In our last installment, we took a look at the top quarterbacks in college football. Next up: Running Backs.
- Mark Ingram, AlabamaAny respectable list has to start with Ingram. The reigning Heisman Trophy winner is poised to become the class of college football at the position in 2010. Ingram had over 1,600 yards rushing in 2009. With an improved Greg McElroy under center and Julio Jones returning at wide receiver, Ingram could easily eclipse the 2,000 yard mark if he stays healthy. But, then again, lurking just behind him on the depth chart is the next great Alabama back, Trent Richardson.
- Ryan Williams, Virginia TechWilliams was a virtual unknown at the start of 2009. But, after a series of injuries at the position, the redshirt freshman made Blacksburg forget about Darren Evans. At the end of last season, Williams amassed over 1,500 yards on the ground with an eye-opening 19 touchdowns. At just 5-foot-9 and 205 pounds, Williams looks like a younger Maurice Jones-Drew.
- Dion Lewis, PittsburghNo one suspected this undersized kid from Blair Academy in New York state to make a difference as a true freshman. In fact, his only other Division 1 FBS offers were from Miami of Ohio and Tulane. But, Lewis proved all the doubters wrong in a big way. Seventeen touchdowns and 1,800 yards later, Lewis is now the cream of the crop. At just 5-foot-8, durability is a serious concern, especially considering he carried the ball 325 times in his first year alone. With the emergence of Ray Graham to spell Lewis Jonathan Baldwin at wide receiver, Lewis should have a lighter load to carry in 2010.
- Noel Devine, West VirginiaContinuing with the theme of diminutive ball carriers (Devine is just 5-foot-7, 175 pounds), the former five-star recruit has lived up to every bit of his hype. Devine ran for 1,465 yards and 13 touchdowns last year for Bill Stewart and the Mountaineers. If that wasn’t enough, he also had 20 receptions. Devine first made headlines as a high school freshman and hasn’t stopped since. In 2010, Devine could easily push the 2,000-yard mark provided he stays healthy and out of off the field trouble.
- Evan Royster, Penn StateRoyster surprised many of the Nittany Lion faithful by announcing he would return for his fifth season in 2010. Penn State co-offensive coordinators Galen Hall and Jay Paterno will find more ways to get him the ball in 2010, especially with the potential of a true sophomore taking over for senior Daryll Clark. Royster collected 1,100 yards on the ground in 2009 with nearly 6-yards-per-carry average. Even more impressive, Royster averaged 11.7-yards-per-catch, with 17 receptions.
Best of the Rest:Jacquizz Rodgers, Oregon State- Rodgers missed time with injury in 2009, but still managed 1,400 yards rushing. Jacquizz and his brother James figure to be the focal point of the Beaver offensive juggernaut in 2010. Look for “Quizz” to run wild through the weak Pac-10 defenses.John Clay, Wisconsin- Wisconsin turns out big running backs more often than Barack Obama reads his teleprompter. The 6-foot-2, 250-pound Clay falls right in the line of great big backs from the Badgers (Ron Dayne, P.J. Hill). Clay ran for over 1,500 yards in 2009 with 18 touchdowns. If Clay can stay healthy, he will lead the Big Ten in rushing during 2010.
Dark Horse:Montel Harris, Boston College- Harris was the only part of the Boston College offense that worked in 2009. The quarterback merry-go-round never stopped and wide receivers couldn’t catch passes. Despite those facts, Harris still managed 1,400 yards rushing with 14 touchdowns. If the passing game can ever become a serious threat Chestnut Hill so that defenses don’t stuff eight in the box, Harris could put himself into the top two rounds of the 2011 NFL Draft.