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May 19, 2009

Ranking the opposition: Running Backs

Texas Tech will seemingly face every great college quarterback in America next year who's not named Tim Tebow. Fortunately, the same cannot be said for the running backs on the Red Raider hit list. The star power, while decent, is nowhere near so high.

12. KANSAS STATE, Timothy Flanders - The Wildcats return no particularly credible running backs, and their incoming recruits at the position are not terribly impressive either. Flanders, from Midwest City, Oklahoma may be the best of the bunch. Rivals rated him the ninth best player in the state. He was also the Oklahoma Gatorade Player of the Year.

11. NEW MEXICO, James Wright - Rushed for 348 yards and averaged 6.4 yards per carry in a backup role. A strong, powerful runner who also has good quickness in the open field. Bench presses 375 pounds.

10. TEXAS, Vondrell McGee - Like most Longhorns, McGee was a high school All-American. So far, however, he has not come close to replicating that honor at the college level. McGee rushed for 376 yards a year ago and averaged 4.3 yards per carry. His receiving totals were negligible.

9. RICE, C.J. Ugokwe - Despite a nagging knee injury, Ugokwe rushed for 809 yards a year ago and averaged 4.8 yards per carry. Ugokwe is not much of a receiving threat, having caught only 11 passes in 2009.

8. TEXAS A&M, Cyrus Gray - Even with eventual fourth round NFL draft selection Mike Goodson on the roster, the Aggies didn't mount much of a running game a year ago. With Goodson gone, A&M now turns to former high school phenom Gray. A year ago he rushed for 363 yards and averaged 4.8 yards per carry. He also caught 10 balls for 60 yards.

7. BAYLOR, Jay Finley - Finley, doubtless overshadowed by talented quarterback [DB]Robert Griffin[/DB], quietly rushed for 865 yards a year ago. A tough, durable runner who does his best work between the tackles.

6. NORTH DAKOTA, Josh Murray - The Fighting Sioux have a fighting chance when Murray is on his game. A year ago he rushed for 1,146 yards and 12 touchdowns while averaging 6.1 yards per tote. He also caught 21 balls for 187 yards. Murray's high rushing game was 219 yards versus Western Washington.

5. NEBRASKA, Roy Helu - Outplayed the heralded Marlon Lucky a year ago. Rushed for 803 yards and seven touchdowns while averaging 6.4 yards per carry. Also caught 25 balls and averaged 10.6 yards per reception. Helu is an extremely solid all-around back.

4. KANSAS, Jake Sharp - Sharp's stats from a year ago - 860 rushing yards, 4.6 yards per carry, 25 receptions - were pretty good, but he looks more dangerous than those numbers would indicate. Sharp is very fast and plays the game full throttle all the time. He is a back who looks capable of taking it to the house every time he touches the ball.

3. HOUSTON, Bryce Beall - Beall is a 4.5 sprinter and cousin of former NFL fullback Larry "Rolling Ball of Butcher Blades" Centers. As a freshman, Beall had a tremendous campaign rushing for 1,247 yards and averaging 6.3 yards per carry. He also caught 34 passes and averaged an amazing 14.6 yards per reception. Beall scored 17 touchdowns on the season.

2. OKLAHOMA, DeMarco Murray - Set Oklahoma single season record for all purpose yards with 2,171 in 2008. Rushed for 1,002 yards and averaged 5.6 yards per carry. A good sized back who plays like an even larger back. Fluid and smooth in the open field.

1. OKLAHOMA STATE, Kendall Hunter - The smallest back the Red Raiders will face in 2009 could also be the best. His stats are certainly top-shelf. A year ago he rushed for 1,555 yards and 16 touchdowns and averaged 6.5 yards per carry. He also caught 22 passes for 198 yards. Earned first team All America honors from the Football Writers of America.


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