Bill's Combine Research: Running Backs

The headliner of the 39-back contingent is Wisconsin's record-setting, award-winning Montee Ball. Plenty of big-time production and some great personal stories highlight a group fortified by 12 early entrants.

A total of 333 players will be at the Scouting Combine, which begins Feb. 20 in Indianapolis. We're sharing our homework as we get ready for the big week. In Part 11, here are the 38 running backs.

C.J. Anderson, California: Anderson (5-11, 210) started two of 25 games at Cal but was productive nonetheless, ringing up 1,135 yards, a 5.7-yard average and 12 rushing touchdowns. He added 22 catches for 350 yards and two scores. He shed 7 pounds between his junior and seasons, cutting out stops at In-N-Out on the advice of his mom. Anderson spent his first two years at a junior college. He had three 100-yard games as a senior. Anderson wore No. 9 in honor of Mike Pennerman, friend who died from injuries sustained in a high school football game.

Montee Ball, Wisconsin: Ball (5-11, 215) departs as one of the great running backs in college football history. He set an NCAA record with 83 career touchdowns. As a junior, he rushed for 1,923 yards and 33 touchdowns. His 39 total touchdowns tied Barry Sanders' NCAA record and was more than 42 FBS teams. Rather than enter the draft, he came back and posted 1,830 yards and 22 touchdowns for an encore. Other than the Heisman, he won just about every award imaginable, including the Doak Walker as the nation's best running back, the Ameche-Dayne as the Big Ten's top back and was a first-team All-American.

Kenjon Barner, Oregon: Barner (5-11, 192) exploded for 1,761 rushing yards and 21 touchdowns as a senior, including 321 yards and five touchdowns against USC. The yardage was a school record for Oregon and a school record against the Trojans. He added 20 receptions for 256 yards and two more scores for the season. As a freshman, he averaged 24.9 yards and scored one touchdown on kickoff returns. He was the first Oregon player since 1965 to score touchdowns rushing, receiving and on punt and kickoff returns. Barner is named after a cousin who was slain in a gang shooting.

Le'Veon Bell, Michigan State: Early entrant. Bell (6-2, 237) led the Big Ten with 137.9 rushing yards per game, good for third in the nation. He was the first Spartan to lead the conference in rushing average since Tico Duckett in 1990. He rushed for 1,793 yards and 12 touchdowns, plus caught 32 passes for 167 yards and another score. He joined Ball as the Big Ten's first-team running backs. A workhorse running back, Bell touched the ball a staggering 50 times in an opening win against Boise State, including nine times on the final drive. In that game, the big guy leaped over a safety and ran over two defenders.

Giovani Bernard, North Carolina: Early entrant. Bernard (5-9, 205) played just two seasons for the Tar Heels. As a redshirt sophomore, he was first-team all-ACC, runner-up for ACC Offensive Player of the Year and third-team All-American. He led the nation in punt return average, was fourth in all-purpose yards and fifth in scoring with his 19 touchdowns. He rushed for 1,228 yards and 12 scores, caught 47 passes for 490 yards and five touchdowns and averaged 16.4 yards per punt return with two more touchdowns. He was first-team all-conference both seasons. He missed his true freshman season of 2010 after a preseason knee injury and two games this season because of a knee injury. His mother died of thyroid cancer when he was 10; Bernard, a native of Haiti, writes her initials on his shoes and gloves before each game. A tattoo on his left wrist refers to his mom as his "lead fullback." His brother, Yvenson Bernard, was a running back for Oregon State.

Tommy Bohanon, Wake Forest (FB): Bohanon (6-2, 245) caught 23 passes for 208 yards and was second on the team with five touchdowns and six total scores. In 49 career games, he scored 10 touchdowns. He wants to set up a foundation for the underprivileged. There is video of him bench pressing 550 pounds. His grandmother worked with the handicapped and his high school football coach was a special-education teacher.

Zach Boren, Ohio State (FB): Boren (6-1, 245) played fullback and, by necessity due to injuries in 2012, linebacker for the Buckeyes. In four seasons, he caught 25 passes for 193 yards and a touchdown. As a senior, he caught five passes and had 50 tackles and one sack. He's the second of three siblings to play for Ohio State. Justin Boren plays for the Broncos and Jacoby Boren is a freshman offensive lineman. His father, Mike Boren, left Michigan as the third-leading tackler in school history.

Rex Burkhead, Nebraska: Burkhead (5-11, 210) was limited to eight games as a senior because of a sprained knee but rushed for 675 yards and five touchdowns. With 3,329 rushing yards, he ranks fifth in school history. He's got off-the-charts intangibles as a two-time, first-team Academic All-American, the captain of the Allstate AFCA Good Works Team and one of 15 National Football Foundation scholar-athletes. He also has a special friend who is battling a brain tumor.

Knile Davis, Arkansas: Early entrant. Davis (6-2, 226) rushed for 377 yards and just 3.7 yards per attempt in 2012. He missed all of 2011 with a broken ankle sustained a few weeks before the start of the season. In 2010, he led the SEC with 1,322 rushing yards, including 139 yards against Ohio State in the Sugar Bowl. Dating to high school, he has suffered two broken collarbones and two broken ankles.

Andre Ellington, Clemson: Ellington (5-9, 195) was named first-team all-ACC with 10,81 rushing yards (5.1 average) and eight touchdowns and 14 catches for 232 yards and another score. For his career, he tallied 3,436 rushing yards and 33 rushing touchdowns and 59 catches for 505 yards and two scores, and scored a touchdown on a kickoff return. His cousin, Bruce Ellington, is a receiver in football and the starting point guard in basketball at South Carolina.

Michael Ford, LSU: Frustrated by his role at LSU, Ford (5-10, 216) was an early entrant. He carried 71 times for 392 yards and three touchdowns in 2012. In his last five games, he had just 11 carries. He did averaged 27.5 yards on 20 kickoff returns. He never matched the expectations coming out of Leesville (La.) High, where he rushed for 2,953 yards and 29 touchdowns as a senior.

Johnathan Franklin, UCLA: Franklin (5-11, 195) was a finalist for the Doak Walker Award, which goes to the nation's top back, and a second-team All-American. He set single-season and career school records for rushing and all-purpose yards, finishing with 1,734 yards as a senior and 4,403 for his career. He added 33 receptions for 323 yards as a senior. His hobbies include acting and poetry, and he appeared on the teen reality show "Baldwin Hills." He's also interned for Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and aspires to by the city's mayor someday.

Mike Gillislee, Florida: Gillislee (5-11, 209) was named first-team all-SEC after rushing for 1,152 yards (4.7 average) and scoring 11 total touchdowns as a senior. He's just the eighth back in school history to top 1,000 yards and the first since Ciatrick Fason in 2004. He added 16 catches as a senior. In his first three seasons, he never carried more than 58 times. In 2011, with Gillislee the No. 3 back, fans took to Twitter with #FreeGilly. He has "faith" tattooed on his chest.

Ray Graham, Pittsburgh: Graham (5-9, 190) was first-team all-Big East as a junior and senior. He rushed for 922 yards as a sophomore, 958 yards despite missing four games with a torn ACL as a junior and 1,042 yards and 11 touchdowns as a senior. He's second in school history with 3,721 rushing yards and fifth with 216 points on 36 touchdowns. His brother, Rutgers' Khaseem Grene, is one of the better linebacker prospects in the draft. His father played football for Purdue.

D.J. Harper, Boise State: Harper (5-9, 205) sustained season-ending knee injuries in 2009 and 2010 and earned a sixth year of eligibility. With Doug Martin starring at Tampa Bay, Harper took advantage. He rushed for 1,137 yards, added 23 receptions and was named an honorable mention on the all-Mountain West team. His 15 touchdowns are sixth-most in school history.

Montel Harris, Temple: Harris (5-9, 207), the all-time rushing leader at Boston College, was dismissed from the team for violations of team rules in the spring. He took advantage of a rule allowing a graduate student to transfer but not have to sit out a full season. With Temple, he rushed for 1,054 yards and 12 touchdowns, running his career totals to 4,789 yards and 39 scores. Seven of this year's touchdowns and 351 of his yards came against Army. Both set Big East records. He received a medical redshirt after sustaining a knee injury in the second game of the 2011 season. He's a black belt in karate.

Mike James, Miami: James (5-11, 222) played running back and fullback as a senior, tallying a career-high 621 yards and six touchdowns. James was selected to the Allstate AFCA Good Works Team for his work in the community, which includes being a project manager for a bone marrow drive and working with the Ronald McDonald House. His mother died in a car accident in 2010.

Jawan Jamison, Rutgers: Early entrant. Jamison (5-8, 200) rushed for 1,075 yards and four touchdowns in 2012, his redshirt senior season. He considers former Rutgers star Ray Rice his mentor. He rushed for 897 yards in 2011. This video shows his open-field ability and even impressed Rice.

Stefphon Jefferson, Nevada: Early entrant. Jefferson (5-11, 210) was named first-team all-Mountain West and second- and third-team All-American accolades from several services. He had a monster season with 1,883 yards (5.0 average) and 24 touchdowns, plus 22 receptions for 170 yards and another score. His 144.9 rushing yards per game ranked second in the nation. He scored seven touchdowns against Hawaii. Jefferson's big season started with some sobering news.

Eddie Lacy, Alabama: Early entrant. Lacy (6-0, 200) posted big-time production in his first and only season as the Tide's featured back. He rushed for 1,322 (6.5 average) and 17 touchdowns. He added 22 receptions for 189 yards and two touchdowns. He rumbled for a career-high 181 yards in the SEC title game against Georgia, then rushed for 140 and scored two total touchdowns in the national championship game against Notre Dame. He won't test at the Combine due to an injured hamstring. He's in contention to be on the cover of the "NCAA Football '14" video game (as is Oregon's Barner). Lacy's family was uprooted by Hurricane Katrina.

Marcus Lattimore, South Carolina: Early entrant. Lattimore (6-0, 220) was one of the nation's best backs and probably would have been a top-five pick until he tore the ACL in his left knee in 2011 and three ligaments in his right knee in 2012. He figured his career was over; instead, at the Senior Bowl, he said he intended on being ready for Week 1. He won't test at the Combine but will start running on Monday. As a true freshman at South Carolina, he was the nation's unanimous Freshman of the Year after rushing for 1,197 yards and setting a school record with 19 touchdowns. In three seasons, he rushed for 2,677 yards and 41 touchdowns.

Zach Line, SMU: Line (6-1, 230) was the Conference USA Player of the Year as a senior, when he rushed for 1,278 yards (4.6 average) and 13 touchdowns and added 33 receptions for 269 yards (6.9). Line was the fourth player in C-USA history to record three 1,000-yard rushing seasons. He finished his career with 4,185 yards and 47 rushing touchdowns. Despite being an All-State running back at Oxford (Mich.) High but was the nation's 341st-rated running back, according to Phil Steele's Yearbook, which is a compilation of top recruiting service ratings. SMU, in fact, recruited him to play linebacker.

Miguel Maysonet, Stony Brook: Maysonet (5-10, 210) was runner-up for the Walter Payton Award, which goes to the best player in FCS, and was the two-time Big South Offensive Player of the Year. He rushed for 1,964 yards (7.4 average) and 21 touchdowns as a senior, the 11th-most yards in FCS history. His three-year totals were 4,725 rushing yards, 48 rushing touchdowns and 53 total touchdowns. He added a touchdown on a kickoff return as a senior, as well. New York's Gatorade Player of the Year as a senior at Riverhead (N.Y.) High, the native of Puerto Rico spent one season at Hofstra, where he had a team-high 385 rushing yards. Stony Brook never has had a player selected in the draft. During his early years in the States, they had a one-bedroom apartment that didn't have hot water, so bathing required he and his mom to warm water on the stove.

Onterio McCalebb, Auburn: McCalebb (5-11, 173) rushed for 2,586 yards at Auburn and finished fourth among the Tigers' all-time career all-purpose yardage leaders (4,566). He averaged 6.4 yards per carry for his career – second only to former Packers running back Brent Fullwood in school history -- with his 8.5 as a sophomore setting a school record. His 26.3-yard average on kickoff returns is one of the best marks in school history. He returned two kickoffs for touchdowns, including a 100-yader this season. He's one of two backs in SEC history to finish with 2,000 rushing yards, 1,000 return yards and 500 receiving yards.

Christine Michael, Texas A&M: Michael (5-11, 220), a five-star recruit, was the Big 12's Freshman of the Year with 844 yards and 10 touchdowns. It was a foreshadowing of big things to come but also the start of a relatively disappointing career. As a senior, he missed two games and had just two starts, falling to No. 3 on the depth chart at one point. He finished with 432 yards (4.7 average) and 12 touchdowns. He was suspended for one game (and criticized the play calling via Twitter while watching the game) and ejected from another game for throwing a punch. Michael rushed for 899 yards in nine games as a junior until a season-ending knee injury. He rushed for 631 yards in eight games as a sophomore until breaking his leg. p> Lonnie Pryor, Florida State (FB): Pryor (6-0, 229) arrived at Florida State with big aspirations of being the next Warrick Dunn after rushing for 2,300 yards as a senior at Okeechobee (Fla.) High but settled into the thankless job as the Seminoles' fullback. He rushed for 376 yards (8.0 average) and eight touchdowns and caught 13 passes as a senior. He capped his career by rumbling for 134 yards and scores of 60 and 37 yards in the Orange Bowl against Northern Illinois.

Joseph Randle, Oklahoma State: Early entrant. Injuries thrust Randle (6-1, 200) into a bigger role than expected and he delivered. He led the Big 12 with 1,417 rushing yards, was named first-team all-conference and was a semifinalist for the Doak Walker Award, given to the nation's best running back. In 2011, he added 1,216 yards and his 150 points were the most in school history other than Barry Sanders' prodigious 234. A tremendous receiver, he added 108 career receptions and averaged 25.6 yards on kickoff returns as a true freshman. According to legend, the native of Wichita, Kan., was offered a scholarship by Kansas when he was in fourth grade. His brother, John, was a running back and defensive back for Kansas who had multiple run-ins with the law and was kicked off the team.

Theo Riddick, Notre Dame: Riddick (5-11, 200) is a versatile performer. He averaged 22.9 yards on kickoff returns as a freshman running back, caught 40 passes for 414 yards and three touchdowns despite missing four games as sophomore receiver, caught 39 passes for 436 yards and three touchdowns as a junior receiver and led the team with 917 rushing yards (4.8 average) and five touchdowns while adding 36 catches and two more scores as a senior. When he was 10, Riddick's best friend, who would wind up being practically a brother, made his own Notre Dame team for PlayStation. Riddick was the running back.

Robbie Rouse, Fresno State: Rouse (5-7, 190) obliterated the school's career rushing record in style early in the season with a 94-yard touchdown run, and he wound up his career with 4,625 yards. He was first-team all-Mountain West as a senior with a league-record nine 100 yards games en route to 1,468 for the season. On top of that, he ranked sixth in the conference with 58 receptions. He lettered in four sports as a senior at James Madison High in San Diego and averaged a stunning 12.9 yards per carry. At 5-foot-3 and 130 pounds, "Mighty Mouse" played Pop Warner ball rather than play for the high school team as a freshman.

Zac Stacy, Vanderbilt: Stacy (5-9, 210) was second-team all-SEC the past two seasons, with 1,141 yards and 10 touchdowns as a senior. His 1,193 rushing yards as a junior broke the school record set by former Packers safety Corey Harris in 1991. He's the first Vanderbilt player to record back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons and is the school's career leader with 3,143 rushing yards and 30 rushing touchdowns. He is inspired by his younger brother, who has Down syndrome.

Stepfan Taylor, Stanford: Taylor (5-9, 216) leaves Stanford as the school's career leader with 4,300 rushing yards, 45 touchdowns and 21 100-yard games. Taylor played with Andrew Luck as his quarterback and Jim Harbaugh as his coach but was the unquestioned team leader as a senior in filling those voids. Taylor has a split personality; just type "Kulabafi" into Google. His sense of humor helped him overcome unthinkable family tragedy.

Christopher Thompson, Florida State: Early entrant. Thompson (5-8, 187) saw his season end in the eighth game with a torn ACL. It was an unhappy 22nd birthday present. Still, he led the Seminoles with 687 rushing yards and a 7.5-yard average, and added 21 receptions for 248 yards. He lobbied the NCAA for an extra season but dropped the appeal to turn pro. He capped the 2010 season by running for 147 yards in the Chick-Fil-A Bowl but gained just 83 yards in five games in 2011 before his season ended with a broken back.

Matthew Tucker, TCU: Tucker (6-1, 227) was honorable mention all-Big 12 with 505 rushing yards and a team-high six rushing touchdowns. He ranks third in school history with 33 rushing scores.

Spencer Ware, LSU: Early entrant. Ware (5-11, 225) rushed for 367 yards and caught 18 passes for 230 yards in 11 games. As a sophomore in 2011, Ware earned the starting nod and gained 707 yards and scored eight times to earn second-team honors in the SEC. He missed one game for reportedly failing a drug test. Also in 2011, he started 10 games and played in 21 as an outfielder on the baseball team. A five-star prospect out of Cincinnati's Princeton High, Ware was a dual-threat quarterback with four consecutive 1,000-yard passing seasons.

Kerwynn Williams, Utah State: Capably replacing stud back Robert Turbin, Williams (5-8, 189) ranked 10th in the nation in all-purpose yards (171.2 per game) and 13th in rushing (116.3 per game), with his 1,512 rushing yards ranking fourth-best in school history and his 20 touchdown ranking second. For his career, Williams is the Utah State and WAC record holder with 6,928 all-purpose yards (2,515 rushing, 870 receiving, 3,408 kickoff returns and 135 punt returns), which also ranks 11th in FBS history. Utah State was his only scholarship offer.

Braden Wilson, Kansas State (FB): Wilson (6-4, 256) was an honorable mention on the all-conference team. He played in 51 games during his career, carrying 21 times for 44 yards and catching 18 passes for 144 yards with two career touchdowns. In 2007, he was a running back and defensive end for Smith Center (Kan.) High, which scored a national-record 72 points in the first quarter of a playoff game. Wilson scored the first two touchdowns in the quarter.

George Winn, Cincinnati: Winn (5-11, 210) had less than 400 rushing yards in his collegiate career until a senior campaign of 1,334 yards (5.5 average) and 13 touchdowns to earn second-team honors in the Big East. He even threw a touchdown pass and was a staple on special teams. At University of Detroit Jesuit High, Winn rushed for more than 3,000 yards for his career. The team went 0-9 during his senior season, though.

Cierre Wood, Notre Dame: Early entrant. Splitting time with Riddick (and sitting out the opening two games with a suspension), Wood (6-0, 215) rushed for 742 yards (6.5 average) and four touchdowns in 2012. He ranks seventh in school history with 2,447 rushing yards. In 2010, he rushed for 603 yards and he rumbled for 1,102 and nine touchdowns in 2011. In three seasons, he caught 52 passes. He has a tattoo that reads, "The world is mine."

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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at

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