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May 21, 2013

Ranking the Big Ten: Running back

As Nebraska moves into its third season in the Big Ten Conference, HuskerOnline.com will get you ready with ranking analysis pieces breaking down each position in the league. Today, we look at the running back position in the Big Ten heading into 2013.

1. Ameer Abdullah, Nebraska, 5-9, 190, Jr.
There really isn't a clear-cut No. 1 running back in the Big Ten for 2013, but because Nebraska returns arguably the league's most explosive offense we gave the nod to Ameer Abdullah. The 5-foot-9, 190 pound junior rushed for 1,287 yards and 11 touchdowns last season stepping in for the injured Rex Burkhead. If Abdullah stays healthy this year there's no reason to think he can't break the 1,500 yard mark and push to lead the league in rushing. Playing next to Taylor Martinez also helps Abdullah, because defenses can't just key on him.
2. Venric Mark, Northwestern, 5-8, 175, Sr.
As I mentioned earlier, it's very debatable on who the Big Ten's No. 1 running back is heading into the 2013 season. Northwestern senior Venric Mark is also right up there with Abdullah almost in a 1-A and 1-B order. Mark is the most explosive player in the Big Ten, rushing for 1,336 yards and 12 touchdowns on 226 carries. To top that off, he also ran back two punts for touchdowns. No player is more deadly in the open field than Mark. The biggest question with him is his ability to run between the tackles. That's where Abdullah has the edge over him.
3. Melvin Gordon, Wisconsin, 6-1, 203, So.
With Montee Ball's departure, sophomore Melvin Gordon is expected to be the featured back for Wisconsin this year along with James White. On just 62 carries a year ago Gordon rushed for 621 yards. It's scary to think what he'll do with more carries in his hands this season. Gordon also seems to fit the style of runner first-year head coach Gary Andersen had success with at Utah State.
4. Carlos Hyde, Ohio State, 6-0, 242, Jr.
Ohio State's Carlos Hyde is probably the most physical runner in the Big Ten. In just 10 games a year ago he rushed for 970 yards and 16 touchdowns on a 185 carries. He's the perfect complement to quarterback Braxton Miller because he gives them one of the Big Ten's best short yardage and red zone backs. If Hyde stays healthy this year, he too could contend to lead the Big Ten in rushing yardage.
5. Derrick Green, Michigan, 6-0, 220, Fr.
Sure you could go with Penn State's Zach Zwinak or Iowa's Mark Weisman at No. 5. That would be the safe pick. However, it's hard to argue the credentials of incoming Michigan freshman running back Derrick Green. The 6-foot, 220 pound Green was the No. 1 ranked running back in the nation for the Rivals Class of 2013 and ranked No. 8 overall in the Rivals100. With the leg injury to Fitzgerald Toussaint a year ago, nobody emerged this spring as a No. 1 back for the Wolverines. Look for the five-star Green to come into Ann Arbor with the potential to be a 1,000 yard rusher as a true freshman.

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