Who has the best stable of running backs in the Pac 12 conference this season? At first glance I have to go with Oregon but Washington and Stanford are very close in overall talent to the Ducks at these positions. LaMichael James is a true Heisman candidate heading into the season but Chris Polk is also capable of grabbing some headlines.
Oregon...LaMichael James, Kenjon Barner, Lache Seastrunk represent the best backfield depth that money can buy. James is a legitimate Heisman threat in what will be his final season in Eugene. Barner is a home run threat every time he gets his hands on the ball. It will be interesting to see what Seastrunk can do this season after a year spent getting assimilated.
For the second straight offseason, an Oregon running back has been all over the news for all the wrong reasons.
A year ago, it was LaMichael James fighting charges connected with an altercation with a former girlfriend. This time, it’s the relationships between James and Lache Seastrunk and a Texas-based "street agent’’ named Will Lyles.
Washington...This group took a hit when Deontae Cooper re-injured his knee but Chris Polk, Jessie Callier, Johri Fogerson, Bishop Sankey comprise one of the best stables in college football. One point of concern is the loss of FB Zach Fogerson to injury. True frosh Desden Petty will be asked to step in immediately to fill the void.
"We'd love for Chris to have a great year for us and a big year and even improve upon over 1,400 yards from last year, but the reality of it is we can't just go in thinking Chris Polk is going to win us every ballgame," Sarkisian said. "So that development has to start from Day 1. We can't wait for a team to stop Chris Polk to say, 'OK, now we have to throw the football."
Stanford...Jim Harbaugh recruited extremely well while he was at the farm and Stepfan Taylor, Anthony Wilkerson, Tyler Gaffney, and Jeremy Stewart are proof that this program will be reloading rather than rebuilding in the immediate future.
Stepfan Taylor, a junior, rushed for 1,137 yards and 15 touchdowns last season. The Cardinal, however, did lose versatile RB Owen Marecic, the tough, two-way player who was Jim Harbaugh's favorite.
USC...You can't deny the talent but Marc Tyler, Curtis McNeal, D.J. Morgan, and Dillon Baxter need to show that they can be consistent on the playing field and out of trouble off of it. Baxter is the best looking recruit I have seen in quite awhile but he spent most of last season in Kiffin's dog house for pulling off one idiotic stunt after another.
I had a chance to chat with USC running backs coach Kennedy Pola the other day about his charges. Here’s some of what he had to say - "He's a good football player. He's a good kid. Great football IQ. Just got to get him to step up. He's always been in the background. Now it's time for him to step up and lead this team."
UCLA...If you looked at last season stat sheet you might have been impressed by the numbers the Bruin running game put up. Problem was they couldn't throw the ball so this was a pretty one dimensional team from an offensive perspective. Jonathan Franklin Derrick Coleman, Malcolm Jones, Jordan James are the nucleus of a pretty good stable. Franklin ran for over a thousand yards last season.
We kicked this spring football preview off with a look through the defensive front, followed by excellent breakdowns of the linebacker corps, the defensive secondary, the special teams, the offensive line, the receiving corps, and now we get to the guys who provide the running attack: the tailbacks and F-backs.
Colorado...Rodney Stewart is a tiny powerhouse running back. He rushed for over 1300 yards and ten touchdowns last season. Not much depth behind him but Tony Jones was reported to be looking good this spring.
Rodney Stewart, Sr - Speedy, as you all know, is the man. He is our feature back, despite his size, and he will get a lion's share of the carries once again in 2011. He is pretty impressive for his size, and has improved as a RB each season. He finally began following his blocks last year, which means he'll have an excellent chance to finish his career as CU's all time leading rusher, passing his new Position Coach and Offensive Coordinator, Eric Bieniemy.
Arizona - The Wildcats won't have as much depth as you would like but Keola Antolin is a solid back. Daniel Jenkins and Ka'Deem Carey will be backing him up.
Antolin was the team's leading rusher as a junior, running for 668 yards and an average of 4.7 yards per carry. He doesn't have a lot of wiggle in his running style, but the bulldog-like back attacks the line of scrimmage and showed his straight-line speed with a 78-yard touchdown burst against Washington.
It's hard enough to look into the crystal ball and predict how a depth chart will break down with the season a full four months away. What makes it even more difficult is the guessing game surrounding sophomore RB Deantre Lewis: will he be back in maroon and gold in 2011? Lewis was wounded in a random shooting at a relative's home in Riverside, California back in February. The plan is for Lewis to return to the field when fall camp starts up. Hopefully that is the case, and we're going to move ahead with the depth chart assuming that Lewis will play for ASU this season
Utah...The Ute's are starting over at RB but there is some young talent on the roster. John White, Harvey Langi and Thretton Palamo will battle this fall for the starting job. Langi was highly recruited and he has the ability to be special.
Running backs are the primary focus of Utah's recruiting efforts for 2011. With the graduation of Eddie Wide and Matt Asiata, plus Sausan Shakerin's career-ending string of concussions, the Utes are in need of some immediate help at the position.
Oregon State typically earns plaudits for their fearless scheduling, but do the rewards exceed the risk? With one fewer Rodgers brother, problematic defensive depth and another tough slate, the Beavers might be looking at another year with a "Best (Insert Mediocre Record Here) Team In The Country" title.
California - The Bears don't seem to have a marquee running back on the roster this season. Isi Sofele will step into the starting job vacated by Shane Vereen. JUCO CJ Anderson is expected to be the back up.
While much of the attention this spring is rightly focused on the inexperience Cal has at quarterback and the competition taking place there, the Bears have similar uncertainty at tailback. In recent years, when Cal has broken in a new starter, he had proven himself in a backup role that the Bears felt comfortable with the transition. From Marshawn Lynch to Justin Forsett to Jahvid Best to Shane Vereen, each tailback stepped in with no reservations around the program.
Washington State...If Bishop Sankey has gone to WSU he would have been the starter from day one of his career. he went to UW where he has to wait his turn. The Coug's hope that Ricky Galvin is ready to go this fall. When healthy he can be a game changer. Rickey Galvin looked impressive this spring. He's the breakaway runner WSU hasn't had in a while. Logwone Mitz and Carl Winston will be relied upon if Galvin isn't 100%.
Rickey Galvin remembers the play call."It was Titan, which was a sweep," said the Washington State University running back following Thursday's spring practice, the fifth of WSU's 15 scheduled workouts."I got on the field, really excited, ready for the play to start," he said of the Cougars' opener last season at Oklahoma State, Galvin's first college game.