Pac 12 Recruiting - Running Backs

We've hit the lull in the recruiting calendar that happens at the end of June, so we figured we'd start a new series where we look at each position and update where each conference school is at with regards to commits, offers and progress. Today we look at the running backs, a spot that isn't so easily judged as each school is looking for different attributes to add to their roster...

Washington - The Huskies ended the suspense early by getting Connor Wedington into the fold early in the process. In addition to him, UW has also offered fellow in-stater Salvon Ahmed. UW has also been in hot pursuit of Najee Harris, but they aren't really in the mix for him at this point. Washington doesn't have much in the way of room in the 2017 class, so spots are at a premium. If Ahmed opts to go elsewhere, they may just call it good and move on to 2018, but they are more likely to keep looking for another athlete to bring in with Wedington.

Arizona - Out of the Wildcats' 19 commits, only one is projected at running back - Nathan Tilford. Tilford is a big back with the ability to really take it to a defense. Word is that Rich Rodriguez is in the market for at least one more tailback and the next prospect on their list is Drake Beasley from Loyola High School. To be sure, there are other prospects with offers -- Biaggio Ali-WalshDarrian Felix and Malik Davis -- but their main target is Beasley and the feeling among those who follow recruiting closely is that Arizona is in good shape with Beasley.

Arizona State - Trelon Smith is a perfect fit for ASU's offense. He's smaller than D.J. Foster, but he has some of the same skillset, able to go in motion, catch the ball out of the backfield and create mismatches in space. Beasley is the top tailback on ASU's wish list right now , but they aren't standing pat, choosing to also extend offers to C.J. Jones, Jacob Kibodi and Jakyle Holmes who are all three-star prospects.

Cal - Cal is in the market for at least two tailbacks in the class and they set their sights high when they offered Cam Akers, the third-ranked tailback in the nation, out of Mississippi. For a school that runs a version of the 'Air Raid' offense, the Bears have been able to do pretty well on the tailback recruiting front. It's doubtful that Akers winds up there, but they do have a shot. More than likely, Cal has a much better shot with a player like Kaegun Williams or Beasley, two four-star prospects who have both been high on Cal for a while. Ali-Walsh and Calvin Tyler are two other players to watch and JUCO tailback Tyree Range is a wildcard with is combination of size and speed.

Colorado - Alex Fontenot, the only running back committed to the Buffaloes at this point, picked Colorado over an offer from Oklahoma State among others, so this kid could be a great injection of athleticism to the CU offense. He's not a speedster though, so he'll need to make plays with his vision and quickness. Daequantae Showers, Williams and Beasley are all out-of-state prospects whom Colorado is in the mix for while Marcus McElroy is a home grown kid who the Buffaloes would very much like to add to their depth chart.

Oregon - C.J. Verdell had offers from most of the Pac 12. At 5'9, 195, he's not going to make anyone forget Royce Freeman once he leaves, but on the other hand, he's the exact dimensions as some of the other top tailbacks they have had in recent years (LaMichael James comes to mind) -- a compact package, but a good fit for what Oregon likes to do. Felix is the only other non-committed tailback with an offer from the Ducks right now, but you can expect them to mine the commit lists of other schools as well as squeezing things out from contacts around the country hoping to find one more athlete to join the ranks.

Oregon State - The Beavers will take at least two tailbacks in this class, but they could wind up taking three if the right prospect came along. Deltron Sands is no longer enrolled ant Taylor Thomas, who signed in February, was unable to qualify. They currently have one tailback committed -- Isaiah Miller from Florida -- and their top target that is still left on the board is T.J. Green from Arizona.

Stanford - The Cardinal have loaded up on tailbacks the past couple of years, so they are being very choosy right now on the recruiting front. The offered and got a commit from Sione Lund out of Utah and he's projected to come in as a big tailback, while Ahmed is the young man they have made a priority to get as the change-of-pace type and they seem to be the top competition for Washington right now.

UCLA - Since they took three tailbacks in the 2016 class, the Bruins aren't really in the market for just anyone in the 2017 class, but that doesn't mean they won't pursue one. Harris is everyone's top choice and he's currently committed to Alabama, but Ohio State is also in the mix as well. Those are two heavy-hitters to recruit against, but word is that if he stays on the West Coast, then UCLA is the likely destination. Another prospect to keep an eye on is Beasley. The Bruins were the first to offer and he has a very good relationship with coach Kennedy Polamalu.

USC - Stephen Carr is a special tailback and he's a nice addition to the stacked USC backfield. Ty Chandler and Bruce Jordan-Swilling both have offers from the Trojans and the common thinking is that they would take one of the two along with Carr and call it a day. Make no mistake, USC is still heavily in the mix for Harris, but most think they are a distant fourth right now and not a realistic player for Harris' services. Obviously, that can change, but for the time being, Harris is a bit of a pipe dream for the Trojans. Ahmed is also a runner with a USC offer and they were a childhood favorite for the talented athlete.

Utah - The Utes have made a killing off of JUCO tailbacks and it appears that may be the route they are headed in this class with offers out to Iowa Western's Jeffrey Jones, American River's Armand Shyne and San Bernardino Valley's Deion Walker. There are plenty of other solid looking JUCO tailbacks who could pop up on the radar, but right now, those are the only two with offers.

Washington State - The cynical side of me says "does it really matter?" If you look at Mike Leach's four-year tenure at Washington State, running the ball has not been a priority, but that began to change last season and the expectation is that more and more versatility for Cougs offensively will mean more explosiveness in their passing game. Cyrus Habibi-Likio from Northern California committed to WSU back in May and he's a solid runner who had plenty of schools after him. Keep an eye out for another possible addition to the class with Jordan Genmark-HeathChris Brooks and Aaron Shampklin the only other known non-committed prospects on their list.

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Different Strokes For Different Folks

Obviously, tailbacks need to have vision, quickness and burst in order to be successful playing a Power Five schedule, so each prospect has to have those traits in one way or the other. However, each program within the conference is looking for a prospect with different traits.

What one staff may covet, another staff may say it doesn't matter to them as much.

Washington State and Cal run essentially the same offense and they like their tailbacks to be able to make defenders miss in space while also handling pass protection duties on a more regular basis since they throw the ball 60 to 70 times a game.

Arizona State, Oregon and Arizona want their tailbacks to be able to be threats out of the backfield as receivers, so catching the ball and quickness are the desired traits with speed another coveted aspect.

Oregon State and Washington don't run as much "read option" as ASU, Oregon and Arizona, but they too prefer their tailbacks to be good receivers. However, they run a lot of power, pulling guards and tackles from the opposite side of the line, so vision is a key aspect in the young men they target.

Colorado, UCLA, USC, Utah and Stanford all love to run between the tackles and that's where the do most of their damage, so size and toughness, along with vision are traits they look for when considering whether to offer a prospect.

The Conference Of Runners?

For all of the recognition the Pac 12 gets as a sophisticated offensive conference with outstanding quarterback and receiver play, the conference has established themselves as a great destination for top tailbacks.

Recent top tailbacks include Steven Jackson Jacquizz RodgersJonathan StewartLaMichael JamesToby GerhartBishop SankeyPaul PerkinsChris PolkC.J. Anderson and Ka'Deem Carey and currently there is a Heisman favorite -- Christian McCaffrey (Stanford) -- a Heisman darkhorse -- Royce Freeman (Oregon) -- and three very good sophomores --  Myles GaskinSotonye Jamabo and Ronald Jones -- who will continue to carry the torch.

Western Success, Eastern Influences

USC, UCLA, Stanford and Oregon have all had success pulling prospects from outside the region, but they have mainly focused their attentions on prospects.

UCLA grabbed Jamabo out of Texas in the 2015 class and that shocked some people. It's rare for a top prospect to leave the state of Texas when they have offers from the Longhorns and other regional powers.

Jones was a top prospect from Texas as well and USC was able to nab him.

Rodgers was a stalwart in Texas who got passed over by the big schools in the Lonestar State and Oregon State was able to bring him in and he led the way for one of the top running attacks in the country from the time he stepped on the field.

Washington has relied heavily on local kids with Gaskin and Sankey both hailing from the Evergreen State while McCaffrey was one of the best players in the West (Valor Christian in Highlands Ranch, Colorado).

Arizona State and Cal have relied heavily on California for their tailbacks while Utah has done well, as we mentioned earlier, mining the JUCO ranks for prospects.

Arizona has had success pulling kids from all over the place including California, Texas and Florida.

Pac 12 Recruiting: Quarterbacks


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