In 2012, the Mustang defense was pretty impressive against the run, allowing a mere 3.67 yards per rush, and just over 117 yards per game.
But that was against Conference-USA opponents, and this season, a tougher schedule awaits, accompanied by a stable of more competent running backs.
Here are the top five running backs the SMU defense will face this season:
5. Savon Huggins (Rutgers)
This season Huggins takes over the role of feature back for the Scarlet Knights with last year's starter Jawan Jamison off to the pros. Huggins was a consensus top-50 recruit coming out of high school and before deciding on Rutgers, considered the likes of Notre Dame and Penn State.
Based off statistics alone, Huggins may not yet fit the bill to be on this list, but this year, with the majority of carries his to have, Huggins has as much talent as any other running back in the AAC, and could put up as good of numbers as anyone else in the conference.
Huggins has a great combination of acceleration and ability to make quick cuts, making him extremely difficult to bring down by a single defender.
4. Storm Johnson (UCF)
Johnson's road to UCF has been a rocky one, considering he started out his career in Coral Gables with the Miami Hurricanes. Johnson, like Huggins was one of the best running back recruits in the country coming out of high school and last season, he proved why. While sharing carries with Latavious Murray, Johnson rushed for over 500 yards and four touchdowns.
This season, with Murray gone, Johnson will have the starting role to himself, and like Huggins, possesses all the talent to take the AAC by storm.
A preseason Doak Walker Award list candidate, Johnson has a good combination of size and speed and should be a great compliment to quarterback Blake Bortles, giving UCF a very balanced attack.
3. Lyle McCombs (UConn)
The Huskies, known mostly for its basketball program, have quietly put together a impressive string of running backs, with McCombs next in line. With a weak offensive line in font of him last season, McCombs was still able to put up an impressive stat line of 860 yards rushing and six touchdowns.
As a freshman, with a more stable offensive line, McCombs was a 1,000 yard rusher, meaning when he has the right talent around him he can be widely effective.
In 2013, with what should be a more improved line, McCombs should be able to reach the 1,000 yard mark once again.
2. Waymon James (TCU)
Last season was a rough one for the TCU running backs due to a knee injury to James, who ran for 875 yards and six touchdowns in 2011. With James back and seemingly fully recovered, he will give the TCU backfield much more credibility.
Last season, before the injury, James was a Doak Walker Awards list candidate, and ran for 168 yards in a game and a half before being injured, with a 9.9 yards per carry.
With all reports that James is healed from his ACL tear, he should be a sight for sore eyes for Horned Frogs fans, who saw the run game struggle after his injury.
1. Ben Malena (Texas A&M)
A year ago, in Kevin Sumlin's high tempo offense, Malena put together an impressive season of over 800 yards rushing and eight touchdowns while sharing carries with three other players.
Malena might not look the part of an SEC running back, listed at a generous 5-foot-9, but pound-for-pound is one of the strongest backs SMU will face this season.
This season, with or without Manziel at the helm, Malena should have just as a successful of a year. With Christine Michael gone, Malena should be able to eclipse 1,000 yards on the ground, even while sharing carries with Manziel and sophomore Trey Williams.
Breaking Down The Top 5 RBs SMU Will Face
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