Best in the Big Ten: Running Back

A look at the expected top five tailbacks in the Big Ten with the 2014 season still months away.

1: Ameer Abdullah - Nebraska

He's listed at 5-9, 190 pounds, but Abduallah plays much bigger than that. He's had the luxury of running behind a massive and experience Cornhuskers line, but he hasn't always had the help of a consistent passing game. The last two seasons, Abdullah has rushed 226 and 281 times, increasing his average per from 5.0 in 2012 to 6.0 last season. Entering his final season at Nebraska, the Homewood, Alabama native has the star power and big-time production it takes to give Nebraska a chance to rebound in 2014.

2013 stats: 281 carries, 1,690 yards (6.0 average per), 26 catches, 232 yards, 11 total touchdowns.

2: Melvin Gordon - Wisconsin

Oh, a Wisconsin running back finds himself near the top of the list? Big surprise. Gordon averaged nearly eight yards a carry in 2013, an impressive nod to his ability, the Badgers offensive line and the backfield mates that kept everybody fresh. At 6-1, 203-pounds, Gordon has the attention of NFL scouts after last season's effort, which included seven games with 140 yards or more. If teams hope to knock off Wisconsin in 2014, they'll have to shut down Gordon. In losses to Ohio State and Penn State last season, Gordon failed to hit 100 yards and didn't score.

2013 stats: 206 carries, 1,609 yards (7.8 average per), one reception, 10 yards, 12 total touchdowns.

3: Jeremy Langford - Michigan State

After a tough start last September, the Spartans sprang to life on offense to (finally) match the incredible performances put by the defense. Langford was a major factor in the success. After failing to reach the century mark in Michigan State's first five games, Lanford reeled off eight-straight 100-yard performances, helping the Spartans to an undefeated regular season and Big Ten title game win. He's both productive and dependable, tallying 21 or more carries in the team's final nine games.

2013 stats: 292 carries, 1,422 yards (4.9 average per), 28 receptions, 157 yards, 19 total touchdowns.

4: David Cobb - Minnesota

If you're looking for a guy to carry the load, Cobb is the man for the job. The 5-11, 225-pound senior rushed 237 times last season, including five games with at least 25 carries. His endurance and strength were evident, as his three top rushing performances (in terms of yards) all happened after the last week of October. The only knock on Cobb was his lack of touchdowns and it became clear in losses how important he was. Cobb was held to less than four yards a carry and failed to score a single touchdown in the Golden Gophers five defeats.

2013 stats: 237 carries, 1,202 yards (5.1 average per), 17 receptions, 174 yards, seven total touchdowns.

5: Josh Ferguson - Illinois

Ferguson proved himself to be a valuable piece for offensive coordinator Bill Cubit to put to use, as much of a threat to catch the football in 2013 as he was to run it. That versatility is why Ferguson cracks the list, but don't sleep on his rushing skills, either. While he doesn't show off the prototypical Big Ten look at 5-10, 185 pounds, the rising junior is tough runner that doesn't mind doing work between the tackles. His 5.5 yards per carry proves he's capable of doing damage as a traditional back and is not to be described as a change of pace due to his variety of roles.

2013 stats: 141 carries, 779 yards (5.5 average per), 50 receptions, 535 yards, 11 total touchdowns.


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