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Running Back Review: Who will lead the Pac-12?

Running Back Review: Who will lead the Pac-12?

Josh White
Reported by Josh White on August 17, 2012
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With the 2012 football season just around the corner, optimism for the new year is overflowing from virtually every camp in the country, right now EVERY team is undefeated. To be among the most effective offenses, teams need to have a balanced attack. Perhaps no single aspect of football is more important than the running game, both in a teams’ ability to stop the run on defense, and also to control the tempo and ball control.

In the Pac-12 in 2011, LaMichael James lapped the field as he led the conference yet again. But this year, with James now in the NFL, someone new will get the opportunity to win the Pac-12 rushing title.

Who will it be?

Let’s start with a look at the top 10 from last year, and move through each team to find the most likely candidates.

The 2011 Pac-12 top-10 Rushing Leaders

LaMichael James led the Pac-12 in rushing, yards per carry, and touchdowns in 2011. Who's next?

PAC-12 RUSHING

G

Att

Yds

Avg

TD

Lng

Avg/G

1. James – Oregon

12

247

1,805

7.3

18

90

150.4

2. White – Utah

13

316

1,519

4.8

15

62

116.8

3. Polk – Wash

13

293

1,488

5.1

12

61

114.5

4. Taylor – Stan

13

242

1,330

5.5

10

70

102.3

5. Sofele – Cal

13

252

1,322

5.2

10

56

101.7

6. McNeal – USC

12

145

1,005

6.9

6

79

83.8

7. Marshall – ASU

13

230

1,050

4.6

18

70

80.8

8. Barner – Oregon

12

152

939

6.2

11

84

78.2

9. Stewart – Colo

11

189

854

4.5

4

52

77.6

10. Franklin – UCLA

14

166

976

5.9

5

40

69.7

 

 

ARIZONA

Ka'Deem Carey must step up with the departure of workhorse Keola Antolin

2011 Leaders

NAME

CAR

YDS

AVG

TD

Keola Antolin

126

568

4.5

5

Ka’Deem Carey

91

425

4.7

6

Daniel Jenkins

31

176

5.7

2

TEAM

331

1,134

3.4

17


On the Roster:

Daniel Jenkins, JR 5-9 195
Jared Baker, FR 5-8 192
Ka’Deem Carey, SO 5-10 203
Terris Jones, JR 5-7 177
J.T. Washington, FR 5-7 165
Greg Nwoko, SR 6-1 237
Elliott Taylor, JR 5-10 186

Forecast:
Arizona has featured one of the most pathetic running games in the pac-12 last year by design, and that should start to change as the Wildcats go from a pass happy air-raid style offense into a spread option under Rich Rodriquez. Expect things to improve on the ground, but out of their personnel, it would be hard to predict all-conference production this season. Expect sophomore Ka’Deem Carey to handle the majority of the carries this year, and don’t be surprised if their quarterback winds up as the #2 rusher on the team.

 

ARIZONA STATE

2011 Leaders

Cameron Marshall tied LMJ with 18 Tds last year. His brother Byron joins the Ducks this fall.

NAME

CAR

YDS

AVG

TD

Cameron Marshall

230

1,050

4.6

18

Jamal Miles

29

237

8.2

0

Kyle Middlebrooks

42

150

3.6

0

TEAM

423

1,678

4.0

23


On the Roster:

Marion Grice, JR 6-0 215
Deantre Lewis, SO 5-10 193
Cameron Marshall, SR 5-11 223
D.J. Foster, FR 6-0 190
Marcus Washington, SO 5-11 224
James Morrison, SR 5-11 213
Danny Clark, 6-1 220
Terrell Davis, FR 6-0 215
R.J. Robinson, JR 5-8 178

Forecast:
The ASU fans may be divided over their new coach, but when it comes to senior running back Cameron Marshall, the Devil fans are all-in. The Sun Devils have 10 running backs on the roster, but Marshall is the only proven back of the bunch, with a legitimate chance of leading the conference in 2012 under Coach Todd Graham’s run-heavy attack.

Sophomore Deantre Lewis is an interesting story, in 2010 he gained 127 yards on 11 carries against the Ducks. However, in early 2011, Lewis was the victim of a drive-by shooting near his home in Riverside, CA and has spent the past 19 months recovering. The Devils are also expecting big things from JC transfer Marion Grice and freshman D.J. Foster.

 

CALIFORNIA

Cal RB Isi Sofele was one of the top rushers in the Pac-12 last year.

2011 Leaders

NAME

CAR

YDS

AVG

TD

Isi Sofele

252

1,322

5.2

10

C.J. Anderson

72

345

4.8

8

Zach Maynard

84

108

1.3

4

TEAM

484

2,013

4.2

25


On the Roster:

Daniel Lasco, FR 6-1 206
Brendan Bigelow, SO 5-10 190
C.J. Anderson, SR 5-11 210
Isi Sofele, SR 5-8 200
Dasarte Yarnway, JR 6-0 220
Mitchel Bartolo, JR 5-8 190
Jonah Hodges, FR 5-9 175
Darren Ervin, FR 5-10 197

Forecast:
The Golden Bears welcome back workhorse Isi Sofele for his senior campaign, and expectations are high with fellow senior C.J. Anderson sharing time in the backfield. Sofele was 5th in the conference in rushing last season, and odds are Tedford has another 250 carries or so in store for him again.

Former Oregon offensive coordinator Jeff Tedford prefers a pro-style attack, and Sofele has proven his toughness by gaining so many yards between the tackles, not an easy task at 5’8″. Expect the Cal run game to again be slightly above average in conference, no more, no less, matching the likely mid-tier performance that should be expected from the program in the Pac-12 standings.

 

COLORADO

Colorado RB Tony Jones is the BUffaloes top returning rusher

2011 Leaders

NAME

CAR

YDS

AVG

TD

Rodney Stewart

189

854

4.5

4

Tony Jones

 78

297

3.8

2

Josh Ford

22

128

5.8

1

TEAM

401

1,413

3.5

10


On the Roster:

Justin Gorman, SO 6-0 200
Donta Abron, FR 5-10 190
Davien Payne, FR 5-11 220
D.D. Goodson, SO 5-7 170
Tony Jones, SO 5-7 190
Terrence Crowder, FR 5-11 210
Josh Ford, JR 5-9 205
Malcolm Creer, SO 5-11 205

Forecast:
Gone is the steady Rodney Stewart, and change might be good for the Buffs. It is true, Stewart did not have the luxury of playing on teams with quality offensive line talent, but neither will his heirs for the foreseeable future as Colorado begins its slow climb out of the cellar.

Sophomore Tony Jones leads a young running back group, but Coach Embree will likely look to veteran back up Josh Ford early on, as he no doubt will be hoping for some production from new source if things continue to go badly. Never say never, but the Buffs do not seem capable of challenging the best rushing teams in the conference just yet.

 

OREGON

2011 Leaders

Kenjon Barner ranked #8 in the Pac-12 last year, despite being a primary back up. What can he do as a starter?

NAME

CAR

YDS

AVG

TD

LaMichael James

247

1,805

7.3

18

Kenjon Barner

152

939

6.2

11

De’Anthony Thomas

55

595

10.8

7

TEAM

629

4,189

6.7

42


On the Roster:

De’Anthony Thomas, SO 5-9 173
Byron Marshall, FR 5-10 195
Kenjon Barner, SR, 5-11 195
Kenny Bassett, SO 5-9 176
Ayele Forde, SO 5-7 177

Forecast:
Kenjon Barner may very well prove to be among the best and most productive in the conference, and likely the entire country in 2012. He finished #8 in the conference in rushing last season despite being a back up to the conference leader, LaMichael James. With a similarly explosive skill-set to LMJ, Duck fans can not wait to see Barner be the man for an entire season, if he can stay healthy.

Expect Oregon to again lead the conference in rushing, with Barner as the center piece. De’Anthony Thomas is an absolute freak with acceleration and change of direction. He had over 2,000 all-purpose yards last season, and he is likely to see more carries in 2012. Look for his multi-faceted “tazer” role to keep him from getting much more than 5-10 carries per game, but as was seen in the Rose Bowl, the kid doesn’t need too many carries to be productive.

Freshman Byron Marshall (younger brother of ASU’s Cameron Marshall) has had a strong spring by all accounts, and it will be interesting to see if he is able to beat out walk-ons Forde and Bassett for playing time.

 

OREGON STATE

OSU RB Jovan Stevenson hopes for a better year in 2012

2011 Leaders

NAME

CAR

YDS

AVG

TD

Malcom Agnew

89

423

4.8

5

Jovan Stevenson

57

229

4.0

5

Terron Ward

63

211

3.3

1

TEAM

318

1,043

3.3

1


On the Roster:

Chris Brown, FR 5-10 208
Jovan Stevenson, JR 5-11 180
Storm Woods, FR 6-0 202
Terron Ward, SO 5-7 195
Malcom Agnew, SO 5-9 204
Jordan Jenkins, SR 6-1 210

Forecast:
Oregon State simply has no chance of leading the conference in rushing, let’s just be honest. But, they do have an excellent chance of featuring yet another unique name in the backfield. With redshirt freshman Storm Woods seemingly leading the race in camp so far, there is a good chance that Mike Riley and Beaver nation can keep alive their streak over losing seasons and running backs with names like Yvenson, Jacquizz, and now Storm. Riley is either on to something, or maybe he’s just “on” something. Their leading rusher gained 54% of his total yards and 22% of the team’s ENTIRE season rushing total in the first game of 2011, the delightfully embarrassing loss to Sacramento State.

 

STANFORD

With Andrew Luck now in the NFL, Stanford's Stepfan Taylor is the team leader.

2011 Leaders

NAME

CAR

YDS

AVG

TD

Stepfan Taylor

242

1,330

5.5

10

Tyler Gaffney

74

449

6.1

7

Anthony Wilkerson

56

282

5.0

3

TEAM

518

2,738

5.3

32

On the Roster:
Reymound Wright, FR 5-9 205
Jackson Cummings, SO 5-9 190
Barry Sanders, FR 5-10 191
Andrew Stutz, JR 6-1 202
Ricky Seale, SO 5-9 193
Anthony Wilkerson, JR 6-1 218
Stepfan Tayler, SR 5-11 215
Kelsey Young, FR 5-10 195

Forecast:
Stanford welcomes back 2011 leading rusher Stepfan Taylor, in addition to junior Anthony Wilkerson in 2012. Behind what Stanford coach David Shaw calls “the best offensive line in college football history,” the Cardinal seems primed to have another solid effort on the ground.

Expect Taylor and Wilkerson to see increased carries as the teams moves on from quarterback Andrew Luck. The most enticing name on the roster may very well be freshman Barry Sanders Jr. If the RB is anything like his dad, and if Shaw is even partially correct about his offensive line, the Cardinal should be in good hands for years to come. Look for Taylor to finish near the top of the conference this season, Kenjon Barner’s primary challenger to the rushing crown in 2012.

 

UTAH

2011 Leaders

John White had 79 more carries, but still finished 286 yards shy of LMJ in 2011

NAME

CAR

YDS

AVG

TD

John White

316

1,519

4.8

 15

Reggie Dunn

15

173

11.5

0

Tauni Vakapuna

31

104

3.4

1

TEAM

472

1,789

3.8

16

 

On the Roster:
Eric Davidson, FR 5-7 200
Robbie Lusk, SO 6-0 222
Geoff Norwood, SR 5-8 178
Kelvin York, JR 5-11 223
John White, SR 5-8 188
Harvey Langi, SO 6-1 228
Jarrell Oliver, FR 5-8 210
Lucky Radley, SO 5-8 183

Forecast:
The Utes return a great one this season with running back John White IV. At just 5-8 188, White led the conference last season in carries, and was 2nd in yards behind LaMichael James. With quarterback Jordan Wynn out for much of the season, Utah was forced to rely on its running game last season, and White delivered big time, accounting for 84% of the rushing yards and 93% of the team’s rushing touchdowns.

While most expect White will have another banner year, the Utes have to be concerned about quality depth behind him, should he miss any time. If health is no concern this year, look for John White to challenge for the top spot.

 

USC

2011 Leaders

Penn State fans know what it is like to be stiff-armed by Silas Redd

NAME

CAR

YDS

AVG

TD

Curtis McNeal

145

1,005

6.9

6

Marc Tyler

122

568

4.7

4

D.J. Morgan

42

163

3.9

0

TEAM

392

1,951

5.0

12


On the Roster:

Tre Madden, SO 6-1 220
Curtis McNeal, SR 5-7 190
Alec Jaffe, FR 5-11 195
Silas Redd, JR 5-10 220
Mojica Robert, SR 5-9 180
D.J. Morgan, SO 5-10 190
Taylor Ross, FR 5-10 190

Forecast:
USC returns D.J. Morgan and leading rusher Curtis “Painter” McNeal, but that wasn’t enough for the Trojans. In a convenient Penn State player fire sale, USC obtained the services of the Nittany Lions’ best player, Silas Redd. Redd’s 1,241 yards were good for #4 in the Big-10 last year, and the Trojans are hoping his addition will help them get past the Ducks and into the BCS picture. Expect McNeal and Redd to split carries for a Trojan ground game that will finish in the upper half of the conference.

 

UCLA

UCLA senior RB Johnathan Franklin looks to exceed 1,000 yards in 2012.

2011 Leaders

NAME

CAR

YDS

AVG

TD

Jonathan Franklin

166

976

5.9

5

Derrick Coleman

152

765

5.0

11

Kevin Prince

120

424

3.5

1

TEAM

552

2,497

4.5

23


On the Roster:

Jordan James, SO 5-8 193
Melvin Emesibe, SO 5-10 197
Jonathan Franklin, SR 5-11 195
Paul Perkins, FR 5-11 192
Malcom Jones, JR 6-0 220
Steven Manfro, FR 5-9 192

Forecast:
Senior Johnathan Franklin is back for the Bruins after a nice junior year splitting carries with Derrick Coleman. It is hard to decipher exactly what the offense will look like under new coach Jim Mora Jr, but expect Franklin to be a big part of it. UCLA has not had much of an identity the past few seasons, and the Bruin fans are hoping that will change on the heels of firing Rick Neu-Weisel. Franklin may surpass 1,000 yards on the ground this year, but don’t expect his production or the Bruins to be among the best in the conference.

 

WASHINGTON

With Chris Polk gone, Jesse Callier is the top returning rusher at Washington

2011 Leaders

NAME

CAR

YDS

AVG

TD

Chris Polk

293

1,488

5.1

12

Jesse Callier

47

260

5.5

1

Bishop Sankey

28

187

6.7

1

TEAM

452

2,006

4.4

19


On the Roster:

Erich Wilson II, FR 5-10 188
Jesse Callier, JR 5-10 211
Bishop Sankey, SO 5-10 200
Willis Wilson, SO 5-9 188
Ryan McDaniel, FR 6-0 227
Deontae Cooper, SO 6-0 201
Dezden Petty, FR 5-11 225
Cole Sager, SR 5-11 218

Forecast:
So long, Chris Polk and the ridiculous muscle flex thing he did on the few times he scored. Enter- Jesse Callier and Bishop Sankey, two decidedly underwhelming backs who will likely see their carries increase dramatically. How will they fare? Time will tell, but if either posts a 1,000 yard season this year, it will be a big surprise to anyone outside Montlake.

 

WASHINGTON STATE

2011 WSU leading rusher Rickey Galvin may spend as much time spread out wide as he does in the backfield in 2012.

2011 Leaders

NAME

CAR

YDS

AVG

TD

Rickey Galvin

114

602

5.3

5

Carl Winston

123

442

3.6

4

Marcus Mason

19

153

8.1

1

TEAM

331

1,202

3.1

13


On the Roster:

Carl Winston, SR 5-8 192
Rickey Galvin, SO 5-8 178
Leon Brooks, JR 5-7 166
Theron West, JR 5-7 171
Jeremiah Laufasa, SO 5-10 216
Kyle Lappano, FR 5-11 185
Teondray Caldwell, FR 5-8 189
Marcus Mason, SO 5-9 190
Manuel Lamson, FR 5-11 191

Forecast:
Is Washington State even going to try and run the ball? With Mike Leach in charge, expect to see Jeff Tuel’s arm and decision making effect the success of this team more than anything. While they have nine running backs on the roster, Galvin and Winston will most likely see the majority of the snaps this year often in the same way that De’Anthony Thomas is used at Oregon–sometimes in the backfield, sometimes split out wide. It will be a breakout type season if a WSU back can crack the top-8 in the conference.

About Author
Josh White

Josh WhiteJosh White has been a dedicated Duck fan since the Bill Musgrave days. He has attended (and lost his voice at) virtually every home game and many away games since the late 1980's, including 96 of the current 97 game sellout streak at Autzen Stadium. A Eugene native, Josh works full time in Eugene area real estate, helping people buy and sell residential and commercial properties, and also volunteers with Habitat For Humanity, Kidsports and Food For Lane County. He welcomes your feedback.Twitter: @WhiteHouseJosh Facebook: EugenesBestRealtorView all posts by Josh White →


 

 

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