But with the departure of high-profile quarterbacks Sam Bradford,Colt McCoy and Zac Robinson, pass-happy Mike Leach being replaced ground-game minded Tommy Tuberville in Lubbock and teams needing to replace now NFL wide receivers in Jordan Shipley, Dez Briscoe and David Gettis...is this the year that the running back again dominates the Big 12?
This five guys sure hope so. Here's our look at the top 5 Big 12 running backs for the 2010 season.
The Sooners offense might not skip a beat. Sam Bradford basically left for the NFL after losing to UF in the 2009 Title Game due to an injury, and Ryan Broyles found a great rhythm with Landry Jones. Then there's Murray who may finally realize his potential with the backfield his and his alone. At least for now. Murray has battled injuries throughout his career, but if he can prove staying healthy isn't impossible he'll be an attractive prospect. Murray can help out in the return game, the passing game, and he's got some serious elusiveness in the open field when he's at 100%. He struggles with consistency, and his game can be more rounded than devastating, but his versatility should get him an early look.
Thomas is a big, bruising back in a quick man's world. It's no surprise that four of the first five backs chosen in 2010 ran sub 4.4 40s. Thomas has better wiggle than some big guys, and his build will keep him strong late in a game, but there's a dwindling emphasis on power runners. Still, it's hard to ignore his production and his lower body strength. He's a downhill runner with good acceleration and with another year, his vision and instincts should improve.
This is going to be interesting. For years, Mike Leach plumbed the region for unknown gems that fit his system. Now that system is gone, and guys like Batch could benefit. No longer will running back be an auxiliary position or a sixth receiver; they'll get to run. Batch is one of the fastest guys in pads in the league, and his second gear is an attractive trait in today's NFL. The fact that he's managed to earn over 1600 yards and 21 touchdowns on the ground over the past two seasons in a pass-happy offense speaks to his talent. Catching over 100 balls in that span makes him valuable in a passing, multi-back league.
Hunter is a bit of an enigma. As a sophomore he looked like the type of small back that would carve out a niche in the NFL, even if it wasn't a big one. But a junior injury, and a struggle to find the yards anyway, has left him looking a little less polished. Still, the room is there to bounce back and become that slippery touchdown machine that we remember. He runs with good leverage and a good pad level, which allows him to fit for yards inside like a bigger back, and his agility in the open field makes him a big play threat when combined with good speed. He won't be anyone's number one back, but with the right complement he could contribute nicely.
Helu might get a bigger look if the QB position fails to take a major step forward. If Zac Lee can't find better consistency and accuracy, the Husker offense may have to lean on their ground game in a major way… again. Helu has a decent frame, but lacks great bulk even though his running style favors the physical at times. His 5.4 yards per carry were the best in the Big 12 last season, and although he lacks elite top speed, he's got enough vision and lateral mobility to break first down runs. He may not be the flashiest back, but he wastes no movement and sucks the marrow out of every carry.
2010 NFL Draft doppelganger: Chris Brown, Oklahoma