College Football 2011: Big Ten's Top 10 Running Backs Feature Baker and White
Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson led the Big Ten conference in rushing last year. However, the debate over who will be the best running back in the Big Ten in 2011 centers around Michigan State's Edwin Baker and Wisconsin's James White.
Read on to see how the top two rate alongside eight other candidates among the top 10 running backs in the Big Ten.
No. 10 Running Back: Illinois' Jason Ford
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Somehow, the Fighting Illini must replace Mikel Leshoure, who was the second leading rusher in the Big Ten last year. The best candidate is senior running back Jason Ford.
While Leshoure joins the Detroit Lions, Ford hopes to double his carries and yardage. He ran 99 times in 2010 for 480 yards and seven touchdowns. We should also expect Ford to double his touchdowns this year.
No. 9 Running Back: Penn State's Silas Redd
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While Penn State's starting quarterback is still being debated, Silas Redd has assumed the leadership role at running back. Last year he carried the ball 77 times for 437 yards and two touchdowns.
Redd would have gotten more work, but Evan Royster was the Nittany Lions' leading rusher (208 carries, 1,014 yards, six touchdowns). Royster plans to play for the Washington Redskins this fall, so Redd moves up to the No. 1 running back slot.
Look for Redd to match or exceed Royster's 2010 numbers.
No. 8 Running Back: Michigan State's Le'Veon Bell
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Spartan Le'Veon Bell should remind Big Ten fans of Illinois' Mikel Leshoure, who was the second leading rusher in the Big Ten in 2010 and hopes to be the big back answer for the Detroit Lions this fall.
Bell is a 230-pound power runner who is the perfect complement to teammates Edwin Baker and Larry Caper. He had 107 carries for 605 yards and eight touchdowns. Bell may be the favorite to carry the ball on 3rd-and-short situations near the goal line.
No. 7 Running Back: Ohio State's Dan Herron
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The five-game suspension at the beginning of the season makes it unlikely that this Buckeye will be among the statistical leaders of the Big Ten at running back. It's too bad, because he finished between MSU's Edwin Baker and Wisconsin's James White last year.
In 2010, Herron had 216 carries for 1,155 yards and 16 touchdowns. Subtract the games he will miss and his 2011 numbers might end up in the neighborhood of 700 yards rushing and 10 touchdowns.
No. 6 Running Back: Iowa's Marcus Coker
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Iowa's Marcus Coker enjoys a challenge, and he faces one as the Hawkeyes' premier running back. He assumed this role after last year's team rushing leader, Adam Robinson, was suspended indefinitely by head coach Kirk Ferentz.
Coker should be well prepared, because he carried the ball 114 times for 622 yards and three touchdowns in 2010. Look for his rushing attempts to double. Coker could flirt with 1,000 yards this year.
No. 5 Running Back: Minnesota's DeLeon Eskridge
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Running back DeLeon Eskridge is facing a lot of competition in the Minnesota backfield as the Gophers convert to more of a power running game. Based on his 2010 performance, head coach Jerry Kill will rely on the senior running back to lead the ground assault.
Eskridge had 193 carries for 698 yards and seven touchdowns. He should have better numbers in 2011 as his new head coach looks for some wins and a balanced offensive attack.
No. 4 Running Back: Wisconsin's Monte Ball
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Wisconsin featured a trifecta of running backs in 2010 when Montee Ball finished third on the team in rushing behind James White and John Clay.
Clay has since moved on to the NFL, so Ball should have more carries in 2011 and be able to crack the 1,000-yard mark. Last year he carried the ball 163 times for 994 yards and an incredible 18 touchdowns. Look for Ball to score at least 20 touchdowns this year.
No. 3 Running Back: Nebraska's Rex Burkhead
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Nebraska likes to run the football, and Rex Burkhead was third in rushing on the 2010 Cornhuskers behind Roy Helu Jr. and quarterback Taylor Martinez.
Helu was selected 105th overall in the NFL Draft by the Washington Redskins, so Burkhead is expected to lead the way, especially for the talented underclassmen at running back. Last year, he carried the ball 172 times for 951 yards and seven touchdowns.
Expect Burkhead to rush for over 1,000 yards and double his touchdown output in 2011.
No. 2 Running Back: Wisconsin's James White
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It is so tempting to declare a first place tie between Wisconsin's James White and Michigan State's Edwin Baker, but that takes all the fun out of predicting Big Ten results.
The similarities are astonishing between their 2010 statistics, the Badgers' and Spartans' rushing philosophies, and the fact that both running backs have an excellent No. 2 behind them.
So, you just have to "go with your gut." Sorry, Mr. White, but I am giving the edge to Edwin Baker. Nonetheless, White should easily trump his 156 carries, 1,052 yards rushing and 14 touchdowns from 2010.
Look for 1,600 yards and 20 touchdowns from this talented Badgers running back in 2011.
No. 1 Running Back: Michigan State's Edwin Baker
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Edwin Baker gets a slight (maybe two-yard) edge over Wisconsin's James White. The lead Spartan running back is a great finisher, teammate and competitor.
Although his personal accomplishments will be great this year, Baker wants his other running mates, Le'Veon Bell and Larry Caper, to excel as well. He also desperately wants another Big Ten title.
Baker's 2010 numbers were impressive as he finished third in rushing in the Big Ten behind Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson and Illinois running back Mike Leshoure (a Detroit Lions draft pick this year). Baker had 207 carries for 1,201 yards and 13 touchdowns.
I expect him to accumulate 1,602 rushing yards and 20 touchdowns this year.