The 2014 class of Running Backs was probably the best group of Running Backs ever.
But, how is the 2016 recruiting class of backs going to be?
1. BJ Emmons – Alabama, Morgantown, North Carolina 5-11, 220: Last I checked it was not known whether Emmons would qualify and gain admittance. Strange things happen when guys like this try to get into SEC schools and I would not even raise an eyebrow if he is on the team in August. Emmons is a talent and most regard him as the top Running Back in the country. If he makes it in, he will play as a true freshman and maybe play a lot.
2. Demario McCall – Ohio State, North Ridgeville, Ohio 5-9, 175: McCall is small, but don’t let that fool you. He can fly which his 10.53 100 meters as a sophomore will attest. The 4.4 McCall can
run and he can cut on a proverbial dime. Supposedly, the Buckeyes timed him at 4.34 at a camp. At his size, or lack of size, there is a reason why he is rated as the second best Running Back in the country. McCall could be playing really soon for the Buckeyes but probably not at Running Back. He will compete with Curtis Samuel and Dontre Wilson for playing time at the Buckeyes version of a wingback/flanker.
3. Miles Sanders – Penn State, Pittsburgh, Pa 5-11, 200: Sanders was the most impressive back I saw by video, or film. He reminded a little bit of a young Tony Dorsett. Sanders is super fast, shifty and fluid as can be. Graceful like Dorsett is a way of describing him. But, Sanders is a little bigger than a young Dorsett and he is stronger and more powerful. For me, with the Nittany Lions already having Saquon Barkley who was the best young Running Back in the Big 10 on campus, Sanders coming aboard is just more affirmation of his abilities and confidence. Sanders can play and he probably won’t redshirt. On my list, Sanders would have been number one.
4. Kareem Walker – Michigan, New Wayne, New Jersey 6-0, 210: Some have Walker as the best Running Back in the country and I have no problem with that at all. I saw him in two full games and video of him and he is a talent. He has good size, which will more than likely get much better in a college weight program. He has good to great speed and he has all of the intangibles. Michigan is loaded at Running Back, but Harbaugh likes to play a few it seems. He might be better off redshirting, but I am thinking he sees playing time immediately. Also, Kingston Davis from Prattville, Alabama is rated 77th on this list and the 6-0, 230 Davis will be a good one of the
Wolverines and maybe pretty early on. Both Walker and Davis played in the Spring Game in Ann Arbor.
5. Tavien Feaster – Clemson, Spartanburg, South Carolina 5-11, 205: Feaster played the last two seasons with an injury. He had surgery in February to make necessary repairs and he will not be able to practice at least the first week of camp, maybe longer. I am thinking that might set him that much further behind. He played two seasons with a torn shoulder and was still rated as the 5th best back in the country. That’s impressive in and of itself. That means this kid is some kind of tough. Wayne Gallman is the returning Running Back for Clemson and he is one of the tops in the country. Gallman will more than likely leave this year with Deshaun Watson, so the job will be open after this season. Feaster is a tough runner with good speed and he could be the starter in 2017. Who is tough enough to tell a kid that plays with injury that he can’t play?
6. Devwah Whaley – Arkansas, Beaumont, Texas 6-0, 195: Fast back from Texas with plenty of moves. He seems to not mind contact and was even seen running over a few poor defenders. But, he mostly just outruns people. Arkansas lost both of it’s top Running Backs from the past two seasons and the ones that remain are mostly power runners. There may be a place for Whaley to contribute as a true freshman in 2016. He would be a change of pace from the other runners that the Razorbacks possess. I see him contributing pretty early in Fayetteville.
7. Amir Rasul – Florida State, Coral Gables, Florida 5-11, 195: Lightening in a bottle? Rasul is a blue burner that has tremendous acceleration somewhat like Dalvin Cook who he might replace someday. He just takes off and leaves everyone with tremendous speed. The Seminoles return Cook
and big back Jacques Patrick, but way too little depth behind them with the dismissal of Mario Pender from the team. In the Spring, the Seminoles’ coaching staff moved Defensive Back Ryan Green to Running Back and he looked good. But, there is a definitely opportunity for Amir Rasul at Running Back in Tallahassee. Even if you redshirt Rasul, he will be gone in 3 years anyway.
8. Carlin Fils-Aime – Tennessee, Naples, Florida 5-11, 175: Desmond Howard, the Michigan Heisman winner calls guys like Fils-Aime a Florida Stick Boy. That only means that when his foot plants, or sticks, he can change direction in less than a heartbeat. Or, something along those lines. Fils-Aime is listed as a 4.4 guy but he just runs circles around opponents. True, he is a little guy, but that speed just makes up for everything. It’s doubtful that he will be an every down Running Back, but has elite quickness and speed.
9. Antonio Williams – Ohio State, New London, North Carolina 5-11, 215: It’s a brilliant opportunity for Antonio Williams at Ohio State. Since the Buckeyes booted Bri’onte Dunn off of the team, the only competition at Running Back for Williams is redshirt freshman Nick Weber. While Weber is a talented Running Back, the chances of Williams playing as a true freshman are strictly up to him. Williams is 215 now and he will continue to get bigger, stronger and faster. His future looks very bright.
10. Travis Homer – Miami, West Palm Beach, Florida 5-11, 195: Homer has more moves than John Travolta in Saturday Night Fever. He can really shake and bake and he’s got great speed as well. This is the kind of guy that the Hurricanes need to keep near home if they are going to return to elite status. I believe they will be there shortly with Mark Richt as head coach. There’s just no excuse not to win at Miami with the kind of talent on the team and in the area. However, the Hurricanes will be loaded at Running Back next season with Joseph Yearby, Mark Walton and Gus Edwards returning. Walton is currently suspended, but if he returns, Homer should probably redshirt and beef up a bit.
There is just so much talent in South Florida.
11. Elijah Holyfield – Georgia, Atlanta, Georgia 5-11, 205: As a boxing fan, I will say that I was a huge fan of his dad’s. That man gave everything he had every time he stepped into the ring and you can ask Mike Tyson about that. It appears that Elijah may bring that same type of work ethic and fighting spirit and heart to the football field and if he does then consider me a Georgia Bulldog fan, at least while he’s there. Holyfield is a tough running, hard nosed back with some decent speed. He doesn’t have that flashy speed, apparently, like some others on this list. But, he can outrun some people, too. He’s strong and able to run over, but he has the juice to make a move on somebody and leave them behind. If Holyfield does happen to get mad, please just leave your helmet on. His dad supposedly wanted Elijah at Notre Dame because he loved it there, but he’s happy with Elijah’s choice, I believe.
12. George Hill – Pittsburgh, Hubbard, Ohio 6-0, 195: Pittsburgh is a great city and there’s no reason for the Panthers not to be a really good football team like they were in the late 1970s and 1980s. They have picked up their game against Penn State and things look like they could be changing under new coach Pat Narduzzi. The Panthers have two really good huge backs returning in James Conner and Qadree Ollison. But, what they need is a speedster back there that can provide explosiveness. Hill isn’t as fast as some others, but he does bring something to the table that the Panthers do lack. Last season, they tried playing true freshman Jordan Whitehead at Running Back as well as at Safety and he was impressive. If Hill is ready, he can play as a freshman here. He is a very versatile player, also, and he could play any number of positions besides Running Back.
13. Damian Alloway – UCLA, Fontana, California 5-9, 167: I’m not sure why Alloway is ESPN’s 13th rated Running Back. He should be in the Athlete category. I don’t see him playing Running Back at UCLA and he rarely played there in high school from what I have seen. He is super quick and an excellent return man on punts and kicks and he had many returns for scores in high school. He played some Wide Receiver and he played Defensive Back as well. He could play any of those positions, but at 5-9 and less than 170 pounds he will have a hard time at Running Back against the likes of USC and Stanford. He’s a good prospect at several positions.
14. Chase Lucas – Arizona State, Chandler, Arizona 6-0, 170: The city of Chandler puts out a few
top players from time to time and Lucas is a really good prospect. He is a bit on the smaller side, also, but he has outstanding speed and quickness. The Sun Devils tried to make a mark at home this recruiting season and grabbed Lucas and the top Wide Receiver recruit in the nation in N’keal Harry. Lucas can contribute as a true freshman, but the Sun Devils return Demario Richard and Kalen Ballage.
15. Kyle Porter – Texas, Katy, Texas 5-10, 190: The Texas Longhorns are actually fairly deep at the Running Back position for the first time in years. They made improvements with their Offensive Coordinator and Offensive Line and they have some good Running Backs returning. D’Onta Foreman and Chris Warren III both return and both are huge backs that run with great power. Porter is a lot smaller, but he has good speed and power if necessary. He comes from a program that runs the ball like few others and he reminds a little bit of a young Cedric Benson, only a little faster. In all of the videos I watched of Porter, I never saw anybody run him down in the open field. Of course, that is high school and college football is another matter altogether. Katy has a huge Offensive Line and they usually just run the football down opponents’ throats. Is Porter a system player, or will he be a great college back?
16. Justin Connor – Ole Miss, Sardis, Mississippi 5-10, 185: There is an opportunity for early playing time at Ole Miss for Justin Connor. The Ole Miss top Running Back over the past few seasons has used up his eligibility. Akeem Judd and Jordan Wilkins are returning and they are pretty good, but not enough to intimidate a young freshman like Justin Connor. Supposedly, Connor can run a low 4.4 which should put him contention for playing time as a freshman.
17. Kameron Martin – Auburn, Port Arthur, Texas 5-11, 175: Martin signed with Baylor before the huge scandal came out. He wanted out of his scholarship with Baylor and he was recruited all over again. This time, he picked the Auburn Tigers. Martin is a cousin of former Texas Longhorn Jamaal Charles but he got upset with the Longhorns because they didn’t offer him early enough for his tastes. Martin is small, but he is about as fast as anyone on this list. He is super quick and can cut as quickly as about anyone, too. He will be more suited to play in a Wingback type of position than as a pure Running Back. But, he is a very talented kid.
18. Brittain Brown – Duke, Canton, Georgia 6-1, 200: I wrote earlier about Duke’s excellent
recruiting efforts and Brittain Brown was one of their better recruits. Brown played against top competition and led a talented state in rushing at the 6A level. He ran over and around and just outran a lot of talented players. If he is as good as he looks, the Blue Devils may be a much better team starting pretty soon. Duke head coach David Cutcliffe has transformed this program from a joke to a competitive team. Quarterback Thomas Sirk was Duke’s leading rusher last season and that needs to instantly change.
19. Martell Pettaway – West Virginia, Saint Claire Shores, Michigan 5-9, 205: The Detroit area star apparently wanted a slightly warmer climate and he picked the Mountaineers of West Virginia. Pettaway looks like what they call a patient runner. That’s a guy that waits on his Linemen to make a block instead of just running into an opponent. He’s a shorter, stouter kind of back with good speed and moves.
20. Vavae Malepeai – USC, Mililani, Hawaii 6-0, 205: The Trojans went to the beautiful island of Hawaii to grab a talented Running Back this recruiting class. He doesn’t appear to have blazing speed and yet nobody is catching him from behind. He certainly had his choice of schools because most everybody was after him before he picked the Trojans. The Trojans have a lot of young Running Backs, so playing time may be rare unless Malepeai is a special talent.
21. Trayveon Williams – Texas A%M, Houston, Texas 5-9, 180: Williams chose to stay close to home. He’s not the biggest guy around, but he is really speedy and shifty. The Aggies don’t really have a lot of talent at the position and Williams could play pretty early. Their starter should be a redshirt freshman, Keith Ford. If Williams can come in and impress early, he might see some early playing time.
22. Brandon Wellington – Washington, Bellevue, Washington 6-0, 220: My respect for
Washington coach Chris Petersen is growing as Wellington has already been moved to Linebacker and he should fight for playing time on that side of the ball with his outstanding athletic ability.
23. Rakeem Boyd – Texas A%M, Houston, Texas 5-11, 200: Boyd picked the Aggies and he will compete with guys like Trayveon Williams and Keith Ford for playing time. He was actually a little better than I expected. His posted 40 time was pretty slow and that was clearly inaccurate. He looks like a solid prospect at Running Back that could play early if he is ready to go.
24. Denzel Mitchell – ??????, Hamilton, Alabama 5-10, 210: He was committed to Ole Miss at one point, but finally wound up at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.
25. Tre Turner – Arizona State, New Orleans, Louisiana 5-10, 190: The Sun Devils came into LSU territory to grab another Running Back. In my opinion, they got a steal. Turner is listed as possessing 4.35 speed and I won’t argue that. This kid can fly. He has plenty of power and ran over a few smaller guys in high school, but he has the ability to go around them and take it the distance.
There are always a few surprises whenever the season starts.