2006 Unit Rankings – Running Backs

Posted Aug 27, 2006

Preview 2006 Unit Rankings Running Backs  

Offenses | Quarterbacks | Receivers | Offensive Lines
Defenses | Def. Lines | Linebackers | Secondaries | Spec. Teams

1. Georgia
New running back coach Tony Ball has one of the nation's best stable of backs to work with. Thomas Brown, Kregg Lumpkin and Danny Ware are all good enough to start for anyone in America, and they form a great three-headed monster that should be more productive than is was last year when the ground game only averaged 162 yards per game. The only problem is that none of the backs ever get into a groove because of the rotation, but all three average around five yards per crack. There's speed, but there weren't enough home runs last year. Once Brannan Southerland recovers from a shoulder injury, the fullback situation will be fantastic helped by the return of Des Williams from a torn pectoral muscle.

2. California

There are few better 1-2 punches in America than Marshawn Lynch and Justin Forsett. They'll each crank out 1,000 yards if they each stay healthy with Lynch sure to flirt with the 2,000-yard mark if the offensive line can make the necessary replacements to be nearly as good as last year. Marcus O'Keith might be the nation's best number three back. Fullback won't be an issue with Byron Storer an excellent replacement for Chris Manderino.

3. Louisville
That holler of excitement you heard a few months ago was the Louisville coaching staff when Michael Bush announced he was returning for his senior season. The big, bruising touchdown maker will be among the nation's leading scorers, but he won't be in the Heisman hunt with Kolby Smith and George Stripling taking away too many carries and too many yards. Speed isn't an issue for this group with home-run hitting ability down the line
. A little more production in the passing game would be nice, but that's nitpicking.

4. Arkansas
The nation's best young backfield appears to be on the verge of becoming unstoppable. Darren McFadden and Felix Jones are lightning fast home-run hitters with the hands to be used at wide receiver if needed. Fullback Peyton Hillis led the team in receiving last season and will see time as a power runner. If that wasn't enough, cut-on-a-dime quick Michael Smith is back after being hurt last year.

5. Oklahoma
Adrian Peterson is the best back in college football and should be a threat for 2,000 yards if he can stay healthy. The backup situation is a question mark needing to see what top recruits DeMarco Murray, Mossis Madu and Chris Brown can bring this fall. Allen Patrick was the number two back throughout spring, but the former defensive back should quickly get pushed aside by the young stars. Longtime starting fullback J.D. Runnels will be replaced by 242-pound Dane Zaslaw.

6. Texas
This is one of the few teams that tailback-by-committee is a positive. Selvin Young and Jamaal Charles will get far more work without Vince Young's 155 carries to rely on. Henry Melton is a powerful back who'll also get more carries. The one downside is the loss of the team's all-purpose running star Ramonce Taylor after issues due to marijuana possession, but there's more than enough talent to pick up the slack.

7. West Virginia
The emergence of Steve Slaton out of nowhere made a good running back situation special. Jason Colson is a solid number two back who could be an All-Big East runner if he turned into the number one man. Owen Schmitt grew into one of the nation's best fullback, and there are speedy options waiting in the wings. Quarterback Pat White will be a part of the rushing total, but this group of runners could combine for 2,500 yards on their own.

8. Auburn
What was seen as a potential problem before last season after losing Carnell Williams and Ronnie Brown turned into a positive with the emergence of Kenny Irons, who not only led the SEC in rushing, but also made life easier for new starting QB Brandon Cox. Brad Lester is a good second option who just needs a little more work to be a star. You could do a lot worse than have big Carl Stewart and veteran Tre Smith carrying the ground game. The fullbacks are purely blockers. Mike McLaughlin has to show he can handle the full-time workload, but he should grow into a dominant run blocker.

9. Clemson
Is this the ACC's best backfield? If not, it's close with three great options and a true freshman in C.J. Spiller that might turn out to be the best of the bunch. James Davis is a 1,000-yard back waiting to happen with the hands and moves to do everything for the offense, while Reggie Merriweather is a productive, experienced number two back who can handle the starting job if needed. Demerick Chancellor is one of the team's fastest players and should be used as a big play back throughout the year. Alex Pearson is a big blocking fullback who should be a fine replacement for Cliff Harrell.

10. Navy
The backfield is loaded with speed and experience, but the real excitement is over fullback Adam Ballard who turned into a dangerous, explosive runner down the stretch. Trey Hines is fully healthy and should finally live up to his promise as one of the fastest backs in Navy history. Poinsettia Bowl star Reggie Campbell returns, as does fullback Matt Hall from a knee injury. Also look for this group to be great at catching the ball.

11 Maryland ACC
12 Tennessee SEC
13 Northwestern Big Ten
14 TCU M-West
15 Iowa   Big Ten
16 Alabama SEC
17 Texas A&M Big 12 
18 Michigan Big Ten
19 Ohio State Big Ten
20 Rutgers Big East
21 Northern Illinois MAC
22 Oregon State  Pac 10
23 USC Pac 10
24 Illinois Big Ten
25 Miami   ACC
26 Oklahoma State Big 12 
27 Boston College  ACC
29 Notre Dame Ind
30 San Diego State M-West
31 Florida State  ACC
32 Connecticut Big East
33 Arizona State Pac 10
34 Virginia Tech ACC
35 Penn State Big Ten
36 South Carolina SEC
37 Iowa State Big 12 
38 Michigan State Big Ten
39 Kansas State Big 12 
40 Oregon Pac 10
41 Wisconsin Big Ten
43 BYU M-West
44 North Carolina ACC
45 UCLA Pac 10
46 Florida   SEC
47 Kentucky SEC
48 Washington Pac 10
49 UL Lafayette Sun Belt
50 Wake Forest ACC
51 North Texas Sun Belt
52 Fresno State WAC
53 NC State ACC
54 Marshall CUSA
55 Georgia Tech ACC
56 Nebraska Big 12 
57 Missouri Big 12 
58 Boise State WAC
59 Central Michigan  MAC
60 Kansas Big 12 
61 Ohio MAC
62 Toledo MAC
63 Minnesota Big Ten
64 Purdue Big Ten
65 Miami Univ. MAC
66 Wyoming  M-West
67 Washington State Pac 10
68 Virginia ACC
69 Colorado   Big 12 
70 Colorado State M-West
71 East Carolina CUSA
72 Memphis CUSA
73 Mississippi   SEC
74 Nevada WAC
75 Texas Tech Big 12 
77 Tulsa CUSA
78 SMU $("#send-to-blogger").attr("href", "http://www.blogger.com/blog_this.pyra?t=" + escape($('#story-deck').html()) + "&u=" + escape(location.href) + "&n=" + escape($('#story-title').html()));