Big East player rankings: Running backs

July, 19, 2011
7/19/11
4:00
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Time to rank the best running backs in the Big East. Keep in mind, the position rankings are not necessarily reflected the same way as the player rankings. The position rankings take into account depth and experience. These rankings just go with individual players.

This was quite a difficult task. Outside of the top backs, there is so much uncertainty and inexperience that these rankings are based largely on potential. They could go many different ways, depending on who is doing the ranking.

[+] EnlargeIsaiah Pead
Andy Lyons/Getty ImagesIsaiah Pead rushed for 1,029 yards and six touchdowns last season.
1. Isaiah Pead, Cincinnati. The top returning rusher in the Big East should have another 1,000-yard season. Pead averaged 6.6 yards per carry last season -- more than any of the top 12 rushers in the league. He also made several watch lists, for top running back and top player in college football. A definite player to watch.

2. Ray Graham, Pittsburgh. He had a breakout season last year behind Dion Lewis and should have 1,000 yards this season. What has been impressive about Graham is the way he has reshaped his body in the offseason. Strength and conditioning coach Shawn Griswold says Graham has really worked on his upper body in order to help his durability.

3. Victor Anderson, Louisville. The Cardinals lose Bilal Powell but there is some talent here waiting. If Anderson stays healthy, I think he could be poised for a season similar to the one he had in 2008. He had a terrific spring, and he told me earlier this summer that he finally feels healthy and is determined to end his career with his best season yet.

4. Antwon Bailey, Syracuse. The Orange lose Delone Carter, the No. 3 rusher in the league, but Bailey got his share of reps and carries last season, running for 554 yards and two touchdowns. He is a different type of back than Carter, lacking the power that his predecessor had. But I think he has a chance to have a 1,000-yard season, especially behind one of the best lines in the league.

5. Savon Huggins, Rutgers. I had a hard time figuring out where to put Huggins because we have never seen him play a college down. He is expected to take over as the starting running back at some point, and he certainly has the talent to become the next Ray Rice. But how about his offensive line? How many carries will he get? How will the pressure to succeed immediately affect him?

6. Darrell Scott, USF. Hopes are high for Scott as well after he transferred in from Colorado. But I am not so sure Scott has the same potential as Huggins. He only had 438 yards in his career with the Buffs, and his work ethic was called into question in the past. He also has had weight issues. But he has a chance for a fresh start and could be a 1,000-yard rusher.

7. Vernard Roberts, West Virginia. This was another tough ranking for me, considering I had the Mountaineers in the No. 3 spot in the team rankings. The Mountaineers have so much depth and talent, several players could emerge with a breakout season. Roberts is chief among them after his impressive spring debut. He is currently listed at No. 1 on the depth chart and has to hold off competition from the likes of Trey Johnson and incoming players Andrew Buie and Dustin Garrison.

8. D.J. Shoemate, UConn. I know Huskies fans are going to be upset with this ranking, but I have one question here: Is Shoemate more than a fullback who has a history of fumbling? The potential is there, which is why I had him listed as my UConn impact player. But somebody else could easily emerge.

9. Jeremy Wright, Louisville. I had a tough time between Anderson and Wright because I think both could easily have good years. My expectation is for them to share the load, but Wright is coming off an injury. He is expected to be 100 percent for the fall, but I give the edge to Anderson because of his terrific spring.

10. Zach Brown, Pitt. Here is my wild-card pick of the rankings. The Panthers need some relief behind Graham, and Brown provides the experience to be able to take some of the load off. His production may have fallen off at Wisconsin, but he has displayed flashes of potential and could be a surprise player.

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