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The Big 12's top 10 running backs

We ranked the conference's top 5 quarterbacks last week, but we'll have a deeper look this afternoon at a position that requires more depth: running back.

1. Daniel Thomas, Kansas State

Thomas led the Big 12 in rushing without much of an offense around him. But the juco transfer preparing for his second season in the Big 12 is hardly a Cinderella story. Thomas, a former quarterback with still plenty of potential to fulfill, was a Florida commit before having to complete his academic requirements in junior college. Once completed, he enrolled at Kansas State and rolled to a Big 12 Newcomer of the Year award in 2009.

2. DeMarco Murray, Oklahoma

Murray lacks the staggering production of a few other backs on this list, but he doesn't lack the talent. He's surpassed 700 yards in all three seasons at Oklahoma and scored 43 touchdowns, while also establishing himself as a reliable pass-catching threat. This season, Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops says 1,900 yards is possible for his starter, who has shared carries for his entire career. The senior has a reputation for being injury-prone, but Murray's missed just six games in his career, including just one last season, although those six games have included two Big 12 Championships, a Fiesta Bowl and a national championship game.

3. Alexander Robinson, Iowa State

Robinson helped push the Cyclones to a 7-6 record last season, a five-game improvement from 2008. His 1,193 rushing yards were third-most in the Big 12 behind Thomas and Oklahoma State's Keith Toston, and paced Iowa State while quarterback Austen Arnaud struggled at times in 2009. The 5-foot-9, 187-pounder should challenge for the league rushing title in 2010 as the focus of the Cyclones offense.

4. Roy Helu Jr., Nebraska

A shoulder injury suffered late in a win over Missouri limited Helu at times last season, but he still managed to be one of just four backs in the Big 12 to top 1,000 yards. Helu Jr. surrendered carries late to star freshman Rex Burkhead, but he should get plenty of touches in 2010 behind the conference's best offensive line.

5. Kendall Hunter, Oklahoma State

Hunter is one of the league's most explosive backs, and is back to 100 percent after a nagging ankle injury that caused a frustrating 2009 season. He showed flashes in the season finale in the Cotton Bowl of the talent that contributed to his 1,555 yards in 2008, and if he plays like that in 2010, he'll put up big numbers again. His carries (241 in 2008) should go down, but his receptions will be way up in new offensive coordinator Dana Holgorsen's offensive scheme.

6. Baron Batch, Texas Tech

Batch's impressive 14 rushing touchdowns in 2009 were the league's most, and he also caught 57 passes for 395 yards. For Batch, it should be business as usual, but with a few more carries under new coach Tommy Tuberville. Batch should also help shepherd two young backs who could earn some time this season, Harrison Jeffers and Eric Stephens.

7. Christine Michael, Texas A&M

Michael has the potential to move way up this list after rushing for 844 yards as a freshman. He'll split carries with Cyrus Gray once again, but Michael, who came to Texas A&M as the nation's No. 4 running back, still has a lot of potential to fulfull. How much he taps into it will decide how many more carries he receives as a sophomore.

8. Rodney Stewart, Colorado

Stewart was one of the bright spots on an offense that struggled in 2009, scoring just over 20 points a game, second-fewest in the league. Stewart rushed for 804 yards -- fifth-most in the Big 12. Nicknamed "Speedy," the 5-foot-6, 170-pound Stewart should be the focus again of the Buffaloes offense after receiving 198 carries, also the fifth-most in the conference.

9. Derrick Washington, Missouri

Washington's numbers dipped in 2009, and he received more carries in an offense that lost playmakers like Jeremy Maclin, Chase Coffman and Chase Daniel. He scored seven fewer touchdowns (10) than in 2008 (17), and rushed for just 865 yards, 171 fewer than he did as a sophomore. But he still ranked sixth in the conference in rushing and should be the primary ball carrier for the third consecutive season for the Tigers.

10. Cyrus Gray, Texas A&M

Gray and the Aggies' offense must overcome three new starters on the offensive line, but he rushed for 757 yards in 2009, and the talent at receiver and quarterback for the Texas A&M limits the pressure to produce for Gray and Michael.