Rating SEC running backs

There appears to be no Herschel Walker, Bo Jackson, Jamal Lewis, Cadillac Williams or Darren McFadden in Southeastern Conference football this fall.

McFadden and Arkansas backfield mate Felix Jones bypassed their senior seasons in favor of first-round NFL Draft contracts. Five more quality running backs – Rafael Little (Kentucky), Jacob Hester (LSU), BenJarvus Green-Ellis (Ole Miss), Thomas Brown (Georgia) and Cory Boyd (South Carolina) – exhausted their eligibility last fall, leaving the SEC with no clearcut No. 1 rusher. There is no shortage of contenders, however.

The guy getting the preseason hype is Georgia's Knowshon Moreno. Incredibly, he spent one year redshirting and half of another year riding the bench before getting his chance midway through the 2007 season. Was he a one-year flash or will he build on his productive rookie season? Time will tell.

That said, here's one man's ranking of the SEC's 12 projected first-team running backs for 2008:

1. Knowshon Moreno (Georgia): He rushed for 1,334 yards and 14 touchdowns as a redshirt freshman, averaging a healthy 5.4 yards per carry. Some NFL analysts project him as a top-10 pick for the 2009 Draft should he choose to come out early.

2. Arian Foster (Tennessee): Finally enjoying a healthy season, Foster rushed for 1,193 yards and 12 TDs last fall, with a solid 4.9 per-carry average. He seems poised for a big senior year.

3. Keiland Williams (LSU): This 5-11, 227-pounder helped the Tigers win the 2007 national title, rushing for 478 yards and averaging 6.8 per carry as the chief backup to Jacob Hester last fall.

4. Terry Grant (Alabama): After rushing for 891 yards and 8 touchdowns in 2007, he should improve those numbers considerably in '08.

5. Ben Tate (Auburn): He ran for 903 yards in 2007, despite splitting time with Brad Lester.

6. Anthony Dixon (Mississippi State): He piled up 1,066 yards and 14 TDs last fall but averaged a mere 3.7 per carry. He needs a complementary threat to take some of the heat off of him.

7. Kestahn Moore (Florida): He could lose his job if Southern Cal transfer Emmanuel Moody learns to hold onto the ball.

8. Mike Davis (South Carolina): He rushed for 549 yards and averaged 4.5 per carry backing up Cory Boyd last fall.

9. Michael Smith (Arkansas): He didn't get much chance to prove himself stuck behind McFadden and Jones. At 5-7 and 174 pounds, he may not be durable enough to carry 20 times per game.

10. Jeff Jennings (Vanderbilt): He ran for 346 yards last year as the primary backup to Cassen Jackson-Garrison.

WAIT AND SEE

- Alfonso Smith (Kentucky): He ran for 170 yards on just 20 carries in the spring game, for what it's worth.

- Cordera Eason (Ole Miss): The 6-1, 235-pounder spent his freshman and sophomore years watching BenJarvus Green-Ellis get most of the carries.


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