Scouting Combine Research: Tailbacks, Part 3

Our Scouting Combine preview of the running backs includes two big-time FCS performers, plus Alabama's T.J. Yeldon, Michigan State's Jeremy Langford and Florida State's Karlos Williams. (Jasen Vinlove/USA TODAY)

Matt Jones, RB, Florida (6-1, 226): Jones rushed for 817 yards (4.9 average) and six touchdowns in 2014 and 1,431 yards and 11 scores in his three seasons before electing to turn pro. Jones is bolting for the NFL early because of two knee injuries — including one that cost him most of 2013 — and to help take care of his 3-year-old daughter, Aniyah. In 2013, after missing time with a viral infection, he rushed for 176 yards at Kentucky. It was the most yards by a Gators runner in a decade.

Jeremy Langford, RB, Michigan State (6-0, 205): Add Langford to the list of dynamic Big Ten runners in this draft. For his career, he rushed for 2,967 yards (5.1 average) and 40 touchdowns. He topped 100 rushing yards in his final 15 games against conference competition — the longest 100-yard streak in the FBS for regular-season conference games since STATS began tracking such records in 1996. His senior season ranked among MSU's single-season leaders in rushing touchdowns (tied for first with 22), 100-yard rushing games (second with 10), rushing yards (fifth with 1,522) and rushing attempts (seventh with 276). In his final career game, he ran for 162 yards against Baylor, which hadn’t allowed a 100-yard rusher all season and fielded the ninth-best run defense in the nation. It’s a heck of a career for a player who started his MSU tenure at defensive back and wide receiver. And he had to grow up.

Terrence Magee, RB, LSU (5-9, 213): After playing second-fiddle to Jeremy Hill in 2013, Magee was the backup to 1,000-yard rusher Leonard Fournette as a senior. He produced 571 yards (5.1 average) and three touchdowns, and tied for second on the team with 17 receptions. He had one big game, 127 rushing yards and 220 all-purpose yards in a blowout win over Kentucky. As a sign of respect, he was given jersey No. 18 as a senior. That number goes to the player who best represents what it means to be an LSU player on and off the field. That’s because he’s taken his career of job-sharing and position changes in stride.

Marcus Murphy, RB, Missouri (5-8, 189): The dynamic Murphy rushed for 924 yards (5.2 average), caught 28 passes for 212 yards (7.6 average), and averaged 29.6 yards per kickoff return (two touchdowns) and 10.4 yards per punt return (one touchdown) as a senior. He leaves Mizzou with seven career return touchdowns (four on punts, three on kickoffs) and 4,905 all-purpose yards (second to Jeremy Maclin). “Every time we come out for kick return, we plan on it being a touchdown,” Murphy said. Murphy is smooth — both on and off the field. He spends time with special-needs children, takes part in an elementary-school reading program and is a “Yes, sir; no, sir” kind of guy.

Thomas Rawls, RB, Central Michigan (5-10, 217): Rawls rushed for 1,103 yards (5.3 average) and 10 touchdowns and added 10 receptions for 93 yards while playing in nine of 13 games as a senior. He was third-team all-MAC in his lone season with the team. Having graduated from Michigan, Rawls was able to transfer without missing a season. He filled the void left by Zurlon Tipton, who played for the Colts this season. In October, he was sentenced to one year of probation and 104 hours of community service for his role in stealing a 62-year-old woman’s purse.

Josh Robinson, RB, Mississippi State (5-9, 215): Robinson, a two-time all-SEC second-team selection, averaged 6.2 yards per carry for his career — breaking a 75-year-old school record. For his career rushed for 1,997 yards with 15 touchdowns. Most of that production came in 2014, when the junior finished third in the SEC with 1,203 rushing yards and tied for the league lead with 11 touchdown runs. Running backs of his stature are typically tagged with a “bowling ball” running style. And “Bowling Ball” just happens to be Robinson’s nickname. Robinson was raised by his grandmother. When she died when Robinson was 11, his career was turned upside down. In high school, he saved enough money to buy a car. For several months, it doubled as his home.

Ross Scheuerman, RB, Lafayette (6-0, 205): The four-time all-Patriot League performer ended his collegiate career with 3,504 rushing yards and 31 rushing touchdowns, marks that place him third and fourth, respectively, in the Lafayette record books. He added 129 career grabs for 1,129 yards and eight more scores. He had back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons, capped by his 1,191 yards and 12 touchdowns as a senior. He became the first Lafayette player since 2003 to lead the team in rushing and receiving, as he added 57 receptions for 521 yards. In his final collegiate game, at sold-out Yankee Stadium against Lehigh in the 150th edition of the most-played rivalry in the spot, he rushed 45 times for 304 yards and three touchdowns. Any doubters? “I can prove all those people wrong by being successful.”

Karlos Williams, RB, Florida State (6-1, 226): Williams was the No. 2 safety in the nation coming out of Ridge Community High School in Davenport, Fla., and played safety his first two seasons at FSU. He moved to running back before the second game of the 2013 season. On his first touch, he blew through the Nevada defense for a 65-yard touchdown and wound up ranking second on the team with 730 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns, with his 8.0-yard average ranking sixth in the nation. Huge things were expected in 2014 but he managed 689 yards (4.6 average) and 11 touchdowns, plus 29 receptions for 265 yards and another score, in 12 games. He fell behind true freshman Dalvin Cook on the depth chart. That was the least of his problem, as he was investigated for domestic battery. Charges were not filed.

Trey Williams, RB, Texas A&M (5-8, 195): As a junior in 2014, Williams rushed for 560 yards (6.9 average) and seven touchdowns, added 16 catches for 105 yards (6.6 average) and one more score, and averaged 24.8 yards on kickoff returns. Williams plays for his two daughters. "My big thing is family, my little girls," Williams said. "My two girls mean everything to me. If I have to stop playing football right now for my little girls and get a regular job, 9 to 5, I'd do that." The native of Spring, Texas, rushed for 3,890 yards and 48 touchdowns in high school ... as a senior.

T.J. Yeldon, RB, Alabama (6-1, 218): Yeldon, slowed by an injured hamstring and ankle, still rushed for 979 yards (5.0 average) and 11 touchdowns in 2014 to help the Crimson tide to the four-team playoffs. He finished his three-year career with 3,322 yards, which ranks fourth in Alabama history, with 37 touchdowns while averaging 5.8 yards per carry. He also caught 46 passes for 494 yards and two touchdowns. Before entering the draft, he sought advice from Packers running back Eddie Lacy, among others. Lacy was just one of a long line of backs Yeldon followed at Alabama. "I'm always going to be motivated," he said. "I'm just trying to be the best I can be, the best running back to ever come through here."

Zach Zenner, RB/FB, South Dakota State (5-11, 218): Zenner earned FCS All-America honors for each of his final three seasons while becoming the first player in Division I football history to rush for 2,000 yards three consecutive times. Zenner finished third in Football Championship Subdivision career rushing with 6,548 yards. As a senior, he rushed for 2,019 yards, averaged 6.0 per carry and scored 22 touchdowns. He added 28 receptions for 331 yards and four more touchdowns. He the season-opening game, he rushed for 103 yards and two scores against Missouri, with a long of 75. As a junior, he rushed for 202 yards and four touchdowns in about three quarters at Nebraska. As a sophomore, he had a 99-yard touchdown run at Kansas. Add in his 3.86 GPA, and he was awarded the Mickey Charles Award, which honors academic achievement by an FCS student-athlete. To say that Perfect Zach Zenner is the best running back might be a stretch, but he’s a man with few flaws who, if this football thing doesn’t work out, plans to be a doctor.

Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at packwriter2002@yahoo.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.


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