The running back position has changed a great deal over the past 10 years. Most teams use two and some even three to share carries. Carolina had two backs — DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart — gain over 1,100 rushing yards in 2009.
Since 1998, 41 running backs have been selected in the first year of the NFL draft. Running back may be the easiest position for a rookie to come in and start quickly. Speed and strength are important, but outstanding quickness is the most important trait for the position. Running backs have become more involved in the passing game, so being a good receiver is also very important.
Here are my top 5 junior and senior running back prospects.
Jamie Harper has good size and if he doesn’t blow by you he can run through you or make you miss. He runs with power, finishes runs and has a good stiff arm. He shows excellent quickness, hips, feet and the ability to make a defender look silly in the open field. Harper has good vision, balance and instincts and can stop on a dime and show extraordinary change of direction and athleticism. Harper has blazing speed and is so explosive. Harper is one of the top running backs in the Jacksonville area, He ran for 1,100 yards and 14 touchdowns as a sophmore. He also had 300 yards and five touchdowns receiving; Harper benches 350 pounds, squats 530 pounds and has a 38.5-inch vertical jump. With the departure of C.J Spiller to the NFL Harper will be the main man in the Tigers backfield this season, he is expected to provide the thunder to sophomore Andre Ellington’s lightning.
4. Jacquizz Rogers, Oregon state, 5,7″, 188lbs, Junior.
Jacquizz Rodgers is on my heisman watch list this season. He has put up incredible numbers during his first two seasons at Oregon state gaining a total of 2,793 rushing yards and 32 touchdowns, he scored 21 of those last season. He teamed alongside brother James who is also a great talent to lead the Beaver offense. Like James, Jaquizz has great receiving skills and has gained 796 yards over the last two years. Rodgers runs with surprising power and has great leg drive. He is an effort player that gives it is all on each run and each play. You think you have him down but those legs of his don’t stop moving. Rodgers has good speed and quickness. He is a good inside runner and also has the speed to bounce things out wide. Rodgers shows good vision and excellent balance.
3. Evan Royster, Penn state, 5,11″, 217lbs. Senior.
Royster is a fifth-year player who has started the past two seasons, rushing for 2,405 yards and 17 touchdowns. He is a very good athlete (an outstanding lacrosse player) and is a good blocker. He doesn’t have any weakness and is a smart player with good character. Royster has distinguished himself amongst all the great running backs that have worn the blue and white. His 22-yard burst on his first carry in last season’s win at Michigan State pushed him past the 1,000-yard mark for the second consecutive year, becoming just the seventh Nittany Lion to record multiple 1,000-yard campaigns. The vastly talented and intelligent Royster has joined a great fraternity. Curt Warner, Tony Hunt, Blair Thomas, Curtis Enis, Ki-Jana Carter and Heisman Trophy winner John Cappelletti are the only other Lions to accomplish the feat. An All-America and Doak Walker Award candidate, Royster stands 481 yards away from breaking Warner’s school career record of 3,398 rushing yards.
2. DeMarco Murrey, Oklahoma, 6,0″, 215lbs, Senior.
I would have ranked Murrey at number one on my list had he not been injured so often during his time at Oklahoma. I really believe he could be the first running back taken in next years draft if he can show scouts he can stay healthy this season. Murray is a fifth-year player who can do everything. He has running ability, speed, strength and outstanding quickness. Add to that he’s a very good receiver. He reminds me of Reggie Bush in the open field. Murray has 2,471 rushing yards and 977 receiving yards to date and should be in New york for the Heisman trophy award ceremony if all goes to plan this season. I would not bet against him winning it either.
1. Mark Ingram, Alabama, 5,10″, 215lbs, Junior.
Mark Ingram became Alabama’s first Heisman Trophy winner in 2009 as he helped lead the Crimson Tide to the school’s 13th national title, its first since 1992. Ingram possesses a rare combination of power and quickness that will have NFL teams eager to draft him if he decides to turn pro after this season. He set the school single-season rushing record with 1,658 yards in 2009 and during his time with the Crimson tide he has racked up 2,386 yards rushing on 414 carries and 29 rushing touchdowns. That’s pretty good in just two years. He has good bloodlines through his father Mark senior who won a superbowl under Bill Parcells with the New york Giants. Many people think because Mark has to miss the first game this season his chances of a back to back Heisman are unlikely but if the team goes all the way again and Ingram is the best player on the team it may be hard not to give him another. I can’t wait to see him team with Trent Richardson this season who himself could emulate Ingram as a Heisman winner when Ingram turns pro.