College Football Recruiting 2012: Top 10 Unsigned Running Backs and Predictions
As the college football regular season draws to an end, coaches are scurrying to finalize their recruiting classes. Because it is already November, many of the top running backs are already committed. While there is always the chance that a recruit will back out of his verbal commitment, there are still several solid prospects on the board.
In this list you will find players who are bruisers, slashers and a combination of both. Not every running back is built for any offense. It is important that they match their skill set with a program that utilizes that type of player.
In this slideshow I have listed what I believe to be the top 10 available running backs and who I believe will win their commitment.
No. 10: Jamie Gilmore (North Marion High School; Citra, Fla.)
It appears that Florida has a large volume of short running backs with big game. One of the top backs in Florida this season is 5'8", 184-pound Jamie Gilmore.
Gilmore does not have great size and does not have elite speed (4.62 40), but he is one of the most elusive backs in the entire 2012 class. He has amazing balance and body control, and he can stop and start on a dime. Gilmore also has amazing foot speed and very good hands out of the backfield.
Gilmore is unlikely to be an every-down back, but he will be a strong change-of-pace back. He is not big, but he is not afraid of contact. Moreover, because of his shiftiness, defenders rarely get a clean hit on him.
For Gilmore, his success will be dependent on which school he chooses. If he picks a school that knows how to utilize his skill set, he will be a star. If not, he will be brought in for a change of pace.
Gilmore is another player who has not given many hits, but I believe he will end up a Blue Devil at Duke. He is as close to a human highlight film as you will see from a 3-star prospect.
No. 9: KeiVarae Russell (Mariner High School; Everett, Wash.)
KeiVarae Russell is one of those rare players who is choosing his next move while making his current one. He has good speed, but great elusiveness.
Russell's vision might be second to only Keith Marshall in this year's recruiting class. He has great balance and takes good angles. Russell also has very quick feet, but does not make unnecessary cuts.
He sees the play before it develops and commits to his decision. Russell also has very good hands out of the backfield. Because of his vision and elusiveness he can turn any screen into a touchdown.
Although Russell has good height at 6'0", he lacks ideal body weight. If he is able to add 15-20 pounds he could become a solid starter throughout his career.
Russell has a lot of offers, but just a few leaders. While nothing is certain, I believe he will pick Notre Dame. His elusiveness and solid receiving ability should help him excel in Brian Kelly’s system.
No. 8: Dami Ayoola: (Saint Thomas Aquinas School; Fort Lauderdale, Fla.)
It is not often that a 5'9" running back is known for his power. However, such is the case with Dami Ayoola. At 204 pounds, he is a load to bring down because of his low center of gravity and monstrous legs.
Ayoola has great vision and instincts, and has perhaps the best hands of any running back on this list. Another part of his game that will surprise you is his blocking ability; he gets low and will explode on a linebacker with his surprising strength.
Ayoola has good cutting ability and better acceleration than speed. He can break a big play, but will not break many 50-yard runs. However, if you're looking for someone who can attack the hole and get your team a first down, look no further.
To be honest, I have no idea. However, I think his choice will come down to Illinois or Notre Dame. At the moment I would give Ron Zook's crew the advantage and the most potential to win his services.
No. 7: Brandon Radcliff (Columbus High School; Miami, Fla.)
There are not many bruising running back prospects in this class, but Brandon Radcliff is one of those kinds of prospects. At 5'10" and 215 pounds, he is a mammoth to bring down. He does not have a 40 speed that will blow you away, but he has elite speed in the initial 10 yards.
Radcliff has a great base and elite balance. He shoots through the hole like a bowling ball and linebackers are his pins. What was most impressive to me in the film I watched is that he got stronger as the game went on; Radcliff was literally beating the defense into submission.
If he puts on another 10 pounds he is going to be a solid contributor throughout his career. Another thing that comes out on film is that he has great vision when running the ball. Though he can run you over, Radcliff is also good at seeing and taking angles.
Radcliff has been difficult to read. He would fit in well at Michigan State, but in the end I think he ends up at Louisville. They have recruited him the hardest and show no signs of letting up. The Cardinals have yet to sign a legit running back, and Radcliff could be the answer.
No. 6: Chris Brown (San Joaquin Mem High School; Fresno, Calif.)
Chris Brown is a running back who has flown under the radar most of his career. However, the interest in Brown has increased dramatically this season.
Brown has great vision and elusiveness. He has a quick burst despite not having great top-end speed, and he can run between the tackles and absurd hits without ever losing balance. Brown's skills translate well to the college level as he is a one-cut and go running back.
There is nothing overly flashy about Brown, but he is a blue collar runner who gets results. He possesses great upper and lower body strength, but in a college workout program, he could become a solid 215 pounds.
Brown is like the Energizer bunny, and his legs are continually moving. He has a great downhill burst and with added strength he will be able to move piles.
For a back that will excel between the tackles, Brown has a variety of moves that help him be surprisingly elusive.
He has a top five, but Organ State is the safe bet. Brown did recently take a trip out to Arizona and was impressed by the facilities and environment. He will need to get to know the new coaching staff and that will likely be too much to overcome this late in the process.
No. 5: Todd Gurley (Tarboro High School; Tarboro, N.C.)
Todd Gurley is my pick for the biggest surprise of the 2012 running back class at 6'0" and 195 pounds. I enjoy watching Gurley play because of his style of running. He is not one of these backs who gets 35 yards on the first 15 carries, then busts one for 50 yards; instead, he is going to give you positive yards on every play.
Gurley has good power, but after a redshirt year, he will have great power; I fully expect him to be 215 pounds his RS freshman season.
Gurley runs with determination and looks to score on every run. He has a long, smooth stride and has good change-of-direction speed.
There is talk of him moving to safety, but it will not happen. Once he gets acquainted to a college strength and condition program he will become an elite back.
Gurley is currently listed as a 4-star athlete. While I am not ready to give him a fifth star yet, he is at least 4.5.
Gurley has been a strong Georgia lean since his visit for the South Carolina game. With that said, Clemson is making a strong push. It was long thought to be between North Carolina and Georgia, but the Tigers are now a formidable foe.
In the end, Gurley will be a Georgia Bulldog. He is set to visit this weekend for the Kentucky game, so do not be surprised if he commits on the spot.
No. 4: Byron Marshall (Valley Christian High School; San Jose, Calif.)
Byron Marshall is one of the nation’s most overlooked backs. He is 5'10" and 195 pounds with good speed (4.4 40) and great vision. He currently plays in a spread offense that suits his talents well, and he has some of the best hands among all running backs in the 2012 class.
Marshall does a good job of waiting on blocks and has very few peers in the open field. As a result, even if he needs to gain muscle before becoming an every-down back, he would be a threat on special teams immediately.
At the high school level he does a good job of running through tackles, but he will need to learn to run behind his pads on the next level. He always keeps his legs moving though, which will help him at the next level.
Marshall could also lineup at wide receiver in different formations. His route-running is better than many of the top wide receiver recruits.
He has four schools listed as his final four, but it comes down to two schools: Arizona State and Oregon. I believe Marshall is a better fit in Oregon's system and in the end this will be his choice.
The x-factor might be his brother, Cameron Marshall, who already plays for the Sun Devils. With his family living in California, it would make it easier for them to attend games if their sons were at the same school but playing running back for the Ducks will be too much to pass on.
No. 3: Wes Brown (Good Counsel HS; Olney, Md.)
If you are looking for a scat back, Wes Brown is probably not your man.
However, if you are looking for a running back with good thickness and ability to run between the tackles, Brown is your guy.
He has good speed (4.59 40), but is a downhill runner. He can cut it to the outside when needed and make the initial linebacker miss.
However, Brown's strength is how fast he surges through the gaps. He has a great lower base that allows him to break tackles and drag defenders. Brown keeps his shoulders square and runs behind his pads. He also runs with patience while letting his blocks develop or hits the hole with urgency when he gets a downhill seam.
Brown does a great job retaining his balance and continuing forward progress at the point of contact with good hands and great balance. He is not the home run threat some smaller backs might be, but Brown can move the chains consistently.
Brown has been silent on where he will attend college. As of now, I would say the leader is Maryland. They have been after him since his sophomore season and are going all out on him now.
He has more than two dozen offers, but none stand stronger than the Terps at this juncture.
No. 2: Barry Sanders (Heritage Hall; Oklahoma City, Okla.)
When your name is Barry Sanders, you are expected to be great. So is the case with the son of Hall of Fame running back Barry D. Sanders: Heritage Hall senior running back Barry J. Sanders.
The younger Sanders has shown a lot of character to this point in his career. He is not the product of his father’s name, but instead is making his name based on his own achievements.
Sanders is 5'10" and 190 pounds with all of the makings of a star. I served as the president of the National Private School Athletic Association for three years. As a result, I was able to see Sanders in person on three different occasions since his team was ranked nationally two of those three seasons.
He has an "it" factor that gives him a higher ceiling than 95 percent of the other 2012 running backs. The first thing I noticed then and now on video, is he has great vision and patience in the backfield.
Sanders does not wait for a large hole to open because he does not need one. He is able to run through small lanes with a great burst of speed. His jump-cut skill, lateral agility and overall footwork are excellent; he is one of the more natural running backs in terms of skill set that I have ever seen.
He reminds so many of his father because of his ability to stop and start on a dime. Once the younger Sanders stops and re-accelerates, he is at full speed within two steps.
Barry J. Sanders has good speed (4.49), but great quickness and elusiveness. The biggest concern with him is durability. Can he be an every-down back on the college level? Probably not as a freshman, but he could easily put on another 15 pounds of muscle because he has a great frame.
Barry J. Sanders was rumored to be down to two schools, Alabama and Oklahoma State.
However, he recently visited Stanford and fell in love with the laid-back setting. Being the son of a legend is difficult enough; it seems he wants to just play football and not worry about the hype.
If this is the case, attending Oklahoma State would be a mistake because that is where his father attended and won a Heisman. Alabama would probably be a mistake because the Crimson Tide are treated like an NFL team in Tuscaloosa.
As a result, I think he chooses Stanford as his destination in the upset.
No.1: Keith Marshall (Millbrook High School; Raleigh, N.C.)
Keith Marshall is a "can't-miss" superstar. The 5'11", 190-pound running back is known for his 40 time of 4.32; he once was clocked at 4.25 at a University of North Carolina football camp.
However, his 40 times only tell a small portion of his story. Marshall sees the hole before the hole is even created. As a result, he is in full stride before the defense ever sees him. Once he is through the hole, he becomes a human video game.
Marshall is able to plant and cut without ever gearing down, and once there is daylight he will not be caught until he stops in the end zone. He has a gear that 99.9 percent of college football players do not have.
Many people see his size and believe he is a finesse-only player. However, for a back his size he is not afraid of contact. He will never be mistaken for Jerome Bettis, but Marshall runs low to the ground and runs behind his pads with good lean. He also has great hands and quick feet.
There really is very little weakness to his game. He needs to bulk up, but he can play at his current weight.
Marshall would be a very good every-down back, but he will be a great running back when splitting carries. He has the ability to have 100-plus-yard games with less than 20 carries.
Throw out all of the other names you have heard, as there are only two that matter—Georgia and Clemson. Marshall grew up a Bulldog fan and admires coach Mark Richt greatly. Had Richt not have been on the hot seat early on Marshall would have already committed to the Bulldogs.
Although Richt has quieted the hot seat talk, Clemson is closing in fast. However, at the end of the day he will be a Bulldog. Congratulations Georgia fans, you have most likely signed the No. 1 running back in the nation in back-to-back seasons.