The Big 10 is loaded with running backs this season. Our list consist of the top 12 running backs in the Conference a few teams starters didn’t make our list, but a talented newcomer and a couple of backups are ranked. Who ranks as the No.1 runner in the Conference? Find out here.
12. Derrick Green, Freshman Michigan: Green was the No.1 ranked running back in the country in the 2013 class. Michigan also landed some talented offensive linemen to block for him over the next four years. Green will not be forced to the fire right away, he has senior Fitzgerald Toussaint to run behind, and he will be able to sit the bench and learn the play book, while also contributing in limited playing time. In 2014 Green will be the man in Michigan’s offense. Toussaint is coming off a leg injury, and is expected to be able to go in week 1. If he can’t Green may be the man this fall.
11. Donnell Kirkwood, Junior Minnesota: Kirkwood has out performed his offensive lines blocking ability. He was just 74 yards shy of 1,000 yards last season. He put up 152 yards on 28 carries against Illinois, and had 2 other games were he rushed for over 100 yards. With a young quarterback, Kirkwoods load will only get heavier, especially if Minnesota’s passing game continues to struggle.
10. Akeem Hunt, Junior Purdue: Hunt has seen playing time in every game he has been apart of while at Purdue, except one where he was held out with an aggravated hamstring. He has never been the featured back until now. The Georgia native has been a very serviceable back up to some pretty solid No. 1 options. He is a smaller back at 5-foot-8, 190 lbs., but he will be asked to carry the load this season.
9. Stephen Houston, Senior Indiana: Indiana has some weapons in their backfield this season. If 2nd year head coach Kevin Wilson can get the Hoosier offensive line going, Indiana could have two players go over 800-1,000 yards rushing this season in Houston and sophomore quarterback Tre Roberson. If Indiana’s backfield can stay healthy, they can be an 6-9 win team.
8. Zach Zwinak, Senior Penn State: Zwinak rushed for exactly 1,000 yards last season. He didn’t see playing time till week 3 against Temple, but he didn’t slow down after his first start.Zwinak rushed for over 100 yards on 6 straight games. The 6-foot-1 redshirt senior is a 234 lb. former fullback, and will be a huge piece to Penn State’s offense in 2013. They will more than likely be breaking in a freshman quarterback, and Zwinak is going to have to get 20-25 carries a game.
7. Mark Weisman, Junior Iowa : Weisman is also a converted fullback. He was forced to move to tailback after the strangest run of injuries in a program maybe in College Football history. Weisman produced four consecutive 100-yard games, including 217 yards and three touchdowns against Central Michigan. Damon Bullock will be back from injury this season, but Weisman should still get the starting nod in Iowa City.
6. Melvin Gordon, Sophomore Wisconsin: There will be a 2 back race in Madison this fall for the starting spot, now that record setter Montee Ball is in the NFL. Gordon and senior James White will be battling it out for the No. 1 spot on the depth chart, but will more than likely split an even amount of carries. Gordon is probably the strongest back on this list. He averaged 10 yards a carry as a freshman, and never went down from first contact. The former four star prospect will be the featured back in 2014, but will more than likely still get 1,000 yards this season.
5. Fitzgerald Toussaint, Senior Michigan: Toussaint exploded on to the scene in 2011. Last season he was sidelined with leg injury and missed the majority of the year. He is coming back healthy for the 2013 season and will be ready for week 1. He will be getting a lot of help from freshman phenom Derrick Green, to carry the load until he is for sure 100%.If Toussaint is at fully healthy he is one of the most dangerous runners in the country. He has great vision, and the ability to cut on a dime. If the Youngstown, OH native wasn’t coming off a season ending leg injury he would have been higher on this list.
4. Carlos Hyde, Senior Ohio State: Hyde is one of the strongest runners in the country. He will be splitting carries with fellow senior Jordan Hall and junior quarterback Braxton Miller this season. Taking some of the work load off of him will leave Hyde fresh and more dangerous as the season goes on. Ohio State will more than likely be the consensus No. 2 team in the country when the first polls of 2013 come out. Ranked behind defending Champs Alabama. Hyde will be as important of a piece in a National Title run as there is for the Buckeyes.
3. James White, Senior Wisconsin: With a new coaching staff in Madison, and a young quarterback White may be the most important Badger on the team. Wisconsin has been to 2 straight Rose Bowls and White has been one of the biggest reasons. The Florida native may have been the most valuable backup running back of all time, even in high school he was the back up for 2nd round NFL Draft pick of the Cincinnati Bengals, and former North Carolina Tar Heel Giovani Bernard, and ran behind All-Time single season touchdown leader Montee Ball. White will battle Gordon for the starting spot this season, but the pair will more than likely split a lot of carries.
2. Venrick Mark, Senior Northwestern: Husker Corner’s to watch player of the year last year did not disappoint. Mark silently rushed onto the scene in 2011, but made his mark (no pun intended) on the Big 10 last season. The 5-foot-8 Texan ended the year with 1,366 yards and 12 touchdowns, while catching 20 passes for 104 yards. Mark maybe the best blocking running back in the Big 10 and will definitely be a top 50 pick in next years NFL draft if he can stay healthy. The 4th year man, had two games were he rushed for over 150 yards last season (Minnesota & Iowa), he will be the featured back in Northwestern’s offense again. It is pretty hard to steal touches from senior quarterback Kain Colter, but Mark has proven he can carry the load.
1. Ameer Abdullah, Junior Nebraska: In 2011 Nebraska landed 3 very talented running backs in their recruiting class, Aaron Green from San Antonio, Brylon Heard from Youngstown, OH., and Ameer Abdullah from Homewood, AL. Green was Rivals 100 running back, Heard was a Scout 150 back, Abdullah did not make any national player ranking lists, but was a very highly regarded running back. Green has transferred to TCU, and Heard will be sitting out this year due to transferring to Kentucky. Abdullah will be the featured back in Lincoln this season. He rushed for 1,137 yards on 226 attempts in 2012. The question going into the 2013 season is will his carries go up? Nebraska has a very solid big back in Sophomore Imani Cross, who should get honorable mention on this list, but the Huskers also bring in 2 highly touted running backs in Adam Taylor from Katy TX., and Terrell Newby from West Hills, CA. One negative thing about this coaching staff in Lincoln, is they have tendency to over work running backs. In back to back seasons the starting running back in Lincoln have been in a walking boot by the end of the season. Rex Burkhead in 2011, and Abdullah in 2012. With the stable of backs in Lincoln now, carries should be distributed a little more evenly, which well allow Abdullah to stay healthy as the season goes on.
By Jimmie Allen
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