Pac-12's 1,000-yard rushers

May, 29, 2013
5/29/13
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After looking at returning 2,500-yard passers, we're moving on to returning 1,000-yard rushers.

The Pac-12 is replacing many of its big names at running back, including Oregon's Kenjon Barner, UCLA's Johnathan Franklin, Stanford's Stepfan Taylor and Utah's John White, who each eclipsed the 1,000-yard benchmark in 2012.

The returning 1,000-yard rushers are:
Both these guys seem certain to reach the 1,000-yard mark again in 2013, barring injury. Carey was an All-American after leading the nation in rushing. He could become a Heisman Trophy candidate. Sankey got stronger as the year went on, and his offensive line should take a big step forward this fall. It could be tight between them for the Pac-12 rushing crown.

[+] EnlargeKa'Deem Carey
Rick Scuteri/US PresswireArizona's Ka'Deem Carey rushed for 1,929 yards and 23 touchdowns last season.
Or maybe a darkhorse rises. While there's a lot of turnover at RB, the cupboard is hardly bare.

Here's a look.

Arizona State: The Sun Devils are in fine shape here with Marion Grice and D.J. Foster giving them one of the conference's best tandems. Perhaps the best. They combined for well over 1,000 yards as cornerstones of the conference's third-best rushing offense, with Grice leading the way with 679 yards. Will one or the other gain 1,000 yards? Why not both?

California: New coach Sonny Dykes doesn't really know what he's got at running back because both Brendan Bigelow and Daniel Lasco sat out spring practices. Bigelow is explosive but needs to be more consistent. If he gets touches, however, he's going to rush for 1,000 yards.

Colorado: Christian Powell, a 240-pound bruiser, led the Buffaloes with 691 yards last year. Tony Jones is a solid backup. Still, it will be a major accomplishment if a Buff rushes for 1,000 yards in Mike MacIntyre's first year. If it does happen, however, that would almost certainly indicate a lot more wins in 2013 than many project.

Oregon: The Ducks will have a 1,000-yard rusher because they always have a 1,000-yard rusher. The only question is who is the lead dog and how is the ball distributed. The top candidate is De'Anthony Thomas, with him becoming more of a running back than a hybrid player. But if Byron Marshall and incoming freshman Thomas Tyner can handle the load, Thomas seems most dangerous as a slash guy.

Oregon State: The Beavers also look like a good bet for a 1,000-yard rusher in 2013. For one, Storm Woods fell just short with 940 yards last year. Second, the offensive line's improvement this spring was notable.

Stanford: Anthony Wilkerson and Tyler Gaffney had an "Or" between then on the post-spring depth chart. Either could be a 1,000-yard back. And the Cardinal's run-first approach and potentially dominant offensive line means one or the other -- or someone else -- is surely going to eclipse the benchmark number.

UCLA: There isn't anyone as talented as Franklin on the roster at present, and the general feeling is the Bruins might go with a committee approach this fall with Jordan James, Paul Perkins and Malcolm Jones. The Bruins might run the ball well, but it's questionable whether one of those guys will hit the 1,000-yard mark or not.

USC: Silas Redd seems like the most likely starter, at least based on his leading the Trojans with 905 yards rushing last year. But he's getting challenged by freshman Justin Davis. And Tre Madden, D.J. Morgan and Javorius Allen might claw into the picture. With a first-year starter at quarterback and a potentially strong offensive line, it would seem like a good bet one of these guys gains 1,000 yards.

Utah: The Utes were happy with their line play this spring, and it seems as though there's solid depth behind likely starter Kelvin York. While James Poole, Lucky Radley and Karl Williams made plays this spring, they likely will be a "Plan B" behind York, who's got a good shot at 1,000 yards.

Washington State: It's called the "Air Raid" for a reason: Mike Leach likes to throw. The Cougars ranked last in the nation with 29.8 yards rushing per game last year. The Cougs also have O-line issues. While there's decent talent in the backfield, led by Teondray Caldwell, the chances are remote a Coug running back will even approach 1,000 yards on the ground. Shoot, the entire team rushed for 349 in 2012 -- 1.4 yards per carry -- which was nearly 1,000 less than even lowly Colorado.

Ted Miller | email

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