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2011 CFN All-Americans & Top Players - RBs
Oregon RB LaMichael James
Oregon RB LaMichael James
Posted Aug 11, 2011

CFN 2011 All-Americans and Top 30 Players - Running Backs

Preview 2011 - Running Backs

All-Americans & Top 30 Players

2011 CFN All-Americans & Top 30 Players
- Quarterbacks | Running Backs | Receivers | Tight Ends
- Offensive Tackles | Offensive Guards | Centers

- Defensive Ends | Defensive Tackles | Linebackers | Safeties
- Cornerbacks | Kickers | Punters | Kick Returners | Punt Returners 

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Note: This isn't a ranking of the top pro prospects. This is based on the seasons we think the players are going to have. 


1. LaMichael James, Oregon
James elevated from his brilliant freshman debut by becoming an All-American and winning the Doak Walker award. Like a torpedo out of the backfield, the 5-9, 185-pound junior strafed opposing defenses for a nation’s-best 1,731 yards and 21 rushing touchdowns on 294 carries. For the second straight year, he had nine 100-yard games, topping 200 yards three different times. A perfect fit for the spread-option, he has gamebreaking speed, the vision needed to locate holes, and far more toughness than his size might indicate.

2. Marcus Lattimore, Soph. South Carolina
The hope before last season was that Lattimore could step out of high school and into SEC play and be the top-shelf recruit the Gamecock fans were dreaming he could be. The breakout SEC star came through with a huge season and gave USC a running game. The 6-0, 231-pound true sophomore was brilliant rushing for 1,197 yards and 17 scores averaging 4.8 yards per carry, and he also showed off nice hands out of the backfield with 29 catches – third most on the team – for 412 yards and two scores. He announced his arrival into the SEC world with 182 yards and two scores on 34 carries in the win over Georgia, and while he was slowed down in the loss to Auburn and was held under 100 yards in six of the first seven games, he still scored 12 touchdowns in the first six games and became a weapon for the rest of the attack to work around. His already good season took on another level with 40 carries for 215 yards and three scores in the SEC East-clinching win over Florida.


3. Trent Richardson, Jr. Alabama
Richardson has been a jack-of-all-trades home run hitter who averaged 6.2 yards per carry with 700 yards and six touchdowns, while catching 23 passes for 266 yards and four scores and averaging a whopping 26.4 yards per kickoff return. At 5-11 and 224 pounds, Richardson is very big, freakishly strong, and lightning fast. With his size and track star speed, the former star from the same Florida high school as Emmitt Smith could be a starting back for an NFL team right now. However, he has to prove he can handle the role of being the main man for a full season, and he has to prove he can hold up. With Ingram hurt, Richardson tore off 144 yards and a score against Penn State, and ripped up Tennessee for 119 yards on just 12 carries, but he had a midseason knee injury and has only carried the ball more than 15 times twice in his career. But if he can stay in one piece, everything is there to be in the hunt for Bama’s second Heisman winner in two years.

4. Bobby Rainey, Sr. WKU
Rainey had a good sophomore season with 939 yards and six touchdowns averaging 6.5 yards per carry. The new coaching staff started feeding him the ball over and over again, and then came the special junior campaign finishing with 1,649 yards and 15 touchdowns finishing third in the nation. Also a decent receiver, he finished second on the team with 29 catches for 230 yards. The problem is his workload with a whopping 340 carries and close to 370 touches, but he was able to hold up well with a strong finishing kick running for 248 yards on 45 carries against Middle Tennessee and 157 yards against Troy. The 5-8, 205-pound veteran is a quick back with a shifty downhill running style who zips through the line in a hurry. He’ll be fed the ball over and over again, but he has had problems in the past with a shoulder injury and he needs help from other runners to keep the workload to a reasonable level.


5. Lance Dunbar, Sr. North Texas
Dunbar came up with a First Team All-Sun Belt season in 2009 with 1,378 yards and 17 scores, and then he took his game up a few notched running for 1,553 yards and 13 scores, averaging 5.7 yards per carry, and finishing third on the team with 28 catches for 332 yards and three scores. Steady as well as explosive, he started off the season with 117 yards against Clemson and ended up running for 100 yards or more in eight games including 200+ yard performances against Western Kentucky, Middle Tennessee, and a brilliant 270-pyard, three touchdown day against Kansas State. At 5-9 and 203 pounds he’s small, compact, and can cut on a dime, and he also has the hands and the move to be used as a regular receiver. There’s an NFL future for him as a possible third down back.

6. Chris Polk, Jr. Washington
The decision of Polk to forgo NFL riches may end up having as big an impact as Jake Locker’s was the year before. If he stays two more seasons, he’ll almost certainly own all of the Huskies’ rushing records, including being the only four-time 1,000-yard rusher. Chances are, the 5-11, 214 pounder won’t be around that long. Yet, he’ll still leave his mark as one of the greatest to ever carry the rock on Montlake. Polk finished 2010 with one of the greatest three-game stretches in program history when he kept the season alive with a two-point conversion at Cal, rushed for 284 yards in the Apple Cup, and was named the Offensive MVP of the Holiday Bowl after rushing for 177 yards against Nebraska. A versatile back, his specialty is yards after contact, keeping his feet churning and packing a nasty stiff-arm. Since the end of last season, he’s dropped weight while maintaining his lower-body strength. His leaner physique should mean a little extra burst and more homerun potential.


7. Michael Dyer, Soph. Auburn
Dyer saved the best for last in 2010, rushing for 143 yards and earning offensive MVP honors in the BCS Championship, while showing flashes throughout the year that he was ready to blow up when given the chance. The 5-9, 206 pound true sophomore has the size to take the pounding that comes with SEC football, but also the quickness to make defenders miss. A thick, downhill, power runner who was the 2009 Arkansas Player of the Year running for 2,502 yards and 12 touchdowns, he’s a phenomenal finisher, isn’t afraid to hit someone, and has the speed and quickness to bounce plays to the outside and take it the distance. This will be his offense this year, but he has to prove he can handle the work.

8. James White, Soph. Wisconsin
The Badgers already had a tremendous threesome in John Clay, Montee Ball, and Zach Brown to count on, but there was an ongoing rumbling out of practices early last year that the best back of the bunch was about to emerge. White seemed to provide a spark and a flash every time he got the opportunity, and he ended up playing a huge role as a true freshman with a team-leading 1,086 yards and 14 touchdowns averaging 6.7 yards per carry. He handle the work in the layup against Austin Peay, running for 145 yards and four scores, and after missing the second half of the Iowa game and all of the Purdue game with a knee injury, he was unstoppable with 144 yards and two scores against Indiana, 181 yards and two touchdowns against Michigan, and 134 yards and a score against Northwestern. At 5-10 and 202 pounds he’s a strong, tough runner who blasts through the hole and is terrific in the open field. He hasn’t had to be much of a workhorse last year, but he will.

9. Bernard Pierce, Jr. Temple
Pierce exploded onto the scene as a true freshman rushing for 1,361 yards and 16 touchdowns as a true freshman, and while he might be the MAC’s best player when healthy, staying in one piece has been a nagging problem. After breaking down late in 2009 with a shoulder injury, he came back to rock over the first few games of last year, highlighted by a 169-yard, two score day against UConn. But he suffered a hand injury the next week against Penn State, and then he was hit with an ankle problem, and then he missed the final two games of the year with a hamstring. The 6-0, 218-pounder is big, strong, fast, and great around the goal line, with ten rushing scores and 728 yards on the year. Now he has to prove he can handle the work.

10. Vick Ballard, Sr. Mississippi State
Ballard came to MSU as a good-looking JUCO transfer, tearing off 1,728 yards and 22 scores in 2009 for Mississippi Gulf Coast CC, and he was supposed to be a big part of the offense right away. It took about a month to become the main man, and then he blew up for 119 yards and three touchdowns against Alcorn State and followed it up with 134 yards and three scores against Houston, running the ball just 22 times total in the two games. He finished the year with a team-leading 968 yards and a whopping 19 scores, adding three touchdown runs against Arkansas and Michigan, and he even caught a touchdown pass in the win over Georgia. At 5-11 and 215 pounds, he’s not necessarily a thumper, but he’s physical, extremely quick, and is the perfect fit for what Dan Mullen wants to do with his spread attack.

11. Christine Michael, Jr. Texas A&M
12. Tauren Poole, Sr. Tennessee
13. Robert Turbin, Jr. Utah State
14. Montel Harris, Sr. Boston College
15. Rodney Stewart, Sr. Colorado
16. David Wilson, Jr. Virginia Tech
17. Dan Herron, Sr. Ohio State
18. Johnathan Franklin, Jr. UCLA
19. Isaiah Pead, Sr. Cincinnati
20. Jeff Demps, Sr. Florida
21. Ronnie Hillman, Soph. SDSU
22. Marcus Coker, Soph. Iowa
23. Montee Ball, Jr. Wisconsin
24. Doug Martin, Sr. Boise State
25. Ray Graham, Jr. Pitt
26. Ed Wesley, Jr. TCU
27. Zach Line, Jr. SMU
28. Bryce Brown, Soph. Kansas State
29. Andre Ellington, Jr. Clemson
30. Cyrus Gray, Sr Texas A&M

2011 CFN All-Americans & Top 30 Players
- Quarterbacks | Running Backs | Receivers | Tight Ends
- Offensive Tackles | Offensive Guards | Centers

- Defensive Ends | Defensive Tackles | Linebackers | Safeties
- Cornerbacks | Kickers | Punters | Kick Returners | Punt Returners