Scott Haynes, College Editor
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
The top of the 2004 NFL Draft was rich
with tailbacks that will hopefully change the face of their respective teams.
The duo from Auburn (Ronnie Brown and Cadillac Williams) and Texas' Cedric
Benson were three of the first five picks. While that kind of star power from
the running back position may be lacking in the next draft, it won't be
because of a lack of talent in the college ranks.
1. ADRIAN PETERSON - Burst on the scene as a true freshman in Norman in 2004
and finished second in the Heisman balloting. He is NFL ready at this point,
but won't be able to make the move for another year. That gives Bob Stoops two
more seasons to utilize his gifted tailback as he sees fit. At 6-2, 210
pounds, Peterson is the complete package in the backfield with the ability to
run over or around would-be tacklers. In his first season with the Sooners all
he did was rush for 1,925 yards and 15 TDs. He could actually eclipse those
numbers in 2005, making him the early favorite to win the Heisman.
In his first season with the Sooners, Adrian Peterson rush for 1,925 yards and 15 TDs.
2. REGGIE BUSH - As great a runner as Peterson is at Oklahoma, no player in
the country puts the fear in opposing defenses like Reggie Bush. A rare
athlete with the ability to run, catch and return kicks with electrifying
results, this Trojan enters this year with a chance at a third straight
national title. He has the moves of a smallish back, but at 6-0, 200 pounds,
Bush is big enough to take hits (although that doesn't happen all that often).
Last season, Bush rushed for over 900 yards and six TDs, while catching 43
balls, for over 500 yards and another seven scores. Although the offense is
loaded at USC, Bush is the most dangerous weapon on the field for the Trojans
and will get the ball plenty in 2005.
3. DEANGELO WILLIAMS - Peterson and Bush will get all the press, but perhaps
the best back in the country plays in Conference USA and comes in the form of
Memphis' DeAngelo Williams. He certainly passes the eye-ball test at 5-10, 220
pounds. He enters 2005 as the leading returning rusher, amassing 1,948 yards
last season, while also leading the nation in rushing TDs with 22. Is the
prototypical workhorse, who gets better as the games goes on. The two-time
Conference USA Player of the Year (2003 and 2004), Williams has his sights set
on a third such accolade, and perhaps much, much more.
4. LENDALE WHITE - If he played for any other team, White may be at the top of
this list, but with an offense that includes Matt Leinart and Reggie Bush,
often times White's contributions are overshadowed. Still, the 6-2, 235-
pounder is a primary weapon in the USC arsenal. He has scored 31 TDs in his
first two seasons with the Trojans (most in school history) and despite
getting pushed out of the spotlight by his two teammates, White still had a
fine 2004, rushing for over 1,100 yards and scoring 15 TDs. He is great in
short-yardage, but has the necessary skills to break off huge plays as well.
5. WALI LUNDY - Started out on fire last season, but tailed off down the
stretch, finishing second on his team in rushing, despite scoring a whopping
17 TDs. Injury-plagued a year ago, the 5-10, 215-pound Cavalier has had a
solid, however not yet stellar career in Charlottesville. If he can pace
himself a bit better this year and stay on the field, Lundy has a chance to be
the top back in the ACC. With adequate speed and decent power, Lundy could
ride the momentum of a solid senior season into a first-day draft selection
6. LYNELL HAMILTON - Perhaps one of the tailbacks with the most eyes watching
will be Hamilton. The San Diego State star has suffered injuries that have
hampered his rise to the top, but there is no denying his enormous upside. He
has ideal size for the NFL (6-1, 220), with the ability to run around or
through defenses. In 2003, he rushed for over 1,000 yards as a freshman,
despite missing the last two games. If he can keep himself away from the
injury bug, a huge season at SDSU, could have him declaring next year, despite
half his collegiate career still ahead of him.
7. LAWRENCE MARONEY - Despite splitting carries with Marion Barber III,
Maroney led Minnesota in rushing last season with 1,348 yards and 12 TDs. Has
good size (5-11, 205) and with Barber gone, not to mention a seasoned Golden
Gopher offensive line in front of him, expect Maroney to get plenty of work.
He could be that one player that really opens eyes this year on a national
scale, with an increased workload and all the necessary skills to take full
8. LEON WASHINGTON - This Seminole lacks the size (only 5-9, 202)
that seem to make NFL scouts salivate, but Washington is a slasher type, with
numerous talents. Last season, he played in 10 games, averaging almost seven
yards per carry (6.9), while leading Florida State in rushing with 951 yards.
Washington has also shown the ability to catch balls out of the backfield, as
well as return kicks. His ability to change hats could set up a huge season
this year in Tallahassee.
9. MICHAEL BUSH - Bigger than former teammate and current Carolina Panther
Eric Shelton, Bush is the biggest back on this list thus far. At 6-3, 250
pounds, this Louisville Cardinal brings power with him when he runs. However,
he is not just another big back, as he has plenty of wiggle, as well
as being versatile as a receiver out of the backfield. Last season, while
splitting the workload, he rushed for 734 yards and seven TDs. With Shelton no
longer in the picture and brand new surroundings (Big East), Bush has an
opportunity to really make a name for himself this year.
10. MAURICE DREW - Sure, this UCLA Bruin is only 5-8, but he is 205 pounds and
has superior athleticism. He won't get the Pac-10 press he deserves with a guy
by the name of Reggie Bush right across town, but Drew is another explosive
player that can score at will. Drew tallied 12 touchdowns last year, scoring
eight on the ground, three via the pass and another on a punt return. He
averaged almost 150 yards of total offense per game last season and with the
kind of speed he possesses, expect that number to increase in 2005.
Others to Watch:
Joseph Addai - Does many things well (running, receiving and blocking), but
may not put up mind-boggling numbers with the arsenal that LSU has this
season. Addai was second in the team in rushing last season (680 yards),
averaging an eye-popping 6.7 yards per carry. He also caught 26 balls (third
on the team) for another nearly 300 yards and four TDs. A complete back at
6-0, 210 pounds, Addai will endear himself to NFL scouts with his unselfish
Gerald Riggs Jr. - Certainly has a name that grabs your attention. Much like
his father (Gerald Riggs Sr.), this Tennessee Vol brings the lumber at 6-0,
217 pounds. Despite splitting carries with Cedric Houston, Riggs led the
Volunteers in rushing at 1,107 yards (5.7 yards per carry), with six TDs. With
Houston out of the picture, Riggs could quickly move up this list as the
Marshawn Lynch - As a freshman, this Golden Bear was unable to really shine,
sitting behind 2,000-yard standout J.J. Arrington. However, when given the
opportunity, he showed his enormous upside, averaging nearly nine yards per
carry (71 touches for 628 yards) and eight TDs. Look out Pac-10, as Lynch is
ready to burst on the scene.
Andre Hall - Has quietly gone about his business, first in the junior college
ranks (two-time All-American), before joining South Florida last season. With
the Bulls' move to the Big East, Hall will surely get recognized now. Last
season, the 5-10, 205-pounder rushed for 1,357 yards (6.5 ypc) and 11 TDs. In
the Big East spotlight, those kind of numbers get noticed.