- Brian Bennett, College Football
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Posted by ESPN.com's Brian Bennett
Time to continue our preseason position group rankings by taking a look at the running backs.
1. West Virginia: OK, so there's not a lot of depth behind Noel Devine, but he's still a great place to start. AP Photo/Jeff Gentner As a junior, Noel Devine rushed for 1,289 yards last season.
The junior rushed for 1,289 yards last season and should be in line for bigger things this season. Mark Rodgers will back him up and has had a good training camp, and the Mountaineers can throw Jock Sanders or Tavon Austin into the backfield as well. A key will be how much impact fullback Ryan Clarke makes in the power game.
2. Louisville: The Cardinals are stacked in the backfield. Victor Anderson was the league's newcomer of the year in '08, rushing for 1,047 yards and eight touchdowns. Bilal Powell needs to get back on track after a disappointing sophomore season, or else he'll be passed by promising redshirt freshman Darius Ashley. Louisville also has a bruising fullback in Joe Tronzo.
3. Connecticut: Even with the loss of Donald Brown, UConn should be just fine. Jordan Todman averaged 6.3 yards as a freshman last season, and Andre Dixon -- the team's leading rusher in '07 -- appears to be back after curiously disappearing last year. Sophomore Meme Wylie could be in line for a bigger role as well, and the Huskies have a veteran fullback in Anthony Sherman.
T-4. Rutgers: The Scarlet Knights split carries between four different backs last season, but that carousel should be smaller this year. Mason Robinson is being tried at receiver, while Kordell Young is still slowed by knee trouble. That leaves Joe Martinek and Jourdan Brooks as the two main backs, and both should step forward after promising freshmen years.
T-4. Cincinnati: The Bearcats' running game hasn't been flashy the past two years. That could change if speedy sophomore Isaiah Pead makes the next step forward and becomes a reliable playmaker. He averaged 6.5 yards per carry in limited duty last season. Veterans John Goebel and Jacob Ramsey combined for over 1,200 yards last season but the team had problems converting short-yardage downs.
6. Syracuse: This group has the potential to be among the best in the conference, but right
now it's just that: potential. Delone Carter looks ready for a big senior year after dealing with injuries the past two years. Antwon Bailey had a breakout game at Notre Dame, and Averin Collier could push for time. Still, this is a group that returns just 358 rushing yards from a year ago.
7. Pittsburgh: This group will far outperform its current ranking on my list, but right now we're dealing with total unknowns. The top three backs on the depth chart, Dion Lewis, Ray Graham and Chris Burns, have never played a college down. They are skilled, however, and Pitt's offensive line is good enough to pave the way for the rookie runners to shine.
8. South Florida: This was already a team that had trouble finding a consistent tailback to pair with quarterback Matt Grothe. Then Mike Ford got himself suspended for two weeks, and Jamar Taylor could miss two months with a knee injury. Senior Mo Plancher and some untested freshmen are now atop the depth chart. It looks like Grothe might lead the team in rushing for a fourth straight season.