All this week Husker Corner.com will be breaking down each position in the Big 10 Conference. Today we continue with the work horses of the teams, the running backs. We will be ranking each position from 12 to 1. Twelve being the group that is lacking depth, doesn’t have any proven player, and/or needs to improve the most. One will be the strongest group of backs.
12. Indiana: The Hoosier’s had a lack of depth at the running back position in 2010 with Darius Willis, Antonio Banks and Xavier Whitaker all suffered season ending knee injuries, and were forced to miss spring practice. Indiana’s leading rusher finished the season with 325 rushing yards. Sophomore Nick Turner and freshman Matt Perez split carries in the spring. Look for Willis to be the starter if he returns to full health.
11. Northwestern: With quarterback Dan Persa being the most effective runner in the Wildcats backfield, Northwestern didn’t have very many effective runners. Sophomore Mike Trumpy was the second leading rusher on the team with 530 yards and only 4 touchdowns. Look for fellow sophomore Adonis Smith to be the other back to pick up the slack when Trumpy is not on the field.
10.Minnesota: The Golden Gophers don’t have a lack of depth, its just a matter of who will carry the ball, and how successful will they be. DeLeon Eskridge, and Duanne Bennett led the team in rushing. They combined for 1,227 yards on the ground. This is a group, that could improve drastically in 2011 under new head coach Jerry Kill.
9. Michigan: With quarterback Denard Robinson doing most of the rushing for the Wolverines in 2010, there was not much rushing done by the other backs. JuniorVincent Smith lead the Wolverines backs with 601 yards rushing. Look for senior Micheal Shaw and incoming freshman Justice Hayes to contribute the most in new head coach Brady Hoke new pro-style system.
8. Iowa: Biggest depth concern in the conference, and maybe the nation at running back. Adam Robinson would have been the leading rusher in the conference if he was returning , but he was dismissed after being arrested in December. Insight Bow MVP Marcus Coker returns in 2011. Coker has All-Big 10 written all over him, but with a lack of quarterback experience the true sophomore will have to carry a heavy work load. It will be interesting to see if he can hold up for the entire season.
7. Illinois: Senior Jason Ford will look to fill the void left by Mikel Leshoure in Champaign. That is a small void of 2,500 yards. Ford sat out this spring with a knee injury, which left the door wide open for Troy Pollard to have a pretty impressive spring. I think this group has the biggest chance of making a major improvement in 2011.
6. Penn State: Replacing the all-time leading rusher in school history shouldn’t be a difficult task right? Evan Royster has gone to the NFL, and leaves those shoes to be filled by Silas Redd. All he did as a freshman was average over 5 yards a carry and add two rushing touchdowns on 77 carries. All eyes will be on Redd to see if he can keep his numbers up and help out whoever the quarterback will be for the Nittany Lions this season. Redd will be the starter, and will be aided by senior Stephfon Green.
5. Purdue: This will be the strength of this team if 2nd team All-Big 10 running back Ralph Bolden can return from injury in 2011. If he does look for him to rush for over 1,500 yards and possibly be the leading rusher in the conference. If Bolden doesn’t have as successful of a recovery as expected, look for a talented junior college transfer in Akeem Shavers to be the starter, and make some noise.
4. Nebraska: With the loss of senior Roy Helu Jr to the NFL, “do it all guy” Rex Burkhead will be asked to do more than be the main wild cat-guy, in new offensive coordinator Tim Becks system. The junior to be rushed for 950 yards on 172 carries last season. Nebraska added 2 very impressive running back recruits in the 2011 recruiting class. Aaron Green from San Antonio, Texas is a quick skat back, and Homewood, Alabama standout Ameer Abdulalh could be a big back. The Huskers will also add one of the top prospects in the country from the 2010 class, Bryalon Heard. Heard was not academically qualified for the 2010 season. He will come to Lincoln as a freshman this season.
3. Ohio Stae: If senior to be, Dan “Boom” Herron was fully illegible for the 2011 season, the Buckeyes would be the number two group on this chart. Heron will miss the first 5 games this season, and will return for an Oct. 8 meeting with Nebraska in Lincoln. In his absence Jaamal Berry is the 2nd leading rusher on the team, and look for Jordan Hall to contribute majorly in 2011.
2. Michigan State: This may be the most versatile group of backs in the country. They showcase more than one running back, including All-Big 10 running back Edwin Baker. Baker rushed for over1,200 yards and 13 touchdowns last season. They also return, in my opinion, one of the most impressive freshman in the 2010 season, Le’Veon Bell. Bell is a big bruising back at 240 pounds. Spartans fullback Todd Anderson maybe the best fullback in the nation.
1. Wisconsin: With the addition of Russel Wilson to the backfield at quarterback, the Badgers rushing attack only gets scarier. Wisconsin looses John Clay, but they have such an assortment of options they won’t even miss a beat. Junior Montee Ball returns and brings over 900 yards of rushing experience with him from last season. Add Big 10 Freshman of the year James White to the mix, you get the best 1-2 punch in the country. White rushed for 1,052 yards and 14 touchdowns. The guy who makes it all click is senior fullback Bradie Ewing who averaged 6.3 yards a carry last season, to go a long with his 10.3 yards a catch, and monster blocks in 2010.
B y Jimmie Allen