Pac-12 running back rankings

April, 25, 2012
4/25/12
12:00
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Despite the Pac-12 conference being home to some of the best quarterbacks and wide receivers in the country, some teams do occasionally run the football. Some better than others. Some really better than others.

Our friends at Athlon Sports continue their series of assorted Pac-12 rankings. They've given us the Pac-12 coaches and quarterbacks, and now they are up with their running back rankings.

Here's how the top 20 shakes out, which includes last year's production, expectations for 2012 and surrounding personnel:
    [+] EnlargeDe'Anthony Thomas, Kenjon Barner
    Jim Z. Rider/US PresswireOregon's De'Anthony Thomas and Kenjon Barner (24) look to be the Pac-12's top RB duo.

  1. De'Anthony Thomas, Oregon
  2. Kenjon Barner, Oregon
  3. John White, Utah
  4. Stepfan Taylor, Stanford
  5. Isi Sofele, Cal
  6. Cameron Marshall, Arizona State
  7. Johnathan Franklin, UCLA
  8. Curtis McNeal, USC
  9. Ka'Deem Carey, Arizona
  10. Jesse Callier, Washington
  11. Malcolm Agnew, Oregon State
  12. Rickey Galvin, Washington State
  13. Tony Jones, Colorado
  14. Bishop Sankey, Washington
  15. Tyler Gaffney, Stanford
  16. C.J. Anderson, Cal
  17. Nelson Agholor, USC
  18. Deantre Lewis, Arizona State
  19. Carl Winston, Washington State
  20. D.J. Morgan, USC

Initial thoughts:

  • Unlike the quarterback rankings last week, where Ted and I both had some ideas on how we'd move things around, this top 10 seems pretty solid, give or take one or two spots. There will be some games when Barner takes the lead and others where Thomas does. And in the games when they both do, look out. So those two are interchangeable, but certainly worthy of the top two spots based on the scheme they are in and the numbers they are likely to produce.
  • White will probably have better overall numbers than Taylor, because he's likely to have more carries. Taylor is Stanford's primary guy, but the Cardinal rotate liberally -- and with the aforementioned Gaffney, the emergence of Ricky Seale and Barry Sanders coming in, that could cut into some of his carries. But you can still ink Taylor in for 1,000 yards and close to double-digit touchdowns. Stanford and Utah have big holes to fill on the offensive line, but both backs are talented enough to absorb the change.
  • Sofele is a good running back, but Anderson has come on strong and Daniel Lasco and Brendan Bigelow are expected to play bigger roles this season. Five might be a bit high -- depending on his job status.
  • Interested to see what Marshall does without Noel Mazzone as his offensive coordinator. Interested to see what Franklin does with Mazzone as his offensive coordinator. Arizona State is pretty deep at the position, but Marshall is the guy.
  • Without depth, McNeal is going to have to carry a lot of the load. And he's not exactly known for his durability. If the Trojans can get a couple of guys behind him to take a few snaps, he could be top five by season's end.
  • Depending on how quickly the Wildcats pick up the offense, Carey is another guy who could potentially crack the top five. He has enough snaps under his belt and was productive enough in a different kind of spread that he should have very good numbers -- if he gets enough per-game carries.
  • It looks more and more like Washington is moving more toward a by-committee approach with Callier and Sankey at the top of the list. Their overall ranking will depend on how many carries per game they get. By Week 3, we might be flip-flopping them.
  • The final three years at Texas Tech, Mike Leach's rushing attack ranked 115th ('09), 94th ('08) and 119th ('07) nationally. Running backs come second in his offense. Just the way it is.
  • Jones is a good playmaker on a team starving for them. But until we know who is going to throw the ball and catch the ball in Colorado, this ranking seems about right. He does have a couple of pretty good linemen blocking for him though, which could help him crack the top 10 by season's end.

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