2011 CFN Preview - Unit Rankings, RBs
Auburn RB Michael Dyer
Auburn RB Michael Dyer
Posted Aug 16, 2011

CFN 2011 Preview Unit Rankings from top to bottom - Running Backs

Preview 2011 - Unit Rankings

Running Backs

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2011 CFN Preseason Rankings
1 to 5 | 6 to 10 | 11 to 20 | 21 to 30 | 31 to 40 | 41 to 50
51 to 60 | 61 to 70 | 71 to 80 | 81 to 90 | 91 to 100 | 101 to 110 | 111 to 120

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CFN 2011 Unit Rankings
- Offenses | Quarterbacks | Running Backs | Receivers | Offensive Lines
- Defenses | Defensive Lines | Linebackers | Secondaries  | Special Teams  
- Preview 2011 | 2010 Unit Rankings

Note: This is based on talent, returning starters, and skill. It's not necessarily based on what the final total offense statistics will be.

1. Oregon
If there's a more talented collection of running backs in America, it's probably playing in the NFL. Oregon ranked fourth nationally in rushing and averaged almost six yards a carry for good reason—it's flush with depth and mercurial speed up and down the depth chart. LaMichael James is a returning is a returning All-American and Doak Walker winner, the backup, Kenjon Barner, would start for at least 90 other programs, and the freshmen had their choice of destinations coming out of high school.

2. Auburn
If Michael Dyer and Onterio McCalebb can both stay healthy, they should put up big numbers, but they have to prove they can do it for a full season and with everyone keying on them. The spotlight is on, and they have a lot of production to fill with the loss of Cam Newton. They'll be great, Tre Mason will play his role, and the Tigers should be among the SEC's leaders in rushing.

3. Alabama
The starting threesome in the Bama backfield is as good as any in America ... even without Mark Ingram. There's NFL talent, speed, power, and the ability to crank out big yards no matter who's handling the ball. Trent Richardson will be the workhorse, but he doesn't need to be with other phenomenal options ready to handle the work whenever needed. The only question mark is proven full-season production, and while the numbers will still be there, losing a leading rusher like Ingram is still a negative.

4. TCU
TCU might not have the brand name running backs that other top programs do, but it can boast one of the deepest rotations in college football with the three top runners back and a slew of tremendous prospects waiting in the wings to show what they can do. The team ran for 3,415 yards and 41 touchdowns last year, and while the quarterbacks will be a factor in the equation, there's enough depth and talent at running back to do most of the heavy lifting. Consider it a stunner if Ed Wesley, Matthew Tucker and Waymon James don't combine for over 2,000 yards.

5. Wisconsin
Wisconsin always plugs in very good backs and the production always comes, and Montee Ball and James White have the talent and potential to continue to crank out huge yards. The two should combine for well over 2,000 yards, but more backs will be used to keep everyone fresh. Jeffrey Lewis and Melvin Gordon will see time, and the opportunities will be there for others to step up and star when given a shot. As always, consider it a shock if Wisconsin doesn't finish in the top 15 in rushing, and with more of a running quarterback in Wilson, being in the top ten is possible.

6. Texas A&M
The ground game isn't going to be the second banana next to what should be a terrific passing attack. Cyrus Gray and Christine Michael are too good to not feed the ball to at least 35 times a game, but the unit also needs to develop some reliable and quality backups for the near future. Gray is a high-character guy and a leader, and while his role might be diminished a bit after carrying the load at the end of last year he's not the type who'll sulk in any way. Michael and Gray have the potential to each be 1,000-yard backs depending on how the offense operates.

7. Arkansas
Knile Davis had Doak Walker potential and could've been a threat for 2,000 yards. Now that he's out, the depth kicks in. This is one of the deepest backfields in America, and it's a big group that can move. While the spring wasn't that great, and the loss of Broderick Green and Davis hurts, this should still be one of the team's biggest strengths. While the passing attack gets all the headlines, the running game doesn't get ignored. No, the numbers aren't there compared to the top rushing teams, but going back to the Louisville days, Bobby Petrino's teams always run effectively. It's not exactly going to be back to the days of Darren McFadden and Felix Jones, but the Hogs are loaded with talented backs who can carry the workload.

8. South Carolina
As long as No. 21 is healthy and rolling, South Carolina will be special. The team can battle for another division title if Marcus Lattimore has a mediocre year, or gets hurt, but forget about winning the SEC championship without him. The key will be getting more out of the reserves. No. 2 rusher Brian Maddox is gone meaning Kenny Miles has to go back to his 2009 form. Lattimore might be the nation's best running back, and he raised the Gamecock offense to another level on his own.

9. Florida State
From tailback to fullback, the Seminoles return intact from last season and bring back their top three ground-gainers. The backfield will boast a nice mix of veteran talent, placing the pressure on the coaching staff to use each weapon wisely and keep everyone happy. None of the trio averaged less than 5.7 yards a carry, fueling the ACC's fourth-ranked running game. Figure there to be some kind of a committee approach with Chris Thompson, Jermaine Thomas, and Ty Jones, with at least one of the promising rookies sitting out as a redshirt. The ‘Noles are likely to go with the hot hand, making it unlikely one back will be in the starting lineup from wire-to-wire.

10. Washington
If Chris Polk's shoulder problems don't flare up, Washington will boast its best backfield in years. To help keep him fresh, the staff plans to spread the carries around a bit more, a luxury it'll have with the depth and talent that's currently at its disposal. With backups like Jesse Callier and Deontae Cooper, the Huskies won't need the workhorse, Polk, to shoulder the entire load. On the other hand, if he starts off 2011 the way he finished 2010, he could rush for considerably more yards on fewer carries.


Air Force M-West
Army Ind
Boston College ACC
Clemson ACC
Florida SEC
Georgia Tech ACC
Kansas State Big 12
Michigan Big Ten
Michigan State Big Ten
Mississippi State SEC
Navy ind
Nevada WAC
Ohio State Big Ten
Oklahoma Big 12
Ole Miss SEC
Stanford Pac-12
Temple MAC
Vanderbilt SEC
Virginia Tech ACC


Arizona State Pac-12
Arizona Pac-12
Boise State M-West
California Pac-12
Cincinnati Big East
Colorado   Pac-12
Connecticut Big East
Fresno State WAC
Georgia SEC
Houston C-USA
Illinois Big Ten
Iowa Big Ten
Louisville  Big East
Maryland  ACC
Miami   ACC
Missouri Big 12
Nebraska Big Ten
North Texas Sun Belt
Northern Illinois MAC
Notre Dame ind
Oklahoma State Big 12
Oregon State Pac-12
Penn State Big Ten
Pitt Big East
Purdue Big Ten
San Diego State M-West
South Florida Big East
Southern Miss C-USA
Tennessee SEC
Texas Big 12
Texas Tech Big 12
UCLA  Pac-12
USC Pac-12
Utah   Pac-12
Utah State WAC
Virginia   ACC
Wake Forest ACC
Western Kentucky Sun Belt


Baylor Big 12
Arkansas State Sun Belt
FIU Sun Belt
Indiana  Big Ten
Iowa State Big 12
Kansas Big 12
Kentucky SEC
Louisiana Tech WAC
Minnesota Big Ten
NC State ACC
North Carolina ACC
Northwestern Big Ten
Rice C-USA
Rutgers  Big East
Syracuse Big East
Toledo MAC
Tulane C-USA
Tulsa C-USA
West Virginia Big East


Ball State MAC
Duke ACC
Florida Atlantic Sun Belt
New Mexico   M-West
Troy Sun Belt
Washington State Pac-12
Western Michigan MAC


Buffalo MAC
Central Michigan MAC
Colorado State M-West
East Carolina C-USA
Idaho WAC
Kent State MAC
Marshall C-USA
Memphis C-USA
Middle Tennessee Sun Belt
New Mexico State WAC
Ohio   MAC


Akron MAC
Bowling Green MAC
Eastern Michigan MAC
Hawaii WAC
Miami Univ. MAC
San Jose State WAC
UL Lafayette Sun Belt
UL Monroe Sun Belt
Wyoming M-West

CFN 2011 Unit Rankings
- Offenses | Quarterbacks | Running Backs | Receivers | Offensive Lines
- Defenses | Defensive Lines | Linebackers | Secondaries  | Special Teams  
- Preview 2011 | 2010 Unit Rankings