Big 12’s Top Five Returning RBs

This is the second in our series as a panel of 10 Big 12 reporters break down the conference position-by-position.

Unlike the quarterback position where Baylor’s Bryce Petty was a unanimous selection as the No. 1 returning quarterback in the Big 12, the votes for the best returning running back were split among four players. Shock Linwood of Baylor was voted the No. 1 returning running back despite picking up only two first-place votes.

The reporters were asked to rank the top five with five points going to the No. 1 spot, four to No. 2, three to No. 3, and so on.

1. Shock Linwood, So., Baylor, 41 points (2 first-place votes)
Linwood earned Freshman All-America recognition a year ago while battling for playing time in Baylor’s crowded backfield. As a freshman backup, he averaged an eye-popping 6.9 yards per carry (second best to teammate Lache Seastrunk’s 7.4 yards) and had four 100-yard games despite starting only two games in 2013. His 881 rushing yards set the Baylor record for a freshman, breaking the previous mark of 843 set by Robert Griffin III in 2008. Linwood ran for 182 yards on 23 carries in win over Oklahoma (the 14th-best rushing game in school history) to earn Big 12 Offensive Player of the Week honors. He earned his first start in week nine and responded with a season-high 187 rushing yards and a TD on 29 attempts (the 11th highest single-game total in Baylor history).
2013 stats: 128 carries for 881 yards (6.9), 8 TDs.

2. Malcolm Brown, Sr., Texas, 33 points (4 first-place votes)
The Big 12’s leading returning rusher with 904 yards and nine TDs a year ago. Brown had five 100-yard rushing games in 2013 to become the 11th player in school history to post five or more 100-yard games in a season. He became a workhorse late in the season, rushing for 128 yards (on 27 carries) against Texas Tech, 131 yards (on 25 attempts) versus Baylor, and running for 130 yards (on 26 carries) against Oregon. He had six touches for 112 all-purpose yards against New Mexico State, including a career-long touchdown reception of 74 yards, which is the third-longest by a running back in UT history. Brown became only the 10th player in school history to post four or more rushing touchdowns in one game with his career-high four rushing TDs against Kansas. Brown ranks 17th on the school’s career rushing list.
2013 stats: 214 carries for 904 yards (4.2), 9 TDs; 17 receptions for 195 yards, 2 TDs.

3. Johnathan Gray, Jr., Texas, 25 points (3 first-place votes)
Gray is coming back from a season-ending Achilles injury which he suffered against West Virginia. The knee injury prevented him from playing in the final four games of the 2013 season. He started eight of the Longhorns first nine games, finishing second on the team with 780 rushing yards and four touchdowns. Gray recorded career highs in rushing yards (141), all-purpose yards (151) and rushing touchdowns (2) vs. Kansas State, and became just the second Longhorn to rush for more than 100 yards against the Wildcats (Jackie Fields, 161 in 1942). Gray finished with 123 rushing yards on a career-high 29 carries against Oklahoma as he and Malcolm Brown (120) each rushed for more than 100 yards. It was the 31st time in school history (and the first against OU) that two Longhorns rushed for 100 yards in the same game.
2013 stats: 159 carries for 780 yards (4.9), 4 TDs; 15 receptions for 61 yards.

4. Desmond Roland, Sr., Oklahoma State, 24 points (1 first-place vote)
Roland got his first career start against Iowa State and didn’t let it go to waste. He ran for a team-best 219 yards against the Cyclones and never looked back, starting the final seven games for the Cowboys. Not only did he lead OSU with 811 rushing yards but Roland also led the team in touchdowns (13 rushing and 3 receiving). In addition to his performance against Iowa State, he rushed for 144 yards and two TDs on 21 carries against Oklahoma and had a 15-yard scoring catch. Roland had only 147 rushing yards and two TDs in his first six games but as a starter he ran for 664 yards and 11 TDs in the final seven games.
2013 stats: 176 carries for 811 yards (4.6), 13 TDs; nine receptions for 83 yards, 3 TDs.

5. Aaron Wimberly, Sr., Iowa State, 14 points
Wimberly was one of the conference’s most versatile backs in his first season in the conference, accumulating 980 all-purpose yards in 10 games last season after transferring from Iowa Western junior college. He missed two games with injuries. He ran for a career-high 137 yards against Tulsa, including a season-long rush of 35 yards. The next week he finished with 117 rushing yards and two touchdowns (one rushing and one receiving) to become the first Cyclone with two-straight 100-yard games on the ground since Alexander Robinson in 2010.
2013 stats: 141 carries for 567 yards (4.0), 2 TDs; 980 all-purpose yards (567 rushing, 211 receiving, 202 kick returns).

Others running backs receiving votes: B.J. Catalon, TCU (6 points), Keith Ford, OU (5), Dreamius Smith, WVU (2), Tony Pierson, KU (1), Kenny Williams, Tech (1).

Recruiting Angle: “The stars have come out at the running back position. Texas boasts a pair of former No. 1 rated Texas running backs and five star recruits in its backfield this season, and Oklahoma State has a former Scout four-star. Still the fast-paced offense has helped Baylor become a terror as Linwood – a former three-star – is the most feared rusher heading in to the season.” – Greg Powers, Scout com National Recruiting Analyst

The voter panel: Jeremy Clark - HornedFrog, Jarret Johnson -, Kevin Kinder -, Greg Powers -, Bob Przybylo -, Trey Scott -, Terry Tush -, Tim Watkins -, William Wilkerson -, Derek Young -

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