Earlier this week, Tom Dienhart of BTN.com put out his rankings of the running back units of each school in the Big 10. I am not one to get terribly hung up on where Penn State ranks in these things, as they are merely an off season talking point. But with Le’veon Bell and Motee Ball off to the NFL, I was at least moderately intrigued to read through what Tom had to say. Here are a few thoughts:
- With Bell and Ball gone, I was more than a little curious to see who earned the top spot. I was also surprised to see him go with the Badgers. Sure, James White is a very talented player, but he’s never carried the ball more than 156 times, and that was in 2010 as a true freshman. I probably would have gone with his #2 team, Northwestern. They return Venric Mark, who with over 1,300 yards a year ago, is the top returning back among Big 10 teams. They also have depth guys like Mike Trumby, Malin Jones, and Treyvon Green.
- What in the world is he doing putting Ohio State at #3? Yes, Braxton Miller is an incredible ball carrier. Braxton Miller is also a quarterback. Carlos Hyde is a big, powerful back, who had 970 yards last season,. Behind him, however, there is a lot of talent, but not much production. Guys like Jordan Hall and Rod Smith could have a big year, but they haven’t exactly done much to make me think they’re the 3rd best unit in the league.
- Perhaps more ridiculous is Michigan at #5. Now the ranking may make sense, but ahead of Penn State, who returns a 1,000 yard rusher? Fitz Toussaint is a very talented guy, going for over 1,000 yards himself in 2011, but he’s also coming off a broken leg. Michigan also won’t have some guy named Denard in the backfield this fall. You’re fooling yourself if you don’t think that helped guys like Toussaint. Behind him? Freshman Derrick Green may very well be the starter this fall, he’s that good. But he’s also taken as many snaps at the collegiate level as I have.
- Speaking of teams that utilize a rushing QB, Nebraska should be better than #4, but I don’t know if you can put them there. I’m a big fan of Ameer Abdullah, who racked up 1,137 yards last year, becoming the de facto starter with Rex Burkehead’s lingering injuries. A guy like Taylor Martinez should help open more holes for his backs as well, if the Huskers elect to take advantage of his running ability.
We will get into our position rankings over the summer, but this one just caught my attention for a number of reasons. But it also did it’s job. Here I am talking about it.
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