Scouting Combine Research: RBs, Part 1

In Part 1 of our three-part breakdown of the 36 running backs headed to the Scouting Combine, we highlight the production of two-time All-American Ka'deem Carey of Arizona. Plus, there are some versatile small-school stars — including one immortalized by the artist who draws "Funky Winkerbean" and "Crankshaft."

Antonio Andrews, Western Kentucky: How dominant was Andrews (6-0, 225) in the Sun Belt Conference? He had 11 100-yard rushing games. No other back in the conference had more than four. With such dominance, he was a semifinalist for the Doak Walker Award, given to the nation's top running back. Andrews also was a finalist for the Paul Hornung and Lee Roy Selmon Spirit awards. The Hornung goes to the most versatile player; the Selmon to an athlete who demonstrates a "deep care for others and their community." He led the SBC in rushing yards (1,730) and the nation in all-purpose yardage (2,619) for the second consecutive season. He scored 16 touchdowns, caught 41 passes and returned punts and kickoffs. He tallied at least 100 all-purpose yards in his final 25 games. In 2012, Andrews joined Barry Sanders as the only FBS players with 3,000 all-purpose yards in a season, and his 5,770 all-purpose yards over that two-year span set an NCAA record. The only knock on him is he fumbled six times in 2013. "There just comes a point where you've got to really take care of it," he said at the Senior Bowl. "At the end of the day, fumbles can cost you money. Nobody wants a running back who fumbles the ball. I've had to be a lot smarter in trying to fight for extra yardage and stuff."

Dri Archer, Kent State: Archer (5-8, 175) showed explosiveness and versatility by finishing with 4,980 career all-purpose yards. That was evident this season, even when missing a month with an ankle injury. Against South Alabama, he had a 74-yard touchdown run and 73-yard touchdown catch. Against Northern Illinois, he returned a kickoff 100 yards for a score and had a 66-yard touchdown catch. He averaged 7.8 yards per carry as a senior. As a junior, he earned numerous All-American accolades and was a finalist for the Paul Hornung Award by rushing for 1,429 yards (9.0 average), adding 561 receiving yards and scoring a school-record 24 touchdowns. He allegedly runs a 4.21 in the 40. His 2013 Heisman campaign was touted by a digital comic strip, "The Archer," that was created by Chuck Ayers of "Crankshaft" and "Funky Winkerbean" fame. Ayers graduated from Kent State in 1971. "Dri is a good lookin' kid. He's really kind of easy to draw, which is a help for me," said Ayers. "The superhero thing just worked so well because most of those superheroes are built like they're wearing football uniforms anyway, so it was real easy to incorporate that - pretty much a football uniform with a cape and Dri Archer's head on it. It works real well, it's real easy to do. It's a fun concept, so it's a lot of fun doing the drawing too."

George Atkinson III, Notre Dame: Junior entry. In 2013, Atkinson (6-1, 220) rushed for 555 yards (6.0 average) and three touchdowns and averaged 25.2 yards as the primary kickoff returner. Atkinson was suspended for the team's bowl game this season, apparently for texting during a team meal. He is the son of George Atkinson Jr., a two-time Pro Bowl defensive back who picked off 30 passes in nine seasons with the Raiders, and his twin brother is a receiver for the Irish. He topped 100 rushing yards twice in his Irish career, including a career-best 18-carry, 148-yard effort vs. Oklahoma on Sept. 28. Atkinson's 80-yard touchdown rush that afternoon is the longest by a Notre Dame player since Robert Farmer ripped off an 81-yard touchdown run at Boston College in 1996. "Isn't this a tackle you should be running through? Shouldn't you be getting through this tackle? How did you get tackled here?" Irish coach Brian Kelly said, recalling a conversation he had with Atkinson before the Oklahoma game. "So it got to the point where we had to physically sit him down and show him clip after clip after clip. These are tackles that you must run through. They can't tackle you. You're 220 pounds." As a freshman, he returned kickoffs for touchdowns against Michigan State and USC.

Kapri Bibbs, Colorado State: Junior entry. Bibbs (5-11, 203), a junior college transfer, had a monster season in his only year with the Rams. He ranked second in the nation with 28 rushing touchdowns and seventh with 1,572 rushing yards to earn some All-American honors. He rushed for 312 yards against Nevada and, one week later, scored six times against New Mexico State. His seven games of three-plus touchdowns tied Barry Sanders' NCAA record. In high school, not only did he set a state record with a 520-yard rushing game, but he bowled three perfect games.

Alfred Blue, Louisiana State: Junior entry. Blue (6-2, 222) missed most of 2012 and rushed for just 343 yards and a touchdown in 2013. He entered the draft a year early despite a meager 40-game rushing total of 1,253 yards and 11 scores. The NCAA had granted him an extra year of eligibility. Blue's family home burned down in September 2011. While nobody was hurt, all possessions were lost. The LSU community came together, though, as reported that the Tiger Athletic Foundation's Relief-4-Blue fund raised more than $80,000 for the family. In light of Michael Sam coming out, here's what Blue told the LSU school newspaper, the Daily Reveille, in August: "Football is supposed to be this violent sport — this aggressive sport that grown men are supposed to play. Ain't no little boys out here between them lines. So if you gay, we look at you as a sissy. You know? Like, how you going to say you can do what we do and you want a man?"

Ka'Deem Carey, Arizona: Junior entry. Carey (5-10, 207) is a two-time consensus All-American. He rushed for 1,885 yards in 2013 and a school-record and national-best 1,929 yards in 2012. He owns or shared 26 Arizona single-game, season and career records. He finished his career with 16 consecutive 100-yard games, the nation's longest streak in 10 seasons and a conference record. It's no wonder he entered the draft a year early: Carey led the nation with 349 carries in 2013, including 48 (for 206 yards and four touchdowns) in an upset of Oregon. Carey derived motivation in 2013 after losing out to Wisconsin's Montee Ball for the Doak Walker Award in 2012, even though Carey rushed for more yards and scored more touchdowns. "It stung,'' Carey said before this year's bowl game. "Of course, it just meant that I had to work harder." He was charged for domestic abuse during the offseason, though those chargers were dropped in June.

FB J.C. Copeland,  (J.C.), Louisiana State: Copeland (6-1, 270) is an old-school, punishing fullback. In four seasons, which include 42 games and 22 starts, he carried 36 times for 92 yards and seven touchdowns. He caught three passes as a junior and four as a senior. In high school, he was a dominating defender who tallied 27 sacks as a senior. He was a three-star defensive end prospect who wore a Tennessee hat to signing day but went with LSU. Not only is Copeland a tremendous blocker, but he served as a great jungle gym for the daughter of his high school football coach, who helped look after Copeland.

Tim Cornett, UNLV: Cornett (6-0, 210) rushed for 1,284 yards (4.9 average) and 15 touchdowns, plus added 30 receptions. He's only player in school history to lead the team in rushing all four seasons, and he smashed the school career rushing record by almost 600 yards. His 3,773 rushing yards ranks second in Mountain West Conference history. Cornett was the first of several recruits from the Houston area that fueled UNLV's improvement.

Isaiah Crowell, Alabama State: Junior entry. Crowell (5-11, 190) rushed for 1,121 yards and 15 touchdowns as a junior, giving him a three-year collegiate total of 2,813 rushing yards and 36 total touchdowns. Crowell was a five-star recruit who opened his career at Georgia, where he earned SEC Freshman of the Year honors after rushing for 850 yards. He was kicked off the team for a pair of weapons charges, which were dropped. He's preparing for the Combine with South Carolina star Jadeveon Clowney and former Georgia teammate Aaron Murray, among others. Before the season, Alabama State coach Reggie Barlow told The Associated Press that Crowell reminds him of Maurice Jones-Drew, who Barlow played with in Jacksonville. "He has that type of speed and explosiveness. He catches the ball well in the passing game and he understands protection. And when you have those three components, that's exactly what the NFL is. You fit the pyramid. I think he's an NFL running back."

Tim Flanders, Sam Houston State: Flanders (5-9, 210) was a dominant performer. Not only did he lead the Southland Conference in rushing with 1,430 yards as a senior, but he led the conference in rushing for all four seasons. The three-time All-American finished his career with 5,664 rushing yards, 66 rushing touchdowns and 420 points, figures that ranks sixth, third and sixth, respectively, in FCS history. Stuck on the depth chart at Kansas State during his redshirt season of 2009, Flanders transferred to Sam Houston State. Not only is he a record-setting running back but he's made the Southland's all-academic team. "My mom was always telling me that without my grades being good, she didn't want me playing sports at all," Flanders said. "Both of my parents graduated from college and my older brother is about to graduate in December, so that's pretty good motivation for me to succeed in school. I think with a degree, you can get pretty much any job you want."

David Fluellen, Toledo: Fluellen's senior season was ruined by a small fracture in his ankle. After missing most or all of four games, he returned for a late-season showdown against Northern Illinois but was only at 75 percent strength. His trip to the Combine will be largely for medical purposes, since he missed all or part of nine games over his last two seasons. Fluellen (6-0, 215) rushed for 1,498 yards as a junior, when he was a semifinalist for the Doak Walker Award, and 1,121 yards as a senior. Against powerhouse Missouri this season, he caught 10 passes for 100 yards and rushed for 111. "One thing I notice about David is his knack for making plays," Falcons running backs coach Gerald Brown, who coached Fluellen at the Senior Bowl, told the Buffalo News. "He's had some plays on the field this week where it didn't look like much was there, and he found a way to find green grass and make a run. He's a good-sized kid, he works hard, and he's been good in the classroom the days we've had him."

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