It’s never too soon to start thinking about future NFL stars.
Here’s an early look at running back, classifying the top
senior prospects and then talking about some of the underclassmen
likely to declare.
Name - (School - Class as
of 2005) Height Weight
Cream of the crop heading into this college season. This group combines
both NFL measurables and significant collegiate success that have
them on the path to being the top RBs selected in the 2006 draft.
DeAngelo Williams (Memphis - 4SR) 5’10”
One of the most highly touted recruits in Memphis history has
helped return the program to respectability. Widely expected to
declare last year, he broke his right leg in the GMAC Bowl 12/22/04,
putting his consideration of leaving early on hold. 2004 Awards:
3rd Team All-American, C-USA Co-Offensive POY and 1st Team All-Conference.
Saw just three plays in the Spring Game as a precaution, but
his leg is fully healed and he enters the season as the top rated
senior RB prospect. A classic triple threat, he rivals Reggie
Bush as the most explosive and versatile offensive weapon in the
nation. Williams led D-IA in all-purpose yardage in 2003 and was
second in 2004, despite his return duties being cut back to keep
him fresh. In addition to his individual accomplishments, the
way he has carried the program since he’s been there contributes
to the aura he exudes of being a “special” player.
He is a bit undersized and ended the last two seasons injured
after carrying record-breaking loads. It appears the Memphis staff
may be exaggerating his weight a bit, as he would have put on
almost 50 pounds between his listed 2003 and 2004 weight to be
at the 217 he was reported at last season. Regardless, his accomplishments
have him high on everyone’s list and scouts should continue
to be impressed when they see this electric runner in games. At
this point, only a couple underclassmen seem likely possibilities
to unseat him as the first RB selected.
Looking to Rebound
Whether it was injuries or a down year that didn’t match
potential and/or previous achievement, the stock for this group
has dropped. However, the table is set for a comeback year in
their final season of eligibility, and they could rise quickly
up draft boards if they produce.
Wali Lundy (Virginia - 4SR) 5’10”
An outstanding multi-talented threat with a tremendous nose for
the end zone, Lundy looks to bounce back from losing his starting
job to Alvin Pearman, a future NFL fourth round pick, last year.
One of the top D-IA all-purpose freshmen RBs in 2002, he had an
immediate impact, leading the team in rushing and kickoff returns,
as well as was second in receptions. Despite some injury problems
in 2003, he took another step forward, falling just shy of 1,000
yards rushing and leading the conference with 14 TDs from scrimmage.
He started as the feature back in 2004, but inconsistency and
fumbling problems landed him in Al Groh’s doghouse and Alvin
Pearman saw the majority of the work the rest of the way. He still
finished with 17 TDs, leading the ACC again.
Last year’s problems appear behind him, as HC Al Groh has
complemented the off-season Lundy has had and he was named a team
captain. He looked in great shape at the Spring Game, but left
early after turning his ankle, an injury which was not serious.
He had 3 carries for 17 yards and 1 reception for 8 yards working
in just the first offensive series. Lundy has the measurables
and talent to be a first round pick, if he keeps his focus from
now through the Combine. I’d consider him a Blue Chip if
not for the need to bounce back from a relatively disappointing
DonTrell Moore (New Mexico - 5SR)
After a third-straight 1,000 yard season, there was a chance the
Emerald Bowl would be his last collegiate game, but a torn ACL
in his left knee during that game meant a return to the Lobos.
2004 Awards: 1st Team Mountain West All-Conference.
He hopes to return in time for the beginning of the season, but
it’s unlikely he’ll be fully recovered until the season
is well underway. In addition to this major knee injury, he has
a history of at least minor injuries every year of his career,
although he’s always battled through them to have productive
seasons. Another potential knock is he has had the benefit of
running behind some huge offensive lines throughout his career.
The late occurrence and severity of his latest injury jeopardizes
his draft value as he’s unlikely to have as productive a
season as he has in the past. He’ll likely be limited early
and struggle to find his previous form. However, once GMs watch
film from previous seasons and if his speed has returned by the
Combine and in individual workouts, he’s likely to salvage
some draft value displaying the potential to be a feature back
at the next level. If he hadn’t been injured, he’d
be a classified as a Blue Chip prospect at this point.
Patrick Cobbs (North Texas - 5SR)
After leading D-IA in rushing in 2003, Cobbs looked to again be
one of the most productive RBs in the nation and lead the Mean
Green’s continued domination of the Sun Belt Conference.
However, an early knee injury resulted in him missing the rest
of the season and taking a redshirt.
His replacement, true freshman Jamario Thomas, filled in more
than adequately. In an unexpected encore to Cobbs’ own out-of-nowhere
emergence, Thomas amazingly ended up leading the nation in rushing
for 2004. How to utilize the two is a nice problem for HC Darrell
Dickey, but a bad one for the chances of Cobbs to increase his
draft value. The two backs split carries in the Spring Game, with
Thomas seeing 9 carries for only 16 yards and Cobbs producing
28 yards on his 8 carries. Undersized for a feature role at the
next level, he brings tremendous quickness, big play speed, and
surprising power for his size.
Best Potential, Limited Achievement
While this group has ideal measurables and/or flashed the skills
that could make them Day One picks, unlike those looking to rebound,
they haven’t shown significant and/or consistent production
yet. Whether it's transferring, crowded backfield situations,
injuries, one-year wonder concerns, or a combination, they have
to fully capitalize on their potential this season to be an early
Gerald Riggs Jr. (Tennessee - 4SR)
One of the nation’s top RB recruits in 2002, a deep Vol
backfield prevented him from fully showcasing his talents until
On most teams, the starting RB being limited in the Spring Game
(7-32-0) is not a concern, just a precaution. However, HC Phil
Fulmer has been reluctant to fully turn over the reigns to Riggs
previously and likes to rotate backs, so impressive redshirt freshmen
Ja’Kouri Williams and Arian Foster could dip into his production.
Still, Riggs seems on the verge of superstardom. He has ideal
measurables and will receive plenty of recognition and accolades
if he can build on last year. If not for the unpredictable situation
under Fulmer and a light resume, he’d already be a Blue
Mike Bell (Arizona - 5SR) 6’0”
Highly-recruited out of high school, Bell has had the misfortune
of having his talents frequently wasted in a program in transition.
Fell just short of rushing for over 1,000 yards the last two seasons,
largely due to lack of supporting cast.
The second year of the Mike Stoops Era looks like it could finally
mean improvement for the struggling program and more opportunity
for Bell to showcase his talent. Bell started the year in fine
fashion, rushing for 106 yards on 9 carries, including a 50-yard
burst, as well as grabbing 2 passes for 14 yards in the Spring
Game. Bell has ideal measurables and could have a tremendous breakout
season. Even if the team continues to struggle, he should impress
at the Senior Bowl, Combine, and in individual workouts. Definitely
a guy to keep an eye on who could single-handedly significantly
improve this RB class.
Damien Rhodes (Syracuse - 4SR) 6’0”
Ability to start in many programs in the country earlier, but
he lived in Walter Reyes’ record-breaking shadow for three
years. Showed a glimpse of what he can due while Reyes battled
an injury-plagued final season, as Rhodes led the team in rushing
and all-purpose yards last year. 2004 Awards: 2nd Team Big East
Off to a good start as the starter, Rhodes led the team in rushing
with 43 yards on nine carries in the Spring Game. He’ll
face the same lack of recognition playing in a mediocre program,
but has better size than Reyes and will be in a RB class with
Andre Hall (South Florida - 4SR) 5’10”
Two-time JUCO All-American blew up in his first D-IA season, setting
several single game and season rushing records for the Bulls last
year. 2004 Awards: 1st Team C-USA All-Conference.
He was limited to 6 carries for 22 yards in the Spring Game to
keep him healthy, but there is no question he will be the marquee
offensive player. With ideal size and speed to be a feature back,
if he can repeat last year’s performance, he’ll move
quickly up draft boards throughout the season.
Selvin Young (Texas - 4SR) 6’0”
Limited to shining as a return man while in the shadow of Cedric
Benson the last three years. Still recovering from broken ankle
early last year.
After missing practice and the Spring Game, he remains in the
mix to replace Cedric Benson, but may no longer be the favorite.
Ramonce Taylor, who filled in nicely as RB2 after Young went down
last year, leads a group of talented youngsters competing for
the right to start in the Longhorn backfield. Nice measurables
and speed, Young passes the eyeball test and seems to have the
potential to emerge as the new feature back for a powerhouse program.
However, all that means nothing until he proves it on the field.
Looking like a boom or bust season for him, at this point, similar
to David Underwood for Michigan last year.
Jerome Harrison (Washington State
- 4SR) 5’9” 192
A highly-touted JUCO transfer in 2004, when Chris Bruhn went down,
Harrison blew up. He rushed for 900 yards despite starting just
five games. He had a record-breaking day at UCLA, but a lot of
runners found success against them last season.
He picked up where he left off last season in the spring game,
posting 9-90-2, including a 40-yard TD run. He has true game-breaking
speed, but is undersized.
Best Achievement, Questionable Potential
This group is those who lack ideal measurables: too small and/or
too slow, by the perceived NFL standard. Despite their tremendous
collegiate success, many teams may see them as limited to situational
roles, lowering their draft value.
Chris Barclay (Wake Forest - 4SR)
One of the most underrated RBs in the country, he has posted back-to-back
1,000 yard seasons and is on his way to being the school’s
all-time leading rusher.
Just 14 yards on 7 carries in a final spring scrimmage dominated
by the defense, but also had a 13-yard TD catch. Lacks ideal size,
so his job has never been secure until this year, despite increasing
accomplishment his first two years. Adds versatility with good
hands and return ability. Consistency and durability will get
him recognized by scouts, but it will take a huge year and/or
tremendous workout numbers for him to really rise up draft boards.
P.J. Daniels (Georgia Tech - 5SR)
Former walk-on exploded in 2003, leading the ACC with one of the
best seasons rushing the football in school and conference history.
Struggled through injury-plagued 2004, where he missed four games
and parts of two others with a variety of leg problems, but still
led the team in rushing.
Saw just two carries for 18 yards in the Spring Game, but Daniels
is still the clear number one back. If he can stay healthy, he
should produce another outstanding season, but he will be pushed
by a talented stable of back-ups. He lacks top speed, so regardless
of the type of season he produces, his value could be hurt at
the Combine and in individual workouts.
P.J. Pope (Bowling Green - 4SR) 5’9”
Tremendously productive bowling ball has rolled through back-to-back
1,000 yard rushing seasons for the first time in school history.
2004 Awards: 2nd Team MAC All-Conference.
Started his final year in mid-season form, rushing for 108 yards
on 11 carries, including a 43-yard TD run, in the Spring Game.
He will benefit from the hype Omar Jacobs will deservedly receive
this year, but Pope lacks ideal measurables, short and without
great speed, as well as having occasional fumble problems.
The RBBC’ers and Back-Ups
This group has the physical attributes and potential to succeed
at the next level, but don’t stand out or get as much recognition
because of a RBBC or being stuck behind a more prominent runner.
They are an injury away from huge seasons that could shoot them
up draft boards.
Leon Washington (Florida State - 4SR)
Outstanding all-purpose back in a year with an abundance of them.
Undersized dynamo was more productive than Lorenzo Booker in less
carries last season. Value is helped by return skills, although
he saw less time returning kicks and punts as his running workload
increased in last year. 2004 Awards: 2nd Team ACC All-Conference.
Limited to just 5 carries for –1 yard in the Spring Game,
as the Seminoles outstanding defense dominated the offense (only
one offensive TD allowed in scrimmages all spring). Both he and
Booker should again split carries, but this duo is no Ronnie Brown
and Carnell Williams.
Joseph Addai (LSU - 5SR) 6’0”
All-purpose back is underappreciated in one of the deepest backfields
in the country. After looking like he had the starting job in
2003, a knee injury allowed Justin Vincent to step in and take
over. Alley Broussard led the way most of 2004, but Addai was
a significant contributor, especially on third downs.
He had a big Spring Game, leading all runners with 80 yards on
7 carries, including breaking a 52-yarder. With Les Miles replacing
Nick Saban as HC, there could be a changing of the guard, with
the more versatile Addai seeing more work. Most likely, it will
continue to be a RBBC, especially if Justin Vincent returns to
form. Addai has tremendous potential to contribute immediately
at the next level because he is an excellent receiver and polished
blocker who can pick up the blitz. His hands and route running
are strong enough that he has worked at wide receiver, at times,
due to the crowded RB situation.
Seymore Shaw (Oklahoma State - 5SR)
Once looked the heir to Tatum Bell’s starting spot, an untimely
injury last year cost him a shot and he was passed by Vernand
Morency, who went on to have a breakout 2004.
Shaw’s path to starter is no longer blocked by Bell and
Morency, but he’ll face competition from a variety of young
options in a crowded backfield, as well as himself. He’s
off to a bad start, as a knee injury has limited him this spring
and he’s fallen to fifth on the depth chart. Off-field troubles
also surfaced for the first time since his freshman year, when
he arrived with an arrest in high school for striking a girl and
was only a partial qualifier due to academics. Now another female
acquaintance had a protective order slapped on him in late May
stating she felt threatened by him and he was stalking her. He
also was accused of involvement in some theft. This came up as
new Cowboy HC Mike Gundy had just dismissed several players for
behavioral problems. However, after no action at first, but once
charges were made, he was suspended indefinitely in June, pending
outcome of the charges. Oklahoma State has produced many excellent
NFL prospects in the backfield and should continue to feature
the running game under Gundy. So, if Shaw can assume the feature
role, I expect him to be productive and the association will help
his exposure. Similar situation to Kay-Jay Harris last year, very
good measurables, but limited resume and durability questions.
Cedric Humes (VaTech - 5SR) 6’1”
About a year ago, it was looking like the Humes was ready to inherit
Kevin Jones’ feature role and showcase his nice size/speed
package. Then he broke his left fibula and, although he was healthy
by the time the season started, Mike Imoh forced his way into
the picture after being suspended for the first three games of
With Imoh nursing a sore ankle, Humes shined in the Spring Game,
leading all rushers with 5-44-0. However, Imoh remains listed
as the starter and it should be another year of RBBC. Highly-regarded
redshirt freshman George Bell will also be in the picture. While
he lacks Imoh’s breakaway speed, Humes has the body to take
the every down pounding and projects as the better prospect at
the next level. If Imoh is hurt or runs into more legal trouble,
Humes could have a breakout season on be on draft boards in 2006.
De’Arrius Howard (Arkansas -
5SR) 6’0” 228
Top returning rusher waited has been unable to capitalize on potential.
Sat behind Fred Talley, failed to overtake inconsistent Cedric
Cobbs, and was leap-frogged by DeCori Birmingham when it looked
like he would finally get his chance last year.
A pounding runner with excellent size who is very effective in
short yardage/goal line, Howard will face more challenges this
year in a crowded backfield, particularly from super soph tweener
Peyton Hillis. Howard remains listed with Hillis atop the depth
chart despite missing spring after off-season shoulder surgery.
He has a lot to prove this year, but he has the size and power
to get noticed quickly.
All have at least a year of eligibility left, but have the talent
and/or situation making them the most likely to declare early
for next April’s draft. The strength of this class is highly
dependent on the underclassmen, as Reggie Bush and Laurence Maroney
could be the first two RBs selected if they declare early.
Reggie Bush (USC - 3JR) 5’11”
Impact player in all facets of the game since he set foot on the
field as a true freshman. Arguably the most electrifying all-purpose
back in the game. 2004 Awards: PAC-10 Co-Offensive POY and 1st
Apparently grew two inches and put on ten pounds in the off-season,
but he doesn’t need help of inflated measurables in the
media guide with the skills he has. Minor shoulder surgery and
a jammed toe prevented him from participating in the Spring Game,
but he will be fine when the season starts. A Heisman favorite
with two (one undisputed) National Championships and multiple
individual accolades, there isn’t much for him left to accomplish
in college. It’s hard to imagine him not coming out as soon
as he’s eligible.
Laurence Maroney (Minnesota - 3JR)
He has been a superstar since his freshman season. Combined with
former teammate, and fourth round draft pick, Marion Barber III
to be the only duo in NCAA history to run for 1,000 yards in consecutive
seasons. 2004 Awards: 1st Team Big Ten All-Conference.
In the Spring Game, Maroney saw time on only one trick play,
as he rested a sore knee. He combines good size with incredible
moves and game-breaking speed. If he sticks around, he could own
most Minnesota, and some Big Ten, rushing records, but he looks
like a lock to be a first round pick in 2006.
Michael Bush (Louisville - 3JR) 6’3”
Outstanding all-around football talent has been a “Slash”
since he was a high school legend on both sides of the ball in
Kentucky. Now appears to have found a home at RB last year, as
he was tremendously productive as a back-up.
This is a classic example of a guy in the right place at the
right time. The program is peaking at the same time the departure
of Lionel Gates and Eric Shelton gives this great talent the opportunity
to shine. On the other side, the success of Bobby Petrino and
the team resulted in the pipeline feeding the backfield a plethora
of talented recruits that will give Bush incentive to declare
early if his value explodes with a big season. Started out in
mid-season form, leading the team in rushing in the Spring Game
LenDale White (USC - 3JR) 6’2”
Thunder to Bush’s lightning is technically the starting
halfback. Sometimes lost among the galaxy of stars on the Trojans,
he’d be the superstar of any other team in the country,
as all he’s done in his first two seasons is rush for almost
2,000 yards and score 31 total TDs.
Surgery to remove torn cartilage in his left ankle and academic
issues kept him out of the Spring Game. The ankle will be fine
in time for the season, but he needs to hit the books to ensure
he has no eligibility problems. Failure to qualify academically
would likely accelerate his decision to move to the NFL. While
White is recognized for his pounding style, he has the speed to
get the corner. It’s unlikely the two will both be top five
picks (maybe if they stayed until the 2007 draft), but the situation
isn’t unlike Carnell Williams and Ronnie Brown this past
draft. If they both declare early, USC could have two RBs both
go in the first round.
Lorenzo Booker (Florida State - 4JR)
College fans are still waiting for the promise he had as one of
the top prospects in the country and celebrated committment in
2002. Leon Washington was more productive with less carries last
Marginally more successful than Washington in the Spring Game,
as “successful” as 4 carries for 5 yards can be considered.
However, he did score the only TD of the spring the Seminoles
outstanding first-team defense allowed in scrimmages. While not
as impressive as expected thus far, Booker doesn’t deserve
all the blame for not emerging as a superstar yet. Inconsistency
at QB and questionable play calling that resulted in multiple
changes in the coaching staff contributed significantly. It’s
very possible he puts it all together this year, but it will likely
take an injury to Leon Washington for him to be productive enough
to make it worth declaring early.
Tyrone Moss (Miami - 3JR) 5’10”
Expected to be the next superstar RB at Miami, Moss has waited
his turn, and it should be here this year. He has been a productive,
yet unspectacular, back-up and spot starter behind Jarrett Payton
and Frank Gore the last two years.
Missed practice and the Spring Game while rehabilitating his
shoulder after off-season surgery, but is still the favorite to
be the starter on a Hurricane team that is looking to return to
dominance after falling short of their normal National Champion
contender expectations the last two years. If they do return to
form on the national stage, and Moss is a big part of it, he’ll
have the exposure to rise up draft boards and the potential of
talented youth behind him will help push him out the door. However,
he so far hasn’t had the aura of being a “special”
runner. Granted, his opportunities were limited, but that’s
exactly what is relatively unimpressive. Passing a mediocre Payton
or crippled Gore and assuming the feature role should have been
possible if he truly had displayed elite talent to HC Larry Coker
the last two years.
Maurice Drew (UCLA - 3JR) 5’8”
Lightning to former teammate and future NFL draft choice Manuel
White’s thunder, Drew was an all-purpose terror all year.
2004 Awards: 2nd Team PAC-10 All-Conference.
Posted 9-57-1 in Spring Game. Another tremendous multi-talented
player whose tremendous speed and quickness lead to big plays
on offense and special teams. Although undersized, he packs a
lot of strength, filling out his frame well and brining excellent
leg drive. While White has moved on to the NFL, the Bruins still
have talented depth in the backfield. He is also overshadowed
in his own conference by Reggie Bush. It is unlikely Drew will
declare early, unless many of the other names above don’t,
leaving the 2006 RB class is thin and giving Drew more value.
Jason Colson (WVU - 4JR) 6’1”
As has been the trend in Morgantown lately, he’s had to
wait his turn behind future NFL talent at RB. He flashed potential
when injuries to Kay-Jay Harris gave him the opportunity, forcing
his way into the picture when Harris was healthy. However, Colson
had some injury problems of his own, which let Pernell Williams
into the picture, as well. He is the leading returning rusher,
finishing third last year behind Harris and QB Rasheed Marshall.
Enters season as the tentative starter in what will be a wide
open RBBC. In addition to the impressive young Williams, Erick
Phillips has returned strong from injury, JUCO transfer Arlen
Dorsey is in the picture, and the Mountaineers bring in an excellent
recruiting class of RBs. If Colson can somehow emerge as a top
producer in the mix with significant numbers, he has all the incentive
in the world to jump while his value is high. His versatility
will help him this season, as he’s been working at splitting
out as wide receiver, a weakness on the team, in some sets, allowing
HC Rich Rodriguez to have more of his tremendous backfield options
on the field at the same time. Success splitting out will only
enhance his draft value. Not an elite prospect, but the recent
success of Mountaineer RBs will have scouts watching a prospect
with ideal measurables and a good pair of hands.
Demetris Summers (3JR - formerly South
Carolina) 6’1” 200
One of the top RB recruits in the country, he burst on the scene
as a true freshman in 2003. Finished leading the team in rushing
and was on SEC All-Freshman team with what appeared to be a bright
future. Once again led the team in rushing in 2004, but failed
to improve through an injury-plagued season. Kicked off the team
by new HC Steve Spurrier in March after a second failed drug test.
Poor grades made transferring options a problem.
Summers has hired trainer Emery Williams and plans to work out
all year to prepare for the 2006 draft. Williams worked with another
former Gamecock bad boy RB, Derek Watson, who has impressed Tampa
Bay this spring as an undrafted free agent. While he was impressive
his freshman year, he was no Maurice Clarett, and his play declined
last year. If he impresses in workouts, he may get some notice,
but at this point, with the baggage he brings, he isn’t
even on the radar.