Pac-12 Running Back Rankings

Jun. 11 -- The Pac-12 running back rankings are led by a talented group from Oregon. Then you have some elite talents like UCLA's Paul Perkins and Utah's Devontae Booker. Will there be a freshman sensation like Arizona's Nick Wilson?..

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Here I take a look at the positional ranking of the running back position in the Pac-12. It's not just about the starters but the overall depth and talent of each team's entire running back depth chart and how I believe this unit will do as a whole this coming season.

This is an outstanding group with the Ducks leading the way. The Bruins, Utes, Wildcats, Trojans, Bears and others have some outstanding talents at the position.

1) Oregon

The Ducks should have an outstanding ground game in 2015 as they have a loaded arsenal at tailback. Leading the way is super sophomore Royce Freeman. As a true freshman he rushed for 1,365 yards and 18 touchdowns. In fact, he’s the first Oregon freshman to ever eclipse the century mark. Freeman had 1,523 all-purpose yards. He has outstanding size and speed at 5-foot-11, 230-pounds.

Junior Thomas Tyner is the fast one of the group. At 215-pounds, he can absolutely fly. He finished the 2014 season with only 586 yards and six scores. Tyner has the ability to be a 1,000 yard rusher. He rushed for 711 yards and nine touchdowns as a true freshman in 2013. Senior Byron Marshall rushed for 392 yards and led the team in receptions with 74 and 1,003 receiving yards and six touchdown receptions in 2014. It’s expected that red-shirt freshman Tony Brooks-James make his presence felt this fall. He’s one of the fastest players in the Pac-12. True freshman Taj Griffin is an ideal, explosive piece for the Oregon offense. The Ducks also signed a bigger back in the 5-foot-11, 210-pound Kirk Merritt.

With Marcus Mariota in the NFL and the Ducks breaking in a new quarterback, Freeman, Tyner and company will need to have a big fall and post some huge numbers on the ground.


There’s a lot of buzz around the Bruins right now, especially with true freshman quarterback Josh Rosen. So it’s good for UCLA that they have a super running back talent like Paul Perkins. He posted a terrific 2014 campaign and finished atop the Pac-12 rushing charts. Perkins had 1,575 yards, nine touchdowns and averaged an eye popping 6.3 yards per carry. Perkins was also active in the passing game with 26 receptions and a pair of scores. Bruins coach Jim Mora will need that kind of production again from this workhorse while breaking in Rosen.

Nate Starks is the only other full-time running back with any kind of experience. He saw action in a dozen games last year and had 32 carries. Of course UCLA is home to one of college football's best overall players in linebacker and part-time running back Myles Jack. He had 28 touches last season with 125 yards and three scores. Craig Lee and Steve Manfro will be two other options. The Bruins signed the nation’s top running back in Sotonye Jamabo but he was arrested in April for fleeing police. He was booked on charges of speeding and alcohol possession. Jamabo’s availability is unknown at this time but many feel he will be ready for fall camp. Another incoming freshman at this position is Bolu Olorunfunmi.

3) Utah

Devontae Booker is coming off quite the 2014 season. He rushed for 1,512 yards and finished just behind UCLA’s Paul Perkins for the top spot in the Pac-12. He averaged 5.2 yards per carry and scored 14 total touchdowns. Booker was also terrific in the passing game where he caught 43 passes for 306 yards.

There’s no experience behind Booker. Bubba Poole was moved to wide receiver. He had 49 carries in 2014. The only other back with touches last fall was Dre’vian Young. He had four carries for 14 yards. It was thought that sophomore Troy McCormick would be Booker’s backup but he sustained a bad knee injury during spring football practice. Poole could end up playing both in the slot and at running back. Three backs were signed as part of the Utah 2015 recruiting class in Marcel Brown and junior college transfers Joe Williams and Marcus Horne.

4) Arizona

Arizona running back Nick Wilson was one of a handful of really good true freshman tailbacks in 2014. All he did his first season for the Wildcats was rush the ball for a freshman school record 1,375 yards and 16 scores while averaging 5.8 yards per carry. He played in all 13 games, starting eight times. Big things are expected from Wilson this year but he has to stay healthy. Last season Wilson suffered two concussions and a shoulder injury. He did touch the ball 248 times.

As expected Wilson had a very light spring so Arizona could take a look at what’s behind him. Stepping up to the plate in a big way with a big spring was senior Jared Baker. He’s been primarily a special teams standout and reserve back in the rotation with only 72 carries over his career. Wildcats coach Rich Rodriguez liked what he saw from Baker and feels good about him. Speed demons and slots Terrell Johnson and Samajie Grant will be used in the run game. Arizona also has red-shirt sophomore Zach Green and incoming freshman Orlando Bradford.

5) USC

Buck Allen is gone to the NFL so the Trojans will use their next man up mentality, as they are rich once again with running back talent. It could be a group by committee until someone emerges from the pack. Two names to remember for USC are Justin Davis and Tre Madden. They could work great in tandem in 2015 because essentially they are so different. Davis is a 195-pounder that has quickness and runs so hard. Then you have a back like the 225-pound Madden, a true north-south runner. Madden missed the 2014 season with a bad turf toe while Davis performed well as one of Allen’s backups, rushing for 595 yards and scoring four times on the ground. He also caught 13 passes with two touchdowns.

The Trojans signed the nation’s No. 2 ranked running back in the 2015 class in Ronald Jones. He will certainly have a chance to earn some carries this fall and get into the rotation. USC also landed Aca’cedric Ware.

6) Arizona State

The Sun Devils believe so much in their running back situation that they moved senior D.J. Foster to wide receiver. This is a guy that surpassed 1,000 yards rushing in 2014. Their confidence is in a pair of young runners in sophomores Demario Richard and Kalen Ballage. Richard is a 213-pounder that rushed for almost 500 yards, caught 13 passes and scored four touchdowns last season. He also averaged 5.7 yards per carry. Meanwhile Ballage was never really healthy over his freshman season after injuring his back early during fall camp. Still, he saw a lot of playing time and was a running back featured near the goal line. He scored three touchdowns on 42 touches. This spring he showed off his added weight (about 10 pounds) and strength and ran with more power between the tackles. Ballage is now 222-pounds.

Two other guys that will get touches are De’Chavon Hayes and [true] freshman fullback Nick Ralston. Of course Ralston was recruited to Arizona State to play linebacker but made the switch to the offensive side of the ball this spring. He will be clearing the way for the Sun Devils big backs this season and beyond. Arizona State recruited two other running backs in their 2015 class in Jaason Lewis and Morie Evans.

7) Stanford

The Cardinal returns three of their top four run producers from 2014, led production wise by senior Remound Wright. Wright rushed for 601 yards and 11 touchdowns. Barry Sanders pitched in 315 yards and Christian McCaffrey totaled 300 yards. These guys will be asked to take a bulk of the snaps this fall and all looked good over the spring practice session. McCaffrey is bigger and stronger than ever while Sanders showed some big play ability. Wright scored the spring game’s only offensive touchdown.

Junior Pat McFadden will get some carries in 2015 as well. Of course Daniel Marx is the team’s starting fullback. Cameron Scarlett and Bryce Love are a pair of four-star backs that signed with Stanford with this past class. Scarlett tore his ACL last fall.

8) Cal

It’s a pretty deep running back contingent at Cal, it what could be the league’s top offense in 2015. The Bears are led by senior Daniel Lasco. He had a big season one year ago, rushing for 1,115 yards and 14 total touchdowns. This 210-pounder has 1,541 career rushing yards and 17 touchdowns. He has totaled 32 games, starting a dozen times.

There’s good depth behind Lasco. Sophomore Vic Enwere had a terrific spring. He played in 12 games last season but touched the pigskin only 34 times. Still, he showed flashes and averaged 5.7 yards per carry. This spring he showed he has advanced as a player and should take some carries away from Lasco. There’s also Tre Watson, Khalfani Muhammad and [true freshman] Lonny Powell.

9) Washington

Junior Dwayne Washington was one of five starting running backs for the Huskies in 2014. Toward the end of the season he was the guy that kind of took over. Washington finished with a team high 697 yards and nine scores on the ground despite missing a month because of a chest injury.

The 221-pounder is back this season and he leads a nice stable of runners for Washington’s ground attack. Lavon Coleman, Deontae Cooper and Jomon Dotson will all see action. Coleman accounted for 565 yards last year while Cooper rushed for nearly 300. Meanwhile, Dotson starred this spring for UW. The Huskies signed a four-star running back in Myles Gaskin as part of their 2015 class.

10) Oregon State

The Beavers have senior Storm Woods to lean on in 2015. Last year he rushed for 766 yards and five touchdowns and caught 26 passes. He has a ton of experience and 31 career starts. The 6-foot-0, 212-pounder has rushed for 2,183 yards and 24 touchdowns in three seasons at Oregon State. He also has 11 receptions for 932 yards and two more scores, so Woods has been a highly productive player. And they will need a huge season from him considering there’s a new coach (Gary Andersen) and a true freshman starting quarterback (Seth Collins).

Junior Chris Brown has emerged and had a terrific spring for the Beavers. He had an impressive spring game, rushing nine times for 89 yards and scoring twice. There is not much experience behind Brown. Sophomore Damien Haskins got only 13 touches last season. Oregon State has a pair of walk-ons that played this spring in Marcus Greaves and Jaylynn Bailey. The Beavers signed five backs in their 2015 class and there’s a chance a player or two from this group could see action.

11) Colorado

There’s a lot of running back production that returns this season for the Buffaloes in senior Christian Powell, junior Michael Adkins and sophomore Phillip Lindsay. Powell led Colorado in rushing in 2014 with 448 yards and four touchdowns. Adkins posted 398 yards and three scores while Lindsay rushed for 391 yards. The trio also combined for 37 receptions. It’s a solid group that will have a chance to post even better numbers this fall.

Colorado signed three running backs in their 2015 class – Aaron Baltazar, Patrick Carr, and Donald Gordon.

12) Washington State

There’s not much of a Washington State run game with a Mike Leach offense. Last season in a dozen games the Cougars running backs only had 176 carries. That’s amazing if you really think about that. Jamal Morrow led the team with 351 yards on the ground while Gerald Wicks rushed for 234 yards and a team high four touchdowns. Both are sophomores. Washington State is so light with the run game they only carry four backs on their roster and one of these guys is also a 5-foot-6 cornerback and the other is a true freshman in James Williams.

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