As a true freshman, Oklahoma running back Samaje Perine exploded for more than 1,700 yards last season to capture the Big 12 rushing title.
But with the Sooners transitioning to an air raid offense, could Perine be dethroned as Big 12 rushing champ in 2015? And if so, who has the best shot of dethroning him?
We put the latter question to you in our weekly Big 12 poll.
Baylor running back Shock Linwood is firmly on the list of contenders. Last season in his first as the Bears’ featured back, Linwood finished second only to Perine in the Big 12 with 1,252 rushing yards. Though Linwood got 251 carries last year, the Bears could lean on him and the ground game even more next season with quarterback Bryce Petty gone.
TCU’s Aaron Green could also have a chance playing on the Big 12’s other premier offense. Among backs with at least 50 carries, Green led the conference with an average of 7.15 yards per carry. After stepping into the starting lineup for an injured B.J. Catalon, Green shined with 544 yards over the Horned Frogs’ final five games. With opposing defenses having to game plan against stopping quarterback Trevone Boykin first, Green should have plenty of open running lanes again in 2015.
Texas Tech has never been known for its running backs. But the Red Raiders currently have a good one in DeAndre Washington, who became the first Texas Tech back in 16 years to top the 1,000-yard rushing threshold. Some of Washington’s touches will come via the pass on screens and swing throws. But with Washington in the backfield, the Red Raiders are sure to run the ball often again.
West Virginia could be running the ball often, as well. Quarterback Clint Trickett and wide receivers Kevin White and Mario Alford are gone. But Rushel Shell returns in the backfield. The former Pitt transfer finished fifth in the Big 12 in rushing last year despite missing two games with an ankle injury. With the Mountaineers retooling the passing attack, Shell could emerge as the focal point of Dana Holgorsen’s offense.
Linwood, Green, Washington and Shell aren’t the only backs who could factor into the rushing title.
Texas’ Johnathan Gray won’t be splitting carries with Malcolm Brown anymore. Gray wasn’t quite the same runner after suffering an Achilles tear in 2013. But perhaps another year away from the injury will be rejuvenating for him.
Oklahoma State has boasted several 1,000-yard rushers under Mike Gundy, and four-star junior-college transfer Chris Carson has the potential to be the next to do so.
Kansas’ Corey Avery was one of the league’s top true freshman last year.
Now, it's your turn to tell us what you think. Let us know by casting your vote in the poll.