Good afternoon and Happy Hump Day, Cougs! I'm back from my Little Man's pre-school graduation. There was singing and there were snacks. There was neither pomp, nor circumstance, but there will be plenty of that in about 13 years. All in all, it was a good time and I'm a proud Daddy. Now it's time to get back to the business at hand. In case you missed it last week, I began my personal ranking of the position groups in the Pac-12 with the quarterbacks. This week, I'm going to tackle the running backs. Well, not really tackle them, but you know what I'm saying. The Pac 12 is generally thought of as a passing league, but there are plenty of talented backs out here on the Best Coast this year. To clarify a bit on this whole rankings thing, I'm basing it on the overall depth at a given position, but I'm trying to focus on the players that figure to contribute this year. If it looks like a talented young player is set to redshirt, he won't really factor into my rankings even though it does speak to the overall quality of the program. Make sense? No. Cool, that's how I like it. Let's do this thing...
1. Oregon - Kenjon Barner/De'Anthony Thomas/Bralon Addison/Byron Marshall
The good news is that LaMichael James is no longer at Oregon. The bad news is that they still boast the two most electrifying backs in the conference in Barner and Thomas. If Thomas doesn't scare the bejeezus out of your defensive coordinator, then your defensive coordinator is either delusional or he has huge, huge....uhhh....courage. While they are ridiculously explosive, Barner and Thomas don't represent the most durable backfield around, but they have a couple of true freshmen waiting in the wings in Addison and Marshall. The Duck coaching staff looks like they would like to use Addison in a role similar to that of The Black Mamba where he'll come out of the backfield or spread out wide. Marshall will be a more traditional back like Barner, inasmuch as anything in the Duck offense can be considered traditional.
2. Utah - John White IV/Harvey Langi/Kelvin York/Jarrell Oliver
John White is a baaaaaaaad dude. Anytime you can bring back a guy who rushed for over 1500 yards and had 15 touchdowns, you feel pretty good about things. As someone who had John White ruin his day when he steamrolled Chester Su'a and tiptoed down the Martin Stadium sideline for a huge touchdown, I can attest to the healthy respect I have for him as an opponent. Just in case dealing with White isn't enough, he'll be spelled this year by big ol' Harvey Langi, a running back built like a tight end. York, a JC transfer and Oliver, a redshirt freshman, round out the depth of one heckuva good crew.
3. Stanford - Stepfan Taylor/Tyler Gaffney/Anthony Wilkerson
For all the well-deserved hype that Andrew Luck received over the last couple years, Stanford really is a smashmouth running team. Taylor, the returning senior who piled up over 1300 yards last season leads the way. He'll always have a special place in my heart after his performance against Washington last year. 138 yards on 10 carries makes for a pretty comical stat line. He had help that day and both of his cohorts are back this year in Gaffney and Wilkerson. The trio ran for 446 yards against the Nick Holt "defense" and finished the season with over 2,000 yards between them. With Luck now gone, the workload for the Cardinal backs might increase this year. I'm sure they'd be able to develop an algorithm to tell you exactly how many yards each of them will get this year. Nerds.
4. Cal - Isi Sofele/CJ Anderson/Brendan Bigelow/Daniel Lasco
Typically when a guy comes back after rushing for 1300 yards, he's entrenched as the starter going into the next season. Sofele figures to be the starter, but I wouldn't exactly say he's entrenched, which speaks to the talent that is there to push him. Anderson showed flashes in relief last season, while Bigelow and Lasco both arrived in the 2011 recruiting class with big time pedigree. Sofele and Anderson were both, by most accounts, pretty darn close to becoming Cougs, so this section has been pretty depressing and we should move on.
5. UCLA - Johnathon Franklin/Malcolm Jones
Franklin nearly put up 1,000 yards last year as the Lightning portion of the overused description "Thunder and Lightning" backfield along with Derrick Coleman (who evidently is not the same guy as the one who got fat playing for the New Jersey Nets). Coleman is now gone so it will be interesting to see how Franklin's 6 yards-per-carry translate as a feature back. His back-up? Oh just some guy that recruiting analysts considered one of the best backs in the country in the class of 2010. As I understand it, recruiting analysts aren't always correct, but I figure Malcolm Jones is pretty good.
6. Arizona State - Cameron Marshall/Marion Grice/DJ Foster/Deantre Lewis
Marshall is back after a very productive 2011 season. Also, here's a Cameron Marshall fun fact. Evidently, there is an adult film actor of the same name, which I just found out in an unfortunate Google Image Search situation. Thanks for that, internet. Moving on, ASU should have solid depth in the backfield in the form of Grice and Foster, who both arrived in this year's recruiting class. Lewis returns after sitting out last season as a result of being the victim of a shooting. I hate when that happens.
7. USC - Curtis McNeal/DJ Morgan/Javorious "Buck" Allen
For a program that built its reputation on being "Tailback U" and Student Body Right and Student Body Left, the USC program doesn't currently have the big names in the backfield that one would expect. When the other skill positions are manned with names like Barkley, Woods and Lee, I guess that's OK. SC has brought in plenty of running back recruits with a bunch of stars next to their names, but the likes of Dillon Baxter and Amir Carlisle are no longer with the program. McNeal could emerge with some huge numbers this year, but the depth is fairly questionable. Foster should be a nice change of pace back, but Allen is unproven and former linebacker Tre Madden was lost to a knee injury in the spring. All of that said, the USC offense will be just fine, thanks.
8. WSU - RG5/Carl Winston/Marcus Mason/Leon Brooks/Teondray Caldwell/Theron West
My love for Rickey Galvin is as irrational as it is awkward to talk about. I expect him to put up eye-popping numbers as both a runner and receiver in the Air Raid. It's hard to base this on fact, but RG5 wasn't exactly a slouch last year. 600 yards and 5 YPC is certainly respectable in a first season of big time college football, but he never had more than 16 carries in a game. My Rickey 4 Heisman campaign will have to wait a little longer as he will likely be a member of a running back committee situation again in 2012. If you don't like the way Carl Winston runs, I don't like you. Mason is a legit home run threat, even though he doesn't play baseball. Stupid expression alert. The new coaching staff seemingly loves Brooks and Caldwell and West could also see some time in their first year in the program. I think we'll need a catch nickname for this crew. The Small Running Back Pu Pu Platter doesn't exactly have a nice ring to it so I'm open to suggestions.
9. UW - Bishop Sankey/Jesse Callier/Antavius Sims/Dezden Petty/Deontae Cooper
I don't know about this Sankey character or the type of player he was in high school. I mean, why would I? I suppose he's a pretty talented player and -- oh enough with the charade. I don't like Bishop Sankey and I will continue to not like him. Should he win the starting job for the Huskies, I'll not like him even more. Callier has terrific speed, but may not fit the mold as an every down back. Sims has moved from corner to supplement depth and Petty is a converted fullback who should be effective as an inside runner. The talented Cooper is admirably rehabbing from two significant knee injuries. See that? I said something about the Huskies is admirable. So there.
10. Arizona - Ka'Deem Carey, Daniel Jenkins, Greg Nwoko
Welcome to the, "Yeah, I've gotta be honest. I don't know a whole bunch about these dudes other than what I just read in Athlon a little while ago" portion of the program. Running backs were something of an afterthought for the Wildcats in the let Foles chuck it all over the yard era, but Ka'Deem Carey is a talented player who could thrive in the Rich Rodriguez offense. Also, I've got a soft spot for Kadeems ever since Kadeem Hardison's epic performances as Dwayne Wayne on "A Different World" and in "White Men Can't Jump" and "Renaissance Man".
11. Oregon State - Malcom Agnew/Storm Woods/Chris Brown/Jovan Stevenson/Terron Ward/Jordan Jenkins
Hey, the Beavs return their leading rusher! Oh, he only had about 400 yards and they were the worst rushing offense in the country. The strength of this unit is, "Well, there sure are a lot of them".
12. Colorado - Tony Jones/Davien Payne/Donta Abron/Terrence Crowder
Rodney Stewart is no longer around and what's left is Tony Jones and three freshmen. For those of you scoring at home, Colorado's average position in the Hump Day With Huddy position rankings so far is 12th. Ruh roh.