Quick links:
 Latest Team Rankings
 Free Rivals Alerts
 Member Services
ShopMobileRadio RSSRivals.com Yahoo! Sports

July 17, 2013

Ranking the Big Ten's running backs for 2013

Ranking the Big Ten Running Backs

Despite a proliferation of pass-happy offenses, the Big Ten is still widely considered a running backs league, and in 2013, the conference's ball carriers are poised to own the spotlight. Northwestern's Venric Mark is the league's best but it's possible eight RBs could eclipse 1,000 yards this fall.  

1. Venric Mark, Sr. - Northwestern
Northwestern's first All-American since 2005 (as a punt returner), Mark was the top all-purpose threat in the Big Ten last year with 166.6 yards per game. While the 5-8, 175-pound shifty back returned two punts for touchdowns, he did most of his damage in the offensive backfield, rushing for 1,366 yards (sixth all time at NU) along with 12 touchdowns on 226 carries (6.0 yards per rush). Though Mark has terrific elusiveness and quickness, he possesses the acceleration that leaves defenders grasping for air. Featuring a tandem of QB Kain Colter and Mark, the Wildcats boast perhaps the most dangerous 1-2 running punch in the Big Ten.

2. Ameer Abdullah, Jr. - Nebraska
Initially a fill-in for the injured Rex Burkhead in 2012, Abdullah quickly proved much more worthy than that, rushing for 1,137 yards and eight touchdowns, including six 100-yard efforts. He won't have to share the load with Burkhead this fall, which should boost his numbers considerably -- in four games with at least 20 attempts last year he averaged 123.5 yards and in 10 games with fewer than 20 attempts, he averaged 64.3 yards. Abdullah is also a very good receiver, making 24 catches for 178 yards and two scores last season. He's not the biggest guy at 5-9, 190 but he shows unexpected power and an ability to run between the tackles.

3. James White, Sr. - Wisconsin
Over the last two years, Badgers' back Montee Ball has rushed for 1,923 yards and 1,830 yards. That type of success usually forces the backup to spend most of his time on the bench, but a 1,000-yard rusher himself in 2010, when he was named Big Ten Freshman of the Year, White forced his way onto the field in 2011-12, totaling 1,519 yards with 18 touchdowns (averaging 5.7 yards per carry). Now, the 5-10, 197-pounder is prepared to take over full time, and Wisconsin doesn't expect to miss a beat without Ball (though UW is going through a coaching change).

4. Carlos Hyde, Sr. - Ohio State
A common denominator among the Big Ten's top backs for 2013 is they almost all had to play in someone else's shadow last season but are ready for their starring moment now. That might not be the case for Hyde, who will certainly still play Robin to QB Braxton Miller's Batman for the Buckeyes. Still, OSU would gladly take another 970-yard, 16-touchdown effort from the 6-0, 242-pounder, who adds a physical component to the Ohio State spread offense.

Others to Watch
Michigan is determined to run the football and if a true No. 1 emerges, whether it's Fitzgerald Toussaint, Thomas Rawls or Derrick Green, a back will likely rush for 1,000 yards this fall. Penn State returns a 1,000-yard rusher in Zach Zwinak but without a proven QB, the senior may find little running room. Minnesota's Donnell Kirkwood and Indiana's Stephen Houston could be breakout performers in 2013 while in East Lansing, like in Ann Arbor, an emphasis on the running game will provide a tremendous opportunity for someone (at the moment Riley Bullough).

Michigan NEWS


Latest Headlines:

Rivals.com is your source for: College Football | Football Recruiting | College Basketball | Basketball Recruiting | College Baseball | High School | College Merchandise
Site-specific editorial/photos TheWolverine.com. All rights reserved. This website is an officially and independently operated source of news and information not affiliated with any school or team.
About | Advertise with Us | Contact | Privacy Policy | About our Ads | Terms of Service | Copyright/IP policy | Yahoo! Sports - NBC Sports Network

Statistical information 2014 STATS LLC All Rights Reserved.