SEC traditionalists will be heartened in 2010. After spending several years watching their rough-and-tumble league dominated by, of all things, quarterbacks, the ball carriers are set to regain their rightful place atop the pecking order. Alabama, which boasts the top two names on this list, ought to be embarrassed by its riches, but it's probably not. After the "Tide Two" at the top, there's a ton of potential down the list.
Rankings: Quaterbacks | Running Backs | Wideouts | Tight Ends | Overall Units
#1 - Mark Ingram, Alabama, junior, 5-10, 220 pounds
Vital Statistics: Averaged 6.1 yards per carry and 10.4 yards per catch while gaining 1,658 yards and scoring 17 touchdowns on the ground; led the SEC with 20 total touchdowns.
The book on Ingram: The reigning Heisman Trophy winner does everything well. If he was an inch or two taller, he'd have prototypical NFL size, and he's a powerful slasher who averaged at least 5.3 yards per carry in all but three games a year ago. He lacks elite speed, but he also doesn't get enough credit for his value as a receiver. He averaged more than 7 yards per reception in nine games last year. Las Vegas has made Ingram the preseason favorite to win another Heisman, and the only reason he's not a heavier favorite is the No. 2 name on this list.
#2 - Trent Richardson, Alabama, sophomore, 5-11, 220 pounds
Vital Statistics: Ran 145 times for 751 yards and eight touchdowns as reserve.
The book on Richardson: Imagine if Ingram were an inch taller and a step faster. Crimson Tide fans don't even have to imagine it. All they have to do is look at the No. 2 back on the depth chart. A product of the same Pensacola, Fla., high school that produced Emmitt Smith, Richardson is a physical specimen. He won the Florida state high school weightlifting championship, and he finished 10th in the SEC in yards per game (53.6) despite playing behind the Heisman Trophy winner. It's not likely Richardson will replace Ingram as the starter this year, but it's not impossible either.
#3 - Warren Norman, Vanderbilt, sophomore, 5-10, 188 pounds
Vital Statistics: Rushed for 783 yards on 145 carries and also gained 1,050 yards and scored three touchdowns on kickoff returns.
The book on Norman: Haven't heard of Norman? Shame on you. The third-leading returning rusher in the SEC was the league's freshman of the year last season after breaking Herschel Walker's record for all-purpose yards by a freshman in a season with 1,941, and he was the first freshman to lead the SEC in all-purpose yardage (161.8 yards per game) since Walker did it in 1980. That's reason enough for his spot on the list, and it doesn't even include the fact that he tied an SEC record with three kickoff returns for touchdowns. Norman makes the 'Dores interesting to watch.
#4 - Washaun Ealey, Georgia, sophomore, 5-11, 205 pounds
Vital Statistics: Gained 717 yards and scored three touchdowns on 125 carries while sharing carries in the Bulldogs' backfield.
The book on Ealey: It may be a stretch to put Ealey this high on the list. Is he the back who didn't get a single carry in the first four games of the year or is he the back who gained 183 yards on 20 carries in the regular-season finale against Georgia Tech? If he runs with the same passion he had against the Yellow Jackets (when he wrote 'I Run This State' on his eye black), he will be a star for the Bulldogs. He will have to share carries with Caleb King, who many Georgia fans feel is the better runner of the tandem, but that should be offset by how heavily the Bulldogs will rely on the run this season.
#5 - Derrick Locke, Kentucky, senior, 5-9, 191 pounds
Vital Statistics: Gained 907 yards on 195 carries and 284 yards on 31 catches; scored nine all-purpose touchdowns.
The book on Locke: Among returning backs in the SEC, only Ingram rushed for more yards than Locke, who averaged 75.6 yards per game in his first season coming back from a season-ending knee injury in 2008. Locke, who was recruited to Kentucky as a long jumper, finished 14th nationally last year in kickoff return average (27.8 yards per kick). His speed had not fully returned last year. If it does this season, he'll be even more dangerous.
#6 - Caleb King, Georgia, junior, 5-11, 210 pounds
Vital Statistics: Rushed for 519 yards and seven touchdowns on 114 carries.
The book on King: What to make of King? Often-injured and occasionally unmotivated, he still finished ninth in the SEC in rushing last year. His sophomore season at Georgia was much like his entire career, a rollercoaster. King averaged 2.8 yards per carry against Vanderbilt and 3.8 against Florida but then averaged 9.2 per carry in gaining 166 yards in the regular season finale. The good news for Bulldog fans is he may have discovered a nose for the end zone late last year. King rushed for six touchdowns in the final four games.
#7 - Jeff Demps, Florida, junior, 5-8, 184 pounds
Vital Statistics: Rushed for 745 yards on 99 carries last year and caught eight passes for 52 yards.
The book on Demps: Yes, Florida has running backs. It has been easy to forget that with Tim Tebow doing most everything the last three seasons. Tebow's replacement, John Brantley, is not a running threat so the Gators have to find a rusher. Luckily for them, they have Demps, who posted a sub-10.0 in the 100-meter dash this track season. He's coming back from a broken arm suffered in the bowl game, but there's nothing wrong with his legs.
#8 - Onterio McCalebb, Auburn, sophomore, 5-10, 175 pounds
Vital Statistics: Rushed for 565 yards on 105 carries and averaged 9.7 yards on six catches last year.
The book on McCalebb: This is where the list gets more speculative. McCalebb, one of the nation's top recruits two years ago, gained more than 100 yards in each of the Tigers' first two games before hitting a string of injuries. By the time McCalebb regained his strength, Ben Tate had taken hold of the starting job. McCalebb is a burner who will be in lots of places for offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn.
#9 - Broderick Green, Arkansas, junior, 6-2, 248 pounds
Vital Statistics: Gained 442 yards on 104 carries.
The book on Green: There is no questioning Green's talent. He was a Parade All-American coming out of Pulaski High School in Arkansas when he signed with Southern Cal. After a homesick first season in L.A., he came back home. Green is an NFL-type back with his size and pass protection skills, and Bobby Petrino runs a pro-style offense- it's a perfect fit. As defenses gang up against quarterback Ryan Mallett, look out for Green.
#10 - Marcus Lattimore, South Carolina, freshman, 6-0, 207 pounds
Vital Statistics: Gained 1,898 yards and scored 31 touchdowns last year at nationally ranked Byrnes High School.
The book on Lattimore: Nothing to base this one on but hope, but the Gamecock fans have tons of hope where Lattimore is concerned. He has it all. He was Scout.com's No. 1 running back in the country last year and spurned dozens of other top schools to stay at home and play. He could be a star under Steve Spurrier, who will use him to carry the ball and catch it out of the backfield.