keola Antolin

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    TEMPE, AZ - NOVEMBER 28:  Wide reciver Keola Antolin #2 of the Arizona Wildcats rushes for a 68 yard touchdown past Jarrell Holman #8 of the Arizona State Sun Devils during the college football game at Sun Devil Stadium on November 28, 2009 in Tempe, Ariz
    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    With Nick Foles no longer around to provide his aerial assault, there’s a good chance that Antolin will help carry more of the load next season.

    He has a particular knack for scoring touchdowns in the desert.

Marc Tyler

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    LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 16:  Marc Tyler #26 of the USC Trojans rushes the ball during the game against the California Golden Bears at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on October 16, 2010 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
    Harry How/Getty Images

    The Trojans believe in a running back by committee system, yet Marc Tyler elevated himself from the pack by rushing for 913 yards in 2010.

    While trying to read Lane Kiffin’s mind could be dangerous, we’re assuming that Tyler will get the bulk of the carries this upcoming season.

Cameron Marshall

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    TEMPE, AZ - NOVEMBER 26:  Runningback Cameron Marshall #26 of the Arizona State Sun Devils carries the football for a 71 yard rushing touchdown against the UCLA Bruins during the thrid quarter of the college football game at Sun Devil Stadium on November
    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    Arizona State has its sights set on a Pac-12 Title and Cameron Marshall is one of the key reasons why.

    This speedster averaged more than five-yards per carry last season and scored nine touchdowns. The sophomore is only going to get better, so defenses beware. 

Stepfan Taylor

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    MIAMI, FL - JANUARY 03:  Stepfan Taylor #33 of the Stanford Cardinal runs the ball against the Virginai Tech Hokies during the 2011 Discover Orange Bowl at Sun Life Stadium on January 3, 2011 in Miami, Florida. Stanford won 40-12.  (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/
    Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

    Stepfan Taylor “STEP”ed up last year to fill the immense shoes of Toby Gerhart by rushing for more than 1,000 yards.

    With Andrew Luck returning for his 2011 Heisman-run, Taylor should find lots of room to roam. 

Rodney Stewart

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    LINCOLN, NE - NOVEMBER 26: DeJon Gomes #7 and Will Compton #51 of the Nebraska Cornhuskers crunch Rodney Stewart #5 of the Colorado Buffaloes during the second half of their game at Memorial Stadium on November 26, 2010 in Lincoln, Nebraska. Nebraska defe
    Eric Francis/Getty Images

    Welcome to the Pac-12, Mr. Stewart.

    Stewart torched the Big 12 for more than 1,300 yards last season. At only 5’6”, he’s a hard man to bring down behind a big Colorado offensive line. 

Johnathan Franklin

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    TEMPE, AZ - NOVEMBER 26:  Runningback Johnathan Franklin #23 of the UCLA Bruins carries the ball for a 55 yard rush past Omar Bolden #3 of the Arizona State Sun Devils during the first quarter of the college football game at Sun Devil Stadium on November
    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    It's been awhile since UCLA has had a running back they can count on, but Johnathan Franklin is the man.

    He has the knack for breaking tackles as his 1,127-yards rushing proves. When the Bruins get some better quarterback play, Franklin will become even more dangerous. 

Chris Polk

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    SEATTLE - SEPTEMBER 18: Quarterback Jake Locker #10 of the Washington Huskies hands off to Chris Polk #1 during the game against the Nebraska Cornhuskers on September 18, 2010 at Husky Stadium in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)
    Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

    Chris Polk has had an outstanding first two seasons with Washington, going well over 1,000 yards in each season.

    An immediate fan favorite, Polk used a combination of speed and power to average more than five-yards per carry. Without Jake Locker next season, Polk will have to shoulder even more responsibility—but we’re sure he can handle it. 

LaMichael James

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    GLENDALE, AZ - JANUARY 10:  LaMichael James #21 of the Oregon Ducks reacts during their game against the Auburn Tigers during the Tostitos BCS National Championship Game at University of Phoenix Stadium on January 10, 2011 in Glendale, Arizona.  (Photo by
    Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images

    LaMichael James is a consensus top three Heisman candidate and rightly so. He ran for 1,546 yards as a freshman, and bettered that last year as a sophomore with 1,731 yards.

    The Duck system is a perfect blend of speed and decision-making, and James is a master of both. After scoring an astounding 21 touchdowns in 2010, he is a threat to lead the nation in scoring as a junior. 

Conclusion

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    With the excitement of the Pac-12 beginning its inaugural season, and its well-deserved reputation as a quarterback’s playground, don’t take your eyes off of this potentially great group of running backs—if you blink, like many of their stunned defenders, you might miss them.