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Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
Oklahoma running backs Chris Brown and DeMarco Murray head a seven-member contingent of Big 12 backs who were announced Tuesday on the initial watch list of the Dallas-based Doak Walker Award.
Other Big 12 running backs to make the list include 2008 conference rushing leader Kendall Hunter of Oklahoma State, Baron Batch of Texas Tech, Roy Helu Jr. of Nebraska, Jake Sharp of Kansas and Cyrus Gray of Texas A&M. They were nominated to the 44-member watch list by their respective schools.
All of the backs appear to have earned their honor though strong performances last season. But Gray rushed for the fewest yards of all but two backs on the watch list with 363 yards in 2008. Additionally, he's expected to face a strong challenge from freshman Christine Michael to keep his job as the Aggies' starting tailback.
Meanwhile, a couple of deserving Big 12 backs who outproduced Gray in 2008 were left off. Missouri's Derrick Washington, who rushed for 1,036 yards, isn't on this list. And neither is Jay Finley, who led Baylor with 865 rushing yards.
Hunter's total of 1,555 rushing yards last season was better than all but Ball State's MiQuale Lewis (1,736 yards) and Jahvid Best of California (1,580 yards).
The watch list was announced by the SMU Athletic Forum. The award recogonizes the nation's premier running back for his accomplishments on the field, achievement in the classroom and citizenship in the community.
The Doak Walker Award is the only major collegiate football award that requires all candidates to be in good academic standing and on schedule to graduate within one year of other students of the same classification.
Big 12 athletes have won the award four times since the conference was formed. Winners include Texas Tech's Byron Hanspard in 1996, Ricky Williams of Texas in 1997 and 1998 and Texas' Cedric Benson in 2004.
Also, Byron "Bam" Morris of Texas Tech in 1993 and Rashaan Salaam of Colorado in 1994 have won the Doak Walker Award since it was inaugurated in 1990.