- David Ubben, College Football
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This time last year, we broke down which Big 12 players would most likely reach the benchmarks for their positions in 2011.
The benchmark for running backs is clearly 1,000 yards. Here's what I wrote about the Big 12's 1,000-yard rushers.
It's time to revisit those projections.
Forty-seven players in college football topped 1,000 yards rushing last season. I ranked the Big 12 backs in order of the likelihood they'd hit 1,000 yards, not how many yards I projected them to reach. The Big 12 had five of them. Here's who I picked to do it:
1. James Sims, Kansas -- As a true freshman in 2010, Sims didn't play in the opener, but it was clear as the season went on that he's the Jayhawks most consistent runner. Kansas is deep at the position, but Sims figures to get the biggest share of carries for a team with big questions at quarterback. The Jayhawks averaged nearly 40 rushing attempts per game last year. I don't see that number dropping this year. Sims got just 168 of those 470 carries, and he still managed 742 yards.
Final 2011 yardage tally: 727 yards
Thoughts: Sims simply didn't improve his production as expected from his true freshman year in 2010, even though his carries jumped from 168 to 182. I thought he'd get a few more touches, but the production wasn't there, and Kansas was limited in how often it could run the ball, considering some of the lopsided losses it suffered.
2. Cyrus Gray, Texas A&M -- Gray and his teammate in the backfield, Christine Michael, should both have very good years. I like both of them to clear 800 yards, and it's possible they both hit 1,000 yards, but there's only so much offense to go around. Ryan Tannehill and Jeff Fuller, along with the rest of the talented receiving corps, will have to get theirs. Considering the way Gray closed the season, he's likely to start out with the biggest share of carries.
Final 2011 yardage tally: 1,045 yards
Thoughts: Right on the money for Gray. Yes, Christine Michael was injured, which allowed Gray to grab a few more carries, but remember, Gray didn't play in the final two games of A&M's season. Still, a strong senior campaign.
3. Joseph Randle, Oklahoma State -- Randle will also be in split backfield along with Jeremy Smith, but he showed plenty of pop as a true freshman last year. Only DeMarco Murray caught more passes as a running back last year, so he may clear 1,000 yards of offense without doing it on the ground. But the Cowboys run an Air Raid system with a commitment to the run, so the touches should still be there for Randle with Kendall Hunter gone to the NFL.
Final 2011 yardage tally: 1,216 yards
Thoughts: Nailed the upside on Randle. Unlike Sims, he took a huge step forward as a sophomore, in part because of his featured role. Randle finished second in the Big 12 in rushing, and added 24 touchdowns, too.
5. Roy Finch, Oklahoma -- Finch has the talent to do it. No doubt. But there's no getting around doubting his health. A stress fracture in his foot caused him to miss almost half his freshman season, and the Sooners are mindful of that with a good group of backs behind him that might sap a few carries. Finch will have to hit a few big runs to get to 1,000, but if he gets hurt again, perhaps true freshman Brandon Williams or Brennan Clay could step in.
Final 2011 yardage tally: 605 yards
Thoughts: Whiffed on this one. Finch inexplicably couldn't get on the field early in the season while walk-on Dominique Whaley dominated before breaking his leg in a win over Kansas State. In Finch's defense, after he started getting touches, he topped 83 yards four times in five games late in the season. He also averaged 5.45 yards a carry.
In 2011, I missed out on three of the five rushers. Baylor's Terrance Ganaway rumbled to 1,547 yards rushing and led the Big 12. Kansas State quarterback Collin Klein led the league in carries and rushed for 1,141 yards and 27 touchdowns.
Missouri running back Henry Josey took advantage of the injuries to two backs ahead of him on the depth chart and had a breakout year, rushing for 1,168 yards before suffering a catastrophic knee injury against Texas. He likely won't return in 2012, and just underwent an additional surgery earlier this week.
How would you grade my projections?
3hMax Olson and Jake Trotter
5dJake Trotter, Brandon Chatmon and Max Olson