Now we move to the running backs:
10) Vick Ballard, Mississippi State
Used exclusively as the Big Bulldawg Bruiser named Ballard, he somehow found sieves that, when looking at a slo-mo replay, WEREN’T THERE. Needless to say, this can get annoying for opponents. He strikes me as a young Brandon Jacobs type back- powerful, with a little speed, and doesn’t often fumble. He should thrive once again in Dan Mullen’s spread option offense in Starkville, especially with fellow running back type player Chris Relf at QB.
9) Warren Norman, Vanderbilt
OK, we know, he’s on Vanderbilt. And OK, we know, Vanderbilt was 1-7 in the SEC last year. But there’s no way they beat Ole Miss for their lone conference win without Norman, who is known as a silent killer among his teammates, and isn’t really known at all around the SEC. He does lots of damage, albeit in defeat. He has all the tools needed except for one thing: he’s a little too small to be able to handle repeated 25-30 touch games. But if used right, he could be a game breaker.
8) Michael Ford, Louisiana State
Running backs weren’t really the focal point of LSU last year- more like Lesprechaun Miles and his big gambles that paid off in spades, and then the defense. LSU has silently become RBU- Running Back University. Jacob Hester, Charles Scott, and Stevan Ridley have been the most recent. Ford isn’t quite as big as any of them, but he sure can run. He’s a terror if he finds a hole, and he should be able to replace Ridley without much of an issue. As long as he doesn’t fumble. And as long as Jordan Jefferson plays OK.
7) Michael Dyer, Auburn
Deep down, I believe this kid is just as good as anybody in the country. But he had all his success with Newton. This raises a huge question: will he be as good with a much larger role? So many careers falter when success is met by a bigger load. Will Dyer be the next? Or will he be the next Trent Richardson? He’s fast as hell and can break tackles with the best of them. He doesn’t fumble much, either… but can he block? That’s going to be the big question with last year’s offensive line departing.
6) Isaiah Crowell, Georgia
His talent is unquestioned. His success at Georgia is not. He will have a good offensive line to work with, which is about as good as Georgia’s news is. He has exceptional raw talent, with good speed, great vision, good cutbacks, and can break tackles. But… again… he is a FRESHMAN. If he has a great 2011, I will move him up in the postseason rankings, but ranking a freshman high is a big risk. I will say this: if he develops like Knowshon Moreno did, he will be a top 5 RB… in the nation.
5) Knile Davis, Arkansas
He will be expected to take a lot of pressure off of the passing game, and he’s fully capable of doing that. His moves are fun to watch, paired with his speed. He’s got great acceleration, and if he sees a hole, he’s through it. He is the type of running back you can build a championship team off of. He also rarely fumbles. If he can somehow top his 2010 numbers, his name will shoot into the top 10 players in the NFL Draft, at any position.
4) Brandon Bolden, Missisippi
One of the most underrated players in recent history will take his final turn through an SEC season, with probably his worst team yet. That shouldn’t hinder his journey to the NFL, which will continue with one last great season at Ole Miss. He is a fantastic runner who rarely fumbles, has great moves and speed, and great vision. Blocking is a question mark, but that can be worked with when you’ve got a great all around game like Bolden.
3) Jeff Demps, Florida
One reason above all reasons for this: who’s gonna catch him? LSU tried putting track star Trindon Holliday on him to shadow him all day and Demps still torched LSU in both 2008 and 2009. Sure he’s small, but he’s also a great athlete who will try out for the 2012 Olympic track team. He can also shake tackles at a rate far more than his size would suggest, and can block shockingly well, a plus as Charlie Weis gets very pissed off when backs whiff on blocks. Just how fast is he? How about 9.96 100 meter dash. So, who’s gonna catch him? In a footrace, nobody. Repeat, NOBODY.
2) Marcus Lattimore, South Carolina
Lattimore is a freak of nature who excels at finding a crowded spot and turning it into a hole, and then breaking free for a big gain. His moves and athleticism are way off the charts, and proved this during his freshman season time and again, especially against Florida. He almost never fumbles, and can be relied on to carry a lot of times in a game. He has great instincts, a must for a running back, and can power forward or juke somebody out, depending on who it is, a rarity. If not for the guy ahead of him, Lattimore would be the best running back in the country.
1) Trent Richardson, Alabama
Richardson is as good as you will ever find. I’m not afraid to say it: he is better than his predecessor, Mark Ingram. He is far more explosive, can break tackles at a similar rate, and is faster. Oh and he doesn’t fumble, either. Defenses foolish enough to have holes in it can count on a good dose of the Alabama fight song (ugly as hell) and a good cursing out by their coach. Because a hole means that TR is through it for a touchdown. He’s that quick. He’s just the best running back in the nation. Doak Walker Award, prepare to be taken to Tuscaloosa (until he gets drafted).