- Chris Low, ESPN Senior Staff Writer
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We're at 30 days and counting until we have some real, live football in the SEC.
And if you're going to win at a high level in this league, you better be able to run the football and have a couple of guys you can lean on in the running game, which brings us to the number of the day: 1,000.
Five players return in the SEC who rushed for 1,000 yards last season. They’re headlined by Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel (1,410 yards). The other four are running backs – Georgia’s Todd Gurley (1,385 yards), Alabama’s T.J. Yeldon (1,108 yards), Mississippi State’s LaDarius Perkins (1,024 yards) and Auburn’s Tre Mason (1,002 yards). All told, the SEC had nine players reach the 1,000-yard rushing mark last season, which was the most in league history. Who are the top candidates to rush for 1,000 yards in 2013? Doing it in back-to-back years isn’t all that common in the SEC. In fact, Vanderbilt’s Zac Stacy became only the ninth player in the SEC over the past decade to rush for 1,000 yards in successive seasons. Some of the newer faces to keep an eye on are Florida’s Matt Jones, Texas A&M’s Brandon Williams, South Carolina’s Mike Davis and Alabama’s Derrick Henry. If Missouri’s Henry Josey is healthy, he’s already proven that he can get there, while Texas A&M’s Ben Malena and Georgia’s Keith Marshall were in the ballpark last season. Tennessee’s offensive line should be good enough that either Rajion Neal or Marlin Lane could make a push, and certainly Jeremy Hill will be one of the top backs in the league if he gets his legal issues resolved and returns to LSU’s team. Even without Hill, Alfred Blue and/or Kenny Hilliard could make a run. It’s worth noting that over the past five years Alabama and Auburn lead the SEC with five 1,000-yard rushers apiece. The only year during that stretch that the Crimson Tide didn’t have a player to rush for 1,000 yards was 2010. The Tigers didn’t have a 1,000-yard rusher in 2008, but have produced one each of the past four seasons. Cam Newton and Michael Dyer both topped the 1,000-yard mark during the 2010 national championship season.