Dallas Colleges: De'Vion Moore

Big 12 position rankings: Running back

January, 26, 2012
We're continuing our look at the postseason rankings for each position in the Big 12. Here's a look back at where the running backs ranked in the preseason.

In this position, unlike quarterback, depth is a major, major factor in these rankings.

1. Texas A&M

The Aggies had the two most talented backs, and despite injuries to both, proved it through an otherwise frustrating 2011. Christine Michael suffered a torn ACL, but still managed 899 yards on just 149 carries. Cyrus Gray injured his shoulder late in the season, but secured his second consecutive 1,000-yard season and ranked third in the Big 12, despite carrying the ball just 198 times. This duo should have easily surpassed 1,000 yards, but even when they were injured, Ben Malena played well in the final two games.

[+] EnlargeChristine Michael
AP Photo/Brandon WadeChristine Michael averaged 6 yards per carry before a torn ACL ended his season.
2. Missouri

Mizzou dealt with injuries, too, first to Kendial Lawrence and De'Vion Moore. Cue Henry Josey. Josey became the best back in the Big 12 this year before suffering a major knee injury that included torn ligaments. He may not be back in 2012. His 1,168 yards were third most in the Big 12, despite carrying the ball just 145 times. Lawrence finished 12th with 566 yards.

3. Oklahoma State

Joseph Randle stole the show this year, rushing for 24 scores and ranking second in the Big 12 with 1,216 yards. Only Collin Klein ran for more touchdowns and Terrance Ganaway was the only player with more yardage. Still, Jeremy Smith had averaged more than 7 yards a carry, and he'd be able to start for anyone else in the league. Herschel Sims showed promise, too, with 242 yards on 31 carries.

4. Baylor

Ganaway led the Big 12 in rushing with huge performances late in the season, including a 200-yard, five-touchdown game in his final outing as a college athlete in the Alamo Bowl. He averaged more than 6 yards on his 250 carries and had 330 more yards than any other back in the league. Jarred Salubi added 331 yards, too.

5. Texas

Texas' Malcolm Brown and Joe Bergeron were banged-up late in the season, but Fozzy Whittaker played well until suffering a torn ACL against Missouri, too. Scatback D.J. Monroe was effective in the passing game as well. Four running backs topped 300 yards and Brown led the team with 742 yards, despite missing three games and having his carries limited early in the season.

6. Oklahoma

Oklahoma got great contributions from walk-on Dominique Whaley early on, and he proved to be the team's most effective runner and best runner between the tackles. He fractured his ankle in midseason, and finished with just 627 yards to lead the team. Roy Finch emerged late in the seasons after a quiet first half and added 605 yards.

7. Kansas

KU's James Sims led the team in rushing again with 727 yards. Darrian Miller was excellent, too, with 559 yards, though he was dismissed after the season. Freshmen Tony Pierson and Brandon Bourbon have plenty of promise, both averaging more than 5.5 yards a carry in 2011. The bad news: All their carries were limited by an awful defense that limited KU's chances to run the ball.

8. Kansas State

K-State's rushing attack centered around Klein, but John Hubert, a slippery back from Waco, Texas, had a good year. Hubert was seventh in the Big 12 with 970 yards. Bryce Brown offered basically nothing to K-State, and beyond Klein and Hubert, the Wildcats were pretty thin. Additionally, without Klein, would Hubert have duplicated his success?

9. Texas Tech

An awful knee injury derailed Eric Stephens' likely 1,000-yard season, and the rest of Texas Tech's backfield got banged-up, too. Stephens will probably return in 2012 from his dislocated knee, and finished with 565 yards, 17th in the Big 12. Aaron Crawford and DeAndre Washington both topped 300 yards.

10. Iowa State

ISU lost Shontrelle Johnson for the season early on, but James White filled in well. He finished with 743 yards, which ranked ninth in the Big 12. Jeff Woody had 380 yards and provided quality carries late, including the game-winning touchdown against Oklahoma State.

What to watch in the Big 12: Week 12

November, 17, 2011

Here's what I'm looking for in five games across the Big 12 this weekend.

1. Oklahoma State's focus. This has to be a weekly watch, does it not? OSU is a markedly better team than Iowa State. This is clear. A single-digit win would be fairly inexplicable, especially considering the Cowboys' success on the road.

2. Texas' health. The Longhorns' offense got tied up with injuries last week, playing the majority of the game without its top three running backs and top receiver Jaxon Shipley. Linebacker Keenan Robinson also injured his thumb against Mizzou. He's listed as a co-starter on this week's depth chart, but coach Mack Brown is playing it coy with injuries this week. Who's in and out for the Horns will have a lot to do with the team's success against K-State.

3. Oklahoma's new offense. We still haven't seen Oklahoma play a full game without Ryan Broyles and Dominique Whaley. They'll have to put points on the board against Baylor on Saturday. How do they compensate for the loss of Broyles?

[+] EnlargeCollin Klein
Scott Sewell/US PresswireCollin Klein is slated to face his toughest challenge of the season Saturday against the Texas D.
4. Collin Klein's "other" threat. Texas will be the best defense K-State has faced this year, so relying solely on the running game won't be enough for K-State to beat the Longhorns. Klein will have to make plays with his arm. He made them against Texas A&M last week for 281 yards, but UT's pass defense is a whole different deal. He'll be tested.

5. Missouri's new look in the backfield. Henry Josey is done for the year, and Kendial Lawrence is back as the starter in Mizzou's backfield. Texas Tech is extremely vulnerable up front, and Lawrence will need to take advantage alongside De'Vion Moore. Can the pair, along with quarterback James Franklin, take advantage of arguably Texas Tech's biggest weakness?

6. Baylor's changing reputation. The Bears have ascended into a very good second-tier Big 12 team, but have not been able to beat the real titans of the league. Oklahoma State blew them out this year. OSU, OU and Texas A&M all did it last year. You want to prove something? Beat Oklahoma. Baylor's never done it in 20 tries.

7. Texas A&M's second half. Don't blame me. The Aggies keep doing it. We'll keep watching. Leads of 14-0 and 31-21 evaporated against Kansas State last week, and the Aggies had better take care of business or the season could find a new low: letting an improving Kansas team get its first conference win on Kyle Field. If you're 5-5 like A&M is, I don't think you can rule anything out.

8. Texas Tech's first half. In the Red Raiders' last three games, Tech's been outscored a combined 104-13 by Iowa State, Texas and Oklahoma State. Can't do that. If Tech can hang with Mizzou for the first half, it would give itself a nice chance to win the game down the stretch. The Red Raiders haven't had a chance lately, though.

9. Kansas' legitimacy. Is this resurgence for real or not? Not many people think Kansas can beat Texas A&M, but the Jayhawks have legitimately come very, very close against Iowa State and Baylor. Can they be competitive against the Aggies and give themselves a shot late?

10. Iowa State's defense. There might not be a tougher test in college football than the experienced, balanced Oklahoma State offense. To give the Cyclones a chance, the ISU defense has to play its best game of the year by far. Iowa State doesn't have enough offense to get in a shootout in the 40s. Both sides will require a lot to make the upset happen, but the Cyclones can't let OSU move the ball at will.

Big 12 Power Rankings: Week 12

November, 14, 2011

We've only got three weeks left in the season. Here's how the Big 12 looks as the clock ticks on the season.

1. Oklahoma State (10-0, 7-0 Big 12, last week: 1): OSU is defining the term "bowing up" on teams. Any ideas Texas Tech had of an upset were over pretty quick in a crazy 66-6 win in Lubbock. It's been awhile (read: never) since anybody's come to Lubbock and won a game like that. The 60-point loss was the worst in school history.

2. Oklahoma (8-1, 5-1, LW: 2): A heck of a weekend for the idle Sooners. Boise State and Stanford both lost and Oklahoma's got a strong case as the nation's top one-loss team. The Big Question: Will voters downgrade Oklahoma's best wins for an ugly loss against Texas Tech, or downgrade the Sooners for being without Ryan Broyles and Dominique Whaley, the team's top receiver and rusher. They'll have to beat OSU to find out. That won't be easy.

3. Kansas State (8-2, 5-2, LW: 4): Cardiac Cats is about right. Another thrilling game for K-State, and another fourth quarter comeback. This one took four overtimes, the longest game in Big 12 history. Collin Klein continues to truck defenders and burrow into the end zone, now with 24 touchdowns on the season.

4. Baylor (6-3, 3-3, LW: 6): That could have been disastrous. Baylor needed fourth-quarter heroics to rescue an awful three quarters, and turned a 24-3 fourth-quarter deficit against Kansas to a 31-30 overtime win. Big-time ballgame in the fourth quarter from Robert Griffin III, but that wasn't too pretty.

5. Texas (6-3, 3-3, LW: 3): You could switch Baylor and Texas in this ranking, but the Longhorns are reeling and banged up fron injuries. Fozzy Whittaker is done for the year, and freshmen Jaxon Shipley, Malcolm Brown and Joe Bergeron are still trying to get healthy. The result? A long day in Columbia for quarterback David Ash. Linebacker Keenan Robinson is also likely to miss time with an injured thumb.

6. Missouri (5-5, 3-4, LW: 7): The Tigers got their biggest win of the year with a dominant defensive performance against Texas, holding the Longhorns to their first game without a TD since 2004. Missouri must deal with the loss of Henry Josey, but like he did at the beginning of the season, backups Kendial Lawrence and De'Vion Moore must pick up the slack with one more win needed for bowl eligibility.

7. Texas A&M (5-5, 3-4, LW: 5): Oh, the Aggies. This team should probably be a lot closer to 9-1 than 5-5, but alas, here they sit. Texas A&M has a double-digit lead in every game this season but the loss to Oklahoma. And they're .500. ... Has anyone ever duplicated that feat? Unbelievable.

8. Iowa State (5-4, 2-4, LW: 9): Iowa State's going to need a ton of help to qualify for a bowl game. The two Oklahoma schools are up next, followed by Kansas State. For those of you keeping track, those are the Big 12's top three teams. Talk about a backloaded schedule. Yeesh.

9. Texas Tech (5-5, 2-5, LW: 5): Texas Tech's been one of the league's big disappointments this year, well behind Texas A&M, but still underwhelming. The Red Raiders are 5-5 with five losses in the last six games, but other than the win over Oklahoma, here are Texas Tech's wins: Texas State, Nevada, New Mexico, Kansas. Um ... about that ...

10. Kansas (2-8, 0-7, LW: 10): So close, Kansas. So close. The Jayhawks probably deserved this one, but the Bears offense broke through in the fourth quarter and showed why they entered the game as the nation's No. 2 offense. They're dangerous, and Kansas' defense isn't exactly loaded with talent. If Kansas couldn't get a win in this one, I'm not sure where the next one's coming. A trip to Kyle Field is up next, followed by what will be a heated, somber rivalry game against Missouri, likely the last for awhile. This is me making a sad face.

Ranking the Big 12's top 10 running backs

July, 29, 2011
We wrapped up our position rankings by team a bit earlier, but we'll move on in ranking the 10 best players at each position.

Here's the top 10's you've missed so far:
Running back is one of the weakest position groups in the Big 12 heading into 2011, a change from last year's extremely strong class. Just one of the league's top 11 rushers returns, and part of the success from last season was because of so much experience at the position. There are a few guys on this list with upside, but only a few are truly established. Some guys might make good on their upside, but for now, running back joins cornerback and defensive line as the league's weakest positions.

Also, if you haven't played a snap in the Big 12, you're not included on this list. (Also, if your last name is Brown.)

[+] EnlargeCyrus Gray
Thomas Campbell/US PresswireTexas A&M's Cyrus Gray is among the Big 12's most experienced returning tailbacks.
1. Cyrus Gray, Texas A&M -- Gray took over late last season and returns as the only Big 12 player to rush for more than 750 yards last season. He finished with 1,133 yards and 12 scores, but 938 of those yards and 10 of those touchdowns came in the season's final seven games, most of which came after the No. 2 guy on this list got hurt.

2. Christine Michael, Texas A&M -- Before Gray took off, Michael was far outperforming his teammate and looked headed for a 1,000-yard season after rushing for 844 yards and 10 scores in 2009. He was at 631 yards through eight games before breaking his leg, and no player in the Big 12 could top his 2009 effort. Despite playing just over half the season, he still ranked 14th in the Big 12 in rushing. Considering 10 of the top 11 rushers in the league are gone, it's easy to see why the powerful, 5-foot-11, 215-pounder is No. 2 on the list.

3. Roy Finch, Oklahoma -- Finch showed lots of flash last season in spot duty behind DeMarco Murray before aggravating a foot injury that kept him out of the first half of the season. He'll have to stay healthy to make good on his potential, and despite being on the All-Big 12 preseason team, he's not on his own team's depth chart just yet. He'll have to jump over Brennan Clay and Jonathan Miller to get his touches in a crowded backfield that will likely carry the load by committee this season.

4. Joseph Randle, Oklahoma State -- Randle was extremely valuable last season out of the backfield, catching 37 passes for 427 yards and a key touchdown against Texas A&M. That was more receptions than any running back outside of DeMarco Murray, but this year, he'll join Jeremy Smith in trying to replace Kendall Hunter, who ran for more than 1,500 yards last season.

5. Eric Stephens, Texas Tech -- Stephens has been underrated and underexposed behind starter Baron Batch, but his time looks like it has finally come. The Red Raiders have a deep backfield, but Stephens is its top talent, averaging 5.26 yards on his 127 carries last season, leading the team with six touchdowns.

6. James Sims, Kansas -- Sims was one of the bright spots in a dark year for Kansas football last season, taking over the starting role after a season-opening loss to North Dakota State and rushing for 101 yards in an upset win against Georgia Tech. Sims also scored four of his nine touchdowns in a comeback win against Colorado. I'd expect Sims' touches to take a slight hit with Darrian Miller on campus now, but he was extremely productive considering the Jayhawks' lack of a passing game, which ranked 105th nationally last season.

7. Shontrelle Johnson, Iowa State -- Johnson's lateral movement reminds me a bit of Finch, but he's got a lot of speed and if Iowa State's offensive line gets him a crack, he can be a home-run hitter. He was stuck behind Alexander Robinson last season, but Johnson averaged 6.2 yards on the limited carries he got, turning them into a pair of touchdowns. That's the highest average of any returning Big 12 back.

8. De'Vion Moore, Missouri -- Missouri doesn't have a big time back, but it doesn't need one. Moore led a group of four backs that combined to rush for more than 1,500 yards and 19 touchdowns last seaosn. Look out for shifty Henry Josey to slide in and unseat Moore to lead the team in rushing, but Moore will get lots of touches in the red zone this season, and he's great at finding a crease. No Tigers running back got more than 100 carries last season, and that might still be the case, but Missouri truly proved that a running back platoon can be extremely successful, even if it lacks a game-changer at the top of the depth chart.

9. Terrance Ganaway, Baylor -- Ganaway is the bowling ball third of a good trio at Baylor. Jarred Salubi is the shiftier third and Glasco Martin is the young guy with lots of hype. All three should form a solid group. Art Briles said this week at media days that he'd love for one of them to separate themselves, but also understands it might not happen with this group.

10. Fozzy Whittaker, Texas -- Whittaker has struggled to stay healthy throughout his career, but rushed for 351 yards last season and enters the season as the starter ahead of Cody Johnson. He'll have to hold off promising freshman Malcolm Brown as well as Johnson, but for now, the Longhorns' running backs have a lot to prove in a new offense built to help them succeed.

Big 12 position rankings: Running back

June, 22, 2011
Here's the next in our look at the Big 12 rankings by position: Running backs.

Last year's class was one of the best in recent history, but this year's class? Unassuming to begin the season. There are a few possible stars looming, but very, very little talent returning. Cyrus Gray ranked seventh in rushing yards last year (thanks to an insane finish), but he's the only player returning to the Big 12 from the conferences' top 10 rushers in 2010.

That's nuts.

The Aggies are the only team with a truly elite backfield tandem, though I could see Oklahoma and/or Oklahoma State joining that group by the end of the year.

The rest of the league? Every team has at least a couple of players to get excited about, and teams 5-10 are all pretty close. No one is really understaffed at the position, but obviously, they're fit to be ranked.

Here's where I have them:

1. Texas A&M

[+] EnlargeTexas A&M's Cyrus Gray
AP Photo/Eric GayCyrus Gray had at least 100 yards rushing in each of A&M's final seven games last season.
I wouldn't have been surprised if Cyrus Gray and Christine Michael were the Big 12's top leading returning rushers this year, but a midseason injury from Michael prevented it from happening. Regardless, his return gives Texas A&M by far the best tandem in the Big 12, and arguably the best in the country. When Mister Jones isn't cranking the Counting Crows on his stereo, he's a pretty good reserve, alongside Ben Malena, who impressed me on my visit to College Station this spring.

2. Oklahoma

Oklahoma will try and replace do-everything forever (or whatever) back DeMarco Murray with a platoon likely led by shifty Florida native Roy Finch. True freshman Brandon Williams made a big impact in spring camp, and Brennan Clay will likely earn a few touches, too. Health concerns raise questions about a pair of other OU backs' knees (Jermie Calhoun, Jonathan Miller), but walk-on Dominique Whaley led the team in rushing in the spring game.

3. Oklahoma State

The Cowboys have a great pair in sophomores Joseph Randle and Jeremy Smith, and a nice set of backs to spell them if needed, too. Kye Staley, once a top-flight recruit, returned this spring after quitting the team following a severe knee injury, and might earn a few touches this spring. Also, Abilene, Texas, native and 2011 ESPNU 150 signee Herschel Sims arrives this fall and may jockey for time and the opportunity to shed a redshirt.

4. Missouri

What the Tigers lack in a truly elite back, they have in depth. Missouri has four backs who are all capable of being very good in the Big 12, even though neither of the four topped 600 yards a year ago. A big reason for that was none of the four got more than 100 carries, but with the carries they did get, every back averaged more than five yards per carry. The platoon approach works for Missouri, but senior De'Vion Moore and junior Kendial Lawrence will lead the way with sophomores Henry Josey and Marcus Murphy not far behind.

5. Kansas

[+] EnlargeKansas' James Sims
John Rieger/US PRESSWIREJames Sims is the No. 2 returning rusher in the Big 12 this season.
Running back will be a strength for Kansas next year, who might have found a second back this spring that perfectly complements power runner James Sims, a rising sophomore who racked up 742 yards last year after not playing in the opener. Believe it or not, he's the Big 12's No. 2 returning rusher, behind A&M's Gray. Darrian Miller burst onto the scene this spring, and figures to be a big part of the team in the fall. I see him being the Jayhawks' biggest home-run threat. DeShaun Sands and Brandon Bourbon offer even more depth at the position.

6. Texas Tech

The Red Raiders lose backfield constant Baron Batch, but have a good group lined up for 2011. Tommy Tuberville's effort to establish a more efficient running game is a realistic possibility with Eric Stephens as the likely feature back, and Aaron Crawford, Ben McRoy and Harrison Jeffers in the mix. True freshman Ronnie Daniels' strong spring likely earned him some time, too, rather than a redshirt.

7. Baylor

Baylor loses a 1,200-yard rusher in Jay Finley, and figures to use a thunder-and-lightning approach with 6-foot, 240-pound bowling ball Terrance Ganaway and shifty, 5-foot-9, 205-pound Jarred Salubi. Glasco Martin, a more balanced back, may earn a few carries, too. Regardless of who has the ball, life is good for Baylor backs, who get a bit more room from defenses that are forced to respect Robert Griffin III's legs.

8. Kansas State

The Wildcats' top two rushers, including two-time league rushing champ Daniel Thomas, are gone. Hopes are high for Wichita native and former blue-chip back Bryce Brown, but he's still entrenched in a position battle with John Hubert and Robert Rose heading into fall camp.

9. Texas

Texas brings back a pair of seniors in Fozzy Whittaker and Cody Johnson, but if the Longhorns are going to climb up this ladder by year's end (and they might) it's likely to be on the back of hyped incoming freshman Malcolm Brown, who is on campus and set to begin fall camp. D.J. Monroe might be the fastest player in the Big 12, but he'll have to master the nuances of pass blocking to get more than a few touches every game. Jeremy Hills can offer some depth at the position, too, after Tre Newton was forced to quit the game because of concussions.

10. Iowa State

Shontrelle Johnson showed some flash last year, but he still brings just 35 career carries into his 2011 effort to replace Alexander Robinson. Jeff Woody and James White offer a bit more depth, too. Florida native DeVondrick Nealy might get into the mix if he can put together a strong fall camp.