Who Will Run the Pac-10 in 2009?

With the Golden Bears taking the week off from spring practice for spring break, Cal Sports Digest looks at the top running back corps for 2009 in the Pac-10 Conference.

A lot of offensive firepower at the quarterback and receiver position has left the Pac-10 and their skills will be on display in the NFL next season. Bu there is a lot of talent at the running back position remaining. It's very possible that the team with the best ground attack could win the conference title in 2009.

1. California Golden Bears

Not only do the Bears have the best back in the conference in Jahvid Best, but Best might be the best running back in the country.

He will be a leading candidate for the Heisman Trophy next season. He has exceptional speed and is very explosive in the open field. Best finished last season with 1,580 rushing yards, 15 touchdowns, and averaged an amazing 8.1 yards per carry. He is also very effective in the passing game and should be a bigger part of the Bears passing offense this season.

California's back-up Shane Vereen also has a lot of talent. He is not as fast as Best, but he has very good speed. He recorded 715 yards rushing with four touchdowns, averaged 5.0 ypc. He also tied for second on the team with 27 receptions.

It will be very hard for opposing defenses to stop these two players because they are threats running and catching the ball. Redshirt freshman Covaughn DeBoskie and incoming four-star Dasarte Yarnway will add some thunder to the lightening fast duo of Best and Vereen giving the Bears a more diverse unit from a year ago.

2. USC Trojans

The Trojans offense will miss Mark Sanchez and Patrick Turner, but USC returns Stafon Johnson and Joe McKnight.

McKnight was considered the best back in his class when he entered USC, but Johnson has been the more productive of the two.

Johnson is a very effective inside runner and has enough speed to take it the distance. He led the Trojan running backs with nine touchdowns and finished with 705 rushing yards.

McKnight finished last season with 659 rushing yards and averaged 7.4 ypc. The Trojans coaching staff has planned on using McKnight in the same manner that Reggie Bush was used. If he can remain healthy this season, he will not only get a lot of carries, but he will also line up as a slot receiver on a number of occasions.

The first part of the season Johnson and McKnight will be counted on to lead the USC offense while Mitch Mustain/Aaron Corp adjusts to being the new starting quarterback.

3. Oregon State Beavers

The Beavers upset USC last season and cost the Trojans a chance at the national championship mainly because freshmen running back Jacquizz Rogers was unstoppable for OSU.

He was a big reason why the Beavers went 7-2 in the Pac-10 and came very close to making it to the Rose Bowl. Rogers at only 5-foot-7 is very hard for defenders to locate once he gets behind his offensive linemen in the open field. He rushed for 1,253 yards, averaged 4.8 ypc and scored 11 touchdowns. Rogers also caught 29 passes.

If Oregon State plans to sustain what they accomplished last season, Rogers will have to have the same production or better and Ryan McCants will have to continue to be a reliable backup. McCants at 6-foot-1, 240 pounds should be very good in goaline and short yardage situations.

4. Oregon Ducks

Last season, LeGarrette Blount and Jeremiah Johnson were one of the best 1-2 punches in college football.

With Johnson about to be selected in the NFL Draft the work load this season will fall on the shoulders of Blount.

In 2008, Blount finished with 1,002 yards rushing and 17 touchdowns. Defenses will not be able to key on Blount this season, because quarterback Jeremiah Masoli is a threat to run the ball on any play. Masoli rushed for 718 yards and finished with 10 rushing touchdowns. The combination of Blount and Masoli will have the Ducks in the running for the Pac-10 title.

2008 Pac-10 Rushing Leaders

RUSHING Cl G Att. Yards Avg. TD Long Avg/G
1. Best, Jahvid-CAL SO 12 194 1580 8.1 15 86 131.7
2. Rodgers, Jacquizz-OSU FR 11 259 1253 4.8 11 33 113.9
3. Gerhart, Toby-STAN JR 12 210 1136 5.4 15 46 94.7
4. Jeremiah Johnson-ORE SR 13 168 1201 7.1 13 83 92.4
5. Grigsby, N.-ARIZ SO 13 214 1153 5.4 13 55 88.7
6. LeGarrette Blount-ORE JR 13 137 1002 7.3 17 72 77.1
7. McKnight, Joe-USC SO 11 89 659 7.4 2 55 59.9
8. Jeremiah Masoli-ORE SO 12 127 718 5.7 10 66 59.8
9. Kimble, Anthony-STAN SR 12 120 717 6.0 6 83 59.8
10. Vereen, Shane-CAL FR 13 142 715 5.0 4 81 55.0

1. Oregon 13 585 3641 6.2 47 280.1
2. Stanford 12 490 2395 4.9 26 199.6
3. USC 13 503 2533 5.0 27 194.8
4. California 13 435 2421 5.6 22 186.2
5. Arizona 13 504 2059 4.1 33 158.4
6. Oregon State 13 487 2055 4.2 21 158.1
7. Washington 12 419 1192 2.8 13 99.3
8. Washington State 13 450 1236 2.7 13 95.1
9. Arizona State 12 369 1069 2.9 7 89.1
10. UCLA 12 379 993 2.6 10 82.8

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