2012 Preseason Player Rankings - Running Back
Utah RB John White
Utah RB John White
Posted Aug 21, 2012

CFN's Top 30 Players of 2012 By Position - The Running Backs

Preview 2012

Player Rankings - RBs

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Note: This isn't a ranking of the top pro prospects.

2012 CFN Preseason Player Rankings  
Preview 2012 | Quarterbacks | Running Backs | Receivers
Tight Ends | Offensive Tackles | Offensive Guards | Centers 

Defensive Ends | Defensive Tackles | Linebackers
Cornerbacks | Safeties | Punters | Placekickers | Returners 

1. Montee Ball, Sr. Wisconsin
There were rumblings as a freshman that Ball might be special. The coaching staff loved to talk about his potential and made him a big part of the offense by the end of his freshman season. However, he fell a bit out of the mix in the first half of 2010 before coming on late to rip off five straight 100-yard games and 14 touchdowns on the way. After committing himself to a conditioning program he got in much better shape, and the results showed.

Robert Griffin III might have been brilliant and dynamic on the way to winning the Heisman, but Ball might have been the more valuable player tearing off 1,923 yards and 33 touchdowns on the ground with 24 catches for 306 yards and six scores as a receiver. Even as a marked man he still produced in the biggest games, and now, after multiple touchdowns in every game last season but the 2011 Rose Bowl he's now on a tear of epic proportions. Over his last 19 games he has rushed for 2,700 yards and has scored 53 times averaging 2.8 touchdowns per game. Most impressively, he has handled the ball 620 times in his career and has yet to lose a fumble.

At 5-11 and 212 pounds he has a low center of gravity with tremendous quickness – despite adding a little bit of good weight - and a pinball style that almost never allows defenders to get a clean shot. The coaching staff won't overuse him, especially after suffering a concussion from an off-campus fight, but he should be a lock for well over 250 carries and 1,500 yards.

2. Marcus Lattimore, Jr. South Carolina
It he healthy? When he's 100% he has No. 1 overall draft pick, revolve-the-franchise-around-him sort of talent in a day and age when the role of the top running backs have been diminished. But there's a big, giant if surrounding his health.

The 6-0, 210-pound junior has been overused with 412 carries and 48 catches in his 20 games of action, and for good reason. When the offense needed him – really, really needed him – he carried the load with 40 carries in the SEC East clinching win over Florida in 2010, and with 37 carries for 246 yards and three scores in the too-tough victory over Navy last year. He stepped right out of high school and scored ten touchdowns in his first six games, including a brilliant 37-carry, 182-yard day against Georgia in just the second game of his career, but he was beaten, battered and bruised, finishing off his true freshman campaign by getting blasted in the mouth on a huge hit against Florida State in the Chick-fil-A Bowl. Last year he was rumbling along before suffering a knee injury against Mississippi State that knocked him out for the season. Fortunately, the injury happened in mid-October, giving him just enough time to potentially come back and produce, but it's asking a lot to have the same blend of speed, power and quickness less than a year after the injury.

3. Knile Davis, Jr. Arkansas
Davis is getting a lot of respect – a lot of respect – considering he hasn't come up with a full season and he has to prove he's healthy. The 6-0, 226-pound power runner appeared ready for a monster 2011 before suffering an ankle injury in preseason camp. Fortunately, the injury happened in early August and he should be back to 100% by the start of the season, and now the Hogs get him for this season; he probably would've taken off for the NFL early had he played last year. But can he regain his form? An argument could be made that he was the best player in college football over the second half of the 2010 season – even over Cam Newton – running for 1,201 yards and 16 touchdowns over the last nine games. Over the last seven games, Davis went ballistic running for 100 yards or more in each game, with the one game under 100 yards an 82-yard, two score outing when he wasn't needed much in the blowout over Vanderbilt. Not just a hard charging power runner, he flashed decent speed averaging 6.5 yards per carry and a nose for the goal line with 12 of his 13 touchdown runs coming in the final seven games to go along with a receiving score against Mississippi State. Also a receiver, he can be the star of an offense that should be among the best in the SEC. But, again, he has to be healthy.

4. Joseph Randle, Jr. Oklahoma State
You probably didn't notice with Brandon Weeden and Justin Blackmon taking away most of the spotlight, but Randle was one of the most productive running backs in college football finishing with 1,216 yards and 24 touchdowns while catching 43 passes for 266 yards and two scores. The 6-1, 194-pound speed back is explosive and phenomenal when he gets a little room to run through averaging 5.8 yards per carry. While he only ran for 23 yards against Stanford and was held to 49 yards in the loss to Iowa State, he ripped off 151 yards and two scores against Oklahoma and had a two-game stretch against Missouri and Baylor when he ran 28 times for 290 yards and seven scores averaging 10.4 yards per carry. After not getting 20 carries in any of the last nine games he'll be have to carry more of the workload.

5. Robbie Rouse, Sr. Fresno State
In 2010, Rouse was the best running back in college football for a four-game stretch with 769 yards and seven scores turning a dominant stretch. He slowed down late, but he came back roaring in 2011 rushing for 1,549 yards and 13 touchdowns averaging 4.7 yards per carry. Also a receiver, he caught 32 passes for 228 yards and a touchdown as a key outlet target. At 5-7 and 185 pounds he's not all that big, but he runs with power and terrific speed through the hole. Ultra-quick, he's a home-run hitter who's a threat to do something big every time he touches the ball.

6. John White, Sr. Utah
7. Ray Graham, Sr. Pitt
8. Le'Veon Bell, Jr. Michigan State
9. Kenjon Barner, Sr. Oregon
10. Isi Sofele, Sr. California
11. Rex Burkhead, Sr. Nebraska
12. Cameron Marshall, Sr. Arizona State
13. Johnathan Franklin, Sr. UCLA
14. Lyle McCombs, Soph. UConn
15. Stepfan Taylor, Sr. Stanford
16. Fitzgerald Toussaint, Jr. Michigan
17. Malcolm Brown, Soph. Texas
18. Giovani Bernard, Soph. North Carolina
19. Branden Oliver, Jr. Buffalo
20. Montel Harris, Sr. Temple
21. Eddie Lacy, Jr. Alabama
22. Silas Redd, Jr. USC
23. Zach Line, Sr. SMU
24. Lache Seastrunk, Soph. Baylor
25. Charles Sims, Jr. Houston
26. Cierre Wood, Sr. Notre Dame
27. Orleans Darkwa, Jr. Tulane
28. Andre Ellington, Sr. Clemson
29. Christine Michael, Sr. Texas A&M
30. Latavius Murray, Sr. UCF