In July, I first took a look at the running backs headed for the
2007 NFL Draft in this article.
At the end of September, I looked at how the class was evolving
with the first update. With the
bowl season underway, here is another update on who is moving up
and who is moving down.
Key: Name (School - Class
as of 2006) Height Weight
Players improving their draft stock so far this year.
Tony Hunt (Penn State – 4SR) 6’2”
225 - Bio
After a slow start the first two games, Hunt took off. He had 135
yards or more in four straight games and six TDs in that span, including
a game-winning score in OT at Minnesota. Next week against Michigan’s
top-rated run defense, the Wolverine front seven dominated the line
of scrimmage. The offense struggles got worse in the second half,
as both starting QB Anthony Morelli and his backup, Darryl Clark,
were knocked out of the game. With the offense struggling, Hunt
finished with just 33 yards on 13 carries, his worst effort of the
season. While he couldn’t do much on the ground, Hunt still
found a way to be a factor. He had five receptions for a team-high
85 yards, including taking a screen 43 yards for a TD late in the
fourth quarter to temporarily keep PSU’s chances alive. There
seemed to be a hangover from that game the following week, as the
team struggled at home against an Illinois team whose defense significantly
improved this year. Hunt ran 19 times for 52 yards, a 2.7 ypc. He
got back on track and carried the offense in a 12-0 win at Purdue,
posting 31-142-1, but the offense was untracked the following week
in a 13-3 loss at Wisconsin, where he ran for just 35 yards on 11
carries. He bounced back to end the regular season with his thirteenth
and fourteenth career 100-yard games. Finishing the regular season
third in the Big Ten in rushing with 102.3 ypg, Hunt was recognized
as second-team all-conference. He has rushed for a career-best 1,228
yards on 5.0 ypc and scored 11 TDs, as well as leading the team
with 3 TD receptions on 26 catches.
Hunt has been impressive behind an OLine that struggled to mesh
in an offense that was evolving from a different style of QB after
the departure of Michael Robinson to the NFL. With ideal size, Hunt
combines decent speed, power, and fundamentals of a workhorse back
that wears defenses down. He runs with good forward lean and brings
solid receiving skills. He leads by example with an excellent work
ethic in practice and full effort on game days. His timed speed
is unlikely to be elite, but after a season-ending injury to Michael
Bush and a disappointing season by Kenny Irons, he comes out of
the regular season as the top senior RB prospect.
Selvin Young (Texas – 5SR) 6’0”
215 - Bio
Young got off to an excellent start to 2006, starting the first
five games, albeit in a RBBC. Then injury problems returned against
Iowa State when he left the game in the second quarter with a rib
injury. While the team blew out the D-IAA Sam Houston State Bearkats
the next week, both Young and Jamaal Charles were rested for the
Red River Shootout the following weekend. Charles started that game
against Oklahoma, posting 12-65-0, but Young was more effective
in the huge win. Young ran for 60 yards on 11 carries and put the
Longhorns up 7-0 with a 15-yard TD run. The performance earned Young
the nominal starting role back the following week in an easy win
over Baylor and has held it since. He again was efficient and kept
pace with Charles, posting 54 yards on 11 against Baylor. At Nebraska
the next game, he had 54 yards again on a team-high 14 carries in
a hard-fought win. Charles was more productive, finishing with 63
yards on 9 carries. Charles looked better again at Texas Tech the
following week, but Young had more touches, posting 79 yards on
20 carries, including the eventual game-winning one-yard TD, and
grabbing three passes for 22 yards. Young had his worst game of
the year (6-14-0 rushing, no receptions) against Oklahoma State,
while Charles took over the running game. In an upset at KSU, Charles
ran very well (16-87-2), while Young posted 13-41-1 and went back-to-back
games without a catch for the first time this season. Neither back
got much going when rival Texas A&M came to Austin and knocked
the Longhorns out of the Big 12 Championship. Young (47 yards on
10 carries) was slightly more productive than Charles (43 yards
on 12 carries), but Charles scored the only TD for Texas.
Not just winning the national championship last season, but being
a significant contributor in the game, has proven to be a cathartic
event for Young. He has always had good measurables and exciting
athleticism, but his physical, mental, and emotional health have
never aligned until this season. He has put academic problems behind
him, lost weight in the off-season, emerged as a team leader, and
his physical health has been relatively good this year, except for
a minor rib injury. Young has not put up big numbers in the RBBC,
but the former blue chip remained healthy most of the year and was
consistent. His utilization in the passing game is another plus
for his value. With 21 receptions this year, he eclipsed his career
total of 14 coming in to the season. He is a plus kick returner
and although not used much on punts (9 career returns, none the
last two years) he has taken two back for scores. On the other hand,
ball security and durability have been big problems, the latter
primarily responsible for him never having reached his expected
potential. The injuries seem to have taken their toll on his quickness
and speed. He has lost explosion as a runner and hasn’t shown
big play ability (a long run of 37 yards this year and only three
over 15 yards). Young benefits from a weak senior RB class, and
merely remaining healthy a whole season helps his draft value, but
it will take an exceptional post-season and Combine for him to be
a Day One pick.
Jon Cornish (Kansas – 5SR) 6’0”
205 - Bio
After taking over as the featured back last year, Cornish has quickly
found success and continues to fly under the radar after a breakthrough
season. He led the Big 12 with 1,457 rushing yards, a KU single-season
record, and 121.42 ypg rushing, as well as the all-purpose leader
with 137.6 ypg overall. His 5.8 ypc is a KU record for a back with
over 200 carries, and this is the school that produced Gayle Sayers.
He was recognized with first team all-conference honors.
The Canadian Comet (he is a native of New Westminster, B.C.) exploded
on the scene this year, but since he played for Kansas instead of
Oklahoma or Texas, or even Oklahoma State, he hasn’t gotten
the same coverage. He is a slasher who exploited creases with good
vision and athleticism on his way to a record-breaking year for
the Jayhawks. He needs to bulk up to be a feature back at the next
level, but he brings good hands in addition to speed. In a weak
senior class, Cornish could be a fast riser in the post-season.
Pierre Thomas (Illinois – 4SR) 5’11”
210 - Bio
After being expected to share carries with E.B. Halsey and top 2005
recruit Rashard Mendenhall, Thomas seemed to be emerging in to a
feature role for an improving Illinois offense. He put up back-to-back
100-yard games, including 110 yards on 18 carries in a shocking
upset at Michigan State. However, the wheels fell off when Ohio
(not Ohio State, but the MAC team) came in to Champaign. Thomas
managed just 27 yards on 10 carries in the loss while Mendenhall
was able to carve up the Bobcats on his limited attempts. It returned
to more of a straight RBBC between the two and Thomas would hit
double-digit carries only one more time the rest of the season as
Mendenhall began to be worked in more. Thomas had 10 carries for
105 yards, including a season-long 62 yard run, and scored a TD
in his final home game, a loss to Purdue. He finished the season
leading the team in carries (131) and rushing yards (755).
The Big Ten all-purpose yardage leader in 2004 had seen his production
decrease in a crowded backfield and struggling offense, but had
a bit of a resurgence as the offense finally has some stability
with freshman QB Isiah Williams taking over at QB. Despite Mendenhall
coming on and Williams cannibalizing carries as a runner, Thomas
helped his draft stock relative to the limitations of his team.
He saw his kickoff duties scaled back, but received a couple at
the end of the year in order to become the team’s all-time
leader in kick-return yardage, including a 75-yard return in his
last game. He is an exceptional kick returner and that alone could
help find him work on Sundays. Thomas is also a decent receiver,
but was not utilized much in that role this year. He should get
a lower-tier all-star invite and be at the Combine. A tough north-south
runner, he lacks the vision and quickness to project as a feature
runner, but his versatility and return skills make him a good fit
for a change of pace back late Day Two.
Kolby Smith (Louisville – 4SR) 5’11”
215 - Bio
In my preseason review, I listed Smith in a category called "The
RBBC'ers and Back-Ups", saying those listed where "an
injury away from huge seasons that could shoot them up draft boards".
Well, the injury part has happened for Smith. In the second half
of their season opener against Kentucky, top RB prospect Michael
Bush broke his leg and his season was over. Smith and George Stripling
originally split the duty of replaced Bush, at first sharing the
load pretty evenly. At their bye the final week of September, their
yards were almost identical with Smith getting slight more carries
(52-263-3) and Stripling being slightly more productive (42-264-5).
That trend continued the following week against Middle Tennessee
State, when neither player was particularly impressive. Smith had
9-19-1 and Stripling 8-39-0. It took freshman Anthony Allen to get
the running game going in the second half. With the performance
of Smith and Stripling tapering off, Allen got the start the following
week against Cincinnati. Smith saw just three carries for four yards,
including failing to convert a fourth-and-two on the opening drive
(although replay subsequently showed he got a poor spot). However,
neither Allen nor Stripling were significantly better (actually
FB Brock Bolen was the most productive runner) in the close win.
Allen got the start again in another struggle at Syracuse. Allen
and Stripling both played well, but after the Orangemen pulled within
eight with five minutes remaining, it was Smith who took over the
game. Smith clinched the victory running seven times for 77 yards,
including a 31-yard TD to put the game away. He finished with a
career-high 165 yards and two scores. Just when it looked like Smith
was about to blow his opportunity, he blew up and remains on the
grid. He started the rest of the way in the regular season, sharing
carries primarily with Allen. Smith would only score one TD the
rest of the way, as Allen became the primary red zone back. Smith
finished the regular season leading the team in carries (138) and
rushing yards (780), while scoring seven TDs.
Smith is a career back-up who stepped up fairly well this year when
given the chance, albeit remaining in a RBBC. He has NFL size and
is useful in the passing game, both as a blocker and receiver. He’ll
have a chance to make an impression in the Orange Bowl and a surprising
invite to the Senior Bowl, which confirms interest in him as a draft
prospect. Smith likely has earned an invite to the Combine now,
as well, and improved his stock from a fringe UDFA when the season
started to Day Two pick.
Players whose value remains unchanged (for better or worse) so far
Michael Bush (Louisville – 4SR) 6’2”
247 - Bio
After rushing for 128 yards and three touchdowns in the first half
of their home opening win against Kentucky on 9/3/06, he broke his
right leg in two places on the second carry of the second half.
The surgery to repair it was done two days later and went well,
but he was finished for the season.
Perhaps he should be listed with the underclassmen now, because
he can apply for a redshirt. There seems to be a growing belief
it is even money he returns after QB Brian Brohm said he won’t
declare early. However, breaking it early in the season gives Bush
plenty of time to be ready for the Combine. Bush doesn’t have
anything left to prove at the collegiate level, he could have been
a high pick last year. He came back for a chance at, albeit a dark
horse for both, a national championship and the Heisman. The injury
will likely be a wakeup call that something more serious could happen.
A freakish size/speed combination in the Brandon Jacobs mold, he
isn’t just a physical anomaly who gets by on power, but an
excellent athlete with good hands for a big back. In fact, he is
still learning how to run with power and proper lean. He doesn’t
use the 20 pounds he has put on in college as well as Jacobs uses
his weight and he is still developing as a runner, being a converted
HS QB who started college in a “slash” role.
Lorenzo Booker (FSU – 5SR) 5’11”
193 - Bio
After his first 100-yard rushing effort of the year against a completely
overmatched Rice squad, Booker had one of his best all-around performances
in a loss at North Carolina State. He rushed for 58 yards on 14
carries and caught four passes for 105 yards, including taking a
screen 73 yards to set up a FG in the second quarter. However, Antone
Smith, who had just 18 yards on eight carries at the time, was on
the field for the final drive that came up short. It wouldn’t
get better for Booker most of the season. After several middling
performances sharing carries with Smith, he wouldn’t get more
than 14 carries again until their second-to-last regular season
game, thanks to an injury to Smith. After three losses in their
last four games, the team was in a downward spiral when they decided
to preview the future with Smith as the starter against Western
Michigan. However, Smith dislocated his elbow on the second play
of the game and Booker went on to see a season-high 21 carries and
rush for 80 yards, as well as catch three passes for 39 yards in
the win. As the passing game continued to struggle throughout the
season, he also wouldn’t see the ball much there, other than
75 yards on 8 catches in a loss to Boston College. He saw no receptions
in four games this year, the most he went without one since his
freshman year. He finished strong in a loss to Florida in their
regular season finale, posting 61 yards on 10 carries and catching
two passes. Despite the fact he was strong running the ball, he
was underutilized in the role.
FSU had their worst season since the early days of the Bowden Era.
The offense was out of sync all year and couldn’t settle on
a QB. The fact Booker failed to rise above his circumstances and
that his team abandoned him as a feature back (moving Smith to the
starter before he was hurt) are why his draft value hasn’t
improved this season. Still, watching the mess that Seminoles have
been on offense the last two years, Booker deserves the benefit
of some doubt. The incredible elusiveness and speed are still there
and likely to impress at the Senior Bowl and Combine. I wouldn’t
be surprised if he is a late riser come April.
DeShawn Wynn (Florida – 5SR) 5’11”
238 - Bio
With a strong start to the year, Wynn appeared to have finally capitalized
on his potential and was moving up the charts. However, his bid
for three consecutive 100-yard games ended in the third quarter
against Alabama. After a carry for a 15-yard gain, he came up limping.
Wynn left that game with 50 yards on 12 carries and would not return
due to a sprained knee. He did not practice leading up to the crucial
LSU game. Although he made an appearance in the game, it was as
a decoy. He did not have a carry. HC Urban Meyer said he was still
not 100% when he returned the following week at Auburn. Wynn started
and rushed for a decent 46 yards on 11 carries (4.2 ypc) in the
loss. However, the story was the change-up the running game threw.
Meyer and OC Dan Mullen used blue chip freshman Percy Harvin and
fellow wide receiver Andre Caldwell eight times on running plays
for a combined 113 yards. Caldwell’s carries were while split
out, but Harvin lined up as a RB for his five carries for a team-high
66 yards. The explosive Harvin remains in a “slash”
role, he has more carries than catches this year, while Caldwell
continues to see running plays in Meyer’s diverse offense.
However, most detrimental to Wynn’s touches has been the role
of freshman QB Tim Tebow as a rushing threat. He is second to Wynn
on the team in carries this year and leads the team in rushing scores.
Injury problems continued to plague Wynn as the season closed out.
A left shoulder that had been bothering him this season was dislocated
in the regular season finale, a win over FSU where he had just six
yards on nine carries. After guaranteeing he would be ready for
the SEC Championship face-off with Arkansas, he has just one carry
for a loss of two yards, while Tebow led the team with eight carries
and Havin led them with over 100 rushing yards on just six carries.
He currently is dealing with a bone bruise on his right foot and
is in a protective boot while the team prepares for the National
Championship game, but Meyer says Wynn will be ready. Although this
season was more positive overall, his production was virtually the
same before their bowl game. At 124-630-5, Wynn has 9 more yards
and two less scores on six less carries than the previous year,
with the National Championship game left to play.
Wynn’s injuries have offset the strides he has taken this
year in shedding his perception of an underachiever with a questionable
attitude. He has ideal size, when he keeps his weight in check,
and the type of explosion that a back at the next level should have.
Teams are already contacting his high school coach for evaluations,
so he is definitely on the radar. He has an ideal opportunity to
showcase himself in a National Championship game, an all-star game
(although he hasn’t been reported to have a Senior Bowl invite
yet), and the Combine. His value can still swing significantly either
way over the next couple of months through those events, so whether
or not he is a first or second day pick is still in question.
Garrett Wolfe (Northern Illinois –
5SR) 5’7” 177 - Bio
The apex of Wolfe’s season was rushing for a career-high 353
yards at Ball State, breaking his own school record. It was the
second 300-yard game of his career and 18th 100-yard game in 24
appearances. One TD behind the school’s scoring record heading
in to the game, he broke it with three TD runs in the game. He scored
from over 50 yards out on his first and last TD runs, but only managed
a 48-yard TD run in between. The performance catapulted Wolfe into
the national scene and put him in serious contention for the Heisman.
His 1,181 rushing yards at that point was the most anyone had ever
run for in D-IA through five games. He was on pace to break Barry
Sanders’ 1988 single-season record. He led the nation with
236.20 ypg, 75 more per game than second place, and would guide
his team to their fourth straight win at Miami (Ohio) the following
week, posting 29-162-2. However, the bottom swiftly fell out on
his season at Western Michigan. A Broncos game plan focused on keeping
the Huskies offense off the field limited Wolfe to the worst production
of his career, just 25 yards on 18 carries. Part of the problem
was the Huskies committed three turnovers and were dominated in
time of possession, having the ball just over 21 minutes. The following
week, Wolfe stumbled early again. He had totaled just 45 yards on
17 carries when he was removed in the third quarter. With a 33-0
lead, HC Joe Novak took out his star out as a precaution and because
he was struggling. His struggles continued with 66 yards and a score
on 22 carries in a loss at Iowa, followed by 16-54-0 in another
loss against Toledo. Wolfe bounced back with his tenth 200-yard
game of his career and three TDs in a win against Central Michigan.
He ended his MAC career with a final 100-yard day in a win at Eastern
Michigan. His last college game was a disappointment, finishing
with just 28 yards on 20 carries as the Huskies were dominated by
TCU in the Poinsettia Bowl. Where he was lapping the field earlier
in the year, he finished the top rusher in D-IA by less than 2 ypg
with a 148.31 average. He was recognized with the Vern Smith Leadership
Award as the MAC’s top player, as well as the Offensive Player
of the Year award. AP had his as a third team All-American.
The funk Wolfe got in mid-season not only removed him from Heisman
contention, but stopped the rise in his draft stock. His small size
puts pressure on him to keep his production outstanding consistently.
The sudden drop in production came after he had 60 carries in two
games. As durability has been a problem in his career, this continues
to demonstrate his ceiling will be as a change of pace back at the
next level. He has the Senior Bowl and Combine left to impress.
Brian Leonard (Rutgers – 5SR) 6’2”
235 - Bio
Not much change, as Ray Rice continues to soar and Leonard is just
a role player in the surprisingly successful season by the Scarlet
Knights. Although his touches in the passing game decreased, as
well, he is still an important contributor there. He leads the team
with 35 receptions. He suffered a hip pointer at South Florida,
but returned after a bye week to recover. His rushing role was increased
in his final home game in appreciation for his career. He finished
with his only 100-yard rushing day of the season, posting 106 yards
(although Rice still bested him with 107) on 19 carries. His also
ran for two TDs to become the leading career scorer in Rutgers history.
Unfortunately, he wasn’t much help in a triple overtime loss
at WVU that cost them the conference and a BCS bid. Leonard had
just eight yards on four carries, although one of them was for a
TD in the second overtime.
As Rice emerged last year, Leonard’s draft status had already
taken the hit. His limited production was expected this year and
the success of his team has gotten him more publicity than a better
statistical season on a typical Rutgers team would have. Offsetting
the loss of rushing stats is the development he’s made as
a blocker. A 1,000-yard season still wouldn’t have had Leonard
viewed as a feature back at the next level. What he has been able
to show now is he’s more than a tweener, but can be successful
as a traditional FB with primarily blocking duties and whose versatility
offers tremendous value. He could be the rare Day One FB selection
Marcus O’Keith (California –
5SR) 6’1” 190 - Bio
Jeff Tedford’s first major signing as HC at Cal, O’Keith
was again unable to pass Marshawn Lynch and Justin Forsett in arguably
the nation’s most talented backfield. He saw little action
(22 carries for the year), but was featured as a kick returner,
until turf toe ended his season three games early.
The speedy back has the talent to start for a lot of programs. He
is a home run hitter (sub-4.5 speed) with a high ypc average over
his career, including TD runs of 48 and 71 yards on his resume.
Despite only seeing a few passes in games, he has great skills as
a receiver. When used as a kick returner, he has shown potential
there and adds value as an outstanding special teams player - he
hits like a safety. So while his opportunity to be drafted with
potential to be a RB is all but gone, he could stick at the next
level as a special teams player.
Players whose draft stock has been hurt so far this year.
Kenny Irons (Auburn – 5SR) 5’11”
200 - Bio
Although he bounced back from ankle and toe injuries with a nice
game at South Carolina, he was disappointing in their shocking home
loss to Arkansas. His 75 yards on 15 carries, including a 23-yard
run, and two catches for 21 yards were solid numbers. However, he
didn’t appear to run with the same explosion and quick feet,
perhaps indicative the injuries are lingering. His limitations due
to injury were confirmed the following week, when he sat out an
easy non-conference game against Tulane. Irons was held out to nurse
turf toe and an ankle sprain, while freshman Ben Tate ran wild in
the win. Fresh the following week, Irons responded with his third,
and last, 100-yard performance of the season in a win at Mississippi.
With another easy non-conference game against Arkansas State up
next, Irons played just the first series before Tate and Brad Lester
shared the load the rest of the game. He had just 49 yards on ten
carries in a loss to Georgia, but helped Auburn to a win in their
fifth straight Iron Bowl, posting 19-85-1 in a win over Alabama.
He finished the season 821 yards on 174 carries, but just four TDs.
The SEC coaches still recognized him with first team all-conference
honors. The press had him on the second team.
Irons missed two games and most of third due to injuries. First,
there is no fodder on an NFL schedule that will allow his coach
the convenience of resting him. Next, the number of injuries and
his response, whether unjustly or not, bring his toughness and durability
in to question. Although 2005 was a fantastic year, the lack of
consistency this year raises questions. The struggles he is facing
now put his value in a slight decline now, as there isn’t
more history there to demonstrate his resiliency. Of course, considering
his draft value moving down is all relative. He is still one of
the top senior prospects. However, his measurables now become more
important because there isn’t a pattern of consistent success
that can outweigh some disappointment in testing. He has been practicing
and is reportedly as healthy as he’s been since opening night,
so he could start to swing the momentum of his draft stock in the
Cotton Bowl. With his draft status far from a lock after this season,
Irons will also be participating in the Senior Bowl.
Kenneth Darby (Alabama – 5SR) 5’10”
208 - Bio
After four games, the 2005 All-SEC back was averaging 3.0 ypc and
had yet to find the end zone. A hip pointer in the season opener
and too much attention to individual record contributed, but cannot
excuse, his slow start. At Florida, Darby got somewhat back on track.
He ran for a solid season-high 76 yards on 14 carries, although
he did fumble an exchange, but fell on the ball to prevent the turnover.
He also had a career high 29 yards on four receptions. The following
week at home against Duke, Alabama was down 14-10 in the first half.
Darby had just 32 yards and the Crimson Tide were booed off the
field at halftime. However, he briefly looked like himself on a
decisive drive in the fourth quarter. Darby rushed 6 times for 60
yards, including a season-long 20-yard run to the Duke one-yard
line to set up the TD. He finished with his first 100-yard game
of the season, rushing for 115 yards on 18 carries and only one
run for a loss (of just one yard). He followed that up with his
second, and last, 100-yard game of the season in a win against Mississippi.
Then he was ineffective again in a loss at Tennessee, posting just
26 yards on 14 carries in a loss. He got back on track with 7.0
average on ten carries in an easy win over sub par competition from
Florida International. The SEC season finished with unspectacular
to poor performances and three loses, although he had a 29-yard
TD reception, his first of the season, at LSU. After rushing for
back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons, a third is in serious jeopardy
as he finishes the regular season with 820. He had no rushing TDs
and his 4.1 ypc is the lowest of his career.
Darby started the season with rushing records and post-season recognition
on his mind. He ends it trying to salvage his season and legacy
in the Independence Bowl. It would be helpful if there was an injury
to point to, but after back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons, scouts are
left wondering where that back went. He will get a last shot to
impress on the field in the Senior Bowl before the Combine.
Thomas Clayton (KSU – 5SR) 5’10”
220 - Bio
After a breakout game against Louisville, in which he drew praise
from HC Ron Prince, Clayton was moving back up again. However, as
usual for Clayton’s collegiate career, bad soon followed the
good. In their Big 12 opener at perennial league doormat Baylor,
KSU fell 17-3 with Clayton opening the door for Bears with a fumble
at the Baylor ten-yard line in the first quarter. The Bears would
score a TD on the subsequent drive and never trail in the game.
Clayton finished with just 38 yards on 18 carries. The following
week Prince named Leon Patton the starting RB for their next game
and Clayton had moved all the way down to third string. Patton blew
up in the win against Oklahoma State, while Clayton did not play.
There was also an issue one practice where Clayton questioned in
the media Prince kicking the offense out of practice. The reactionary
Prince apparently interpreted this as some attempt to undermine
his authority. Clayton was removed complete off the depth chart
and would not play again in the second half of the season. Prior
to their Texas Bowl appearance, Prince informed the media Clayton
was no longer part of the program.
The FSU transfer is in a freefall at this time as a couple of relatively
minor incidents have derailed what should have been two big years.
Overall, the season has hurt his draft value, hence why I indicate
he’s moving down, but I expect that to change after his workouts.
Clayton has ideal size in a chiseled physique with breakaway speed
(reportedly ran a sub-4.4 at KSU). He has several plays over 25
yards in 2005, including an 80-yard TD run against Florida International,
and a 69-yard TD against Louisville this year. He isn’t technically
strong as a receiver, but when he gets the ball in stride in the
flat, he can turn it in to a big play. He brings a power and speed
combo that is very appealing to NFL teams. His talent and measurables
could have a Day One grade, but he doesn’t have a lot on his
resume and will have to interview well to have teams not be concerned
about his baggage.
Tyrone Moss (Miami – 4SR) 5’9”
223 - Bio
True freshman Javarris James locked himself in as the starter after
back-to-back 100-yard games in victories against Houston and North
Carolina. As if that didn’t present enough of a challenge
to Moss in regaining his draft value, he continued to deal with
health issues. Against Houston, Moss suited up, but did not play,
appearing dejected on the bench with a towel over his head most
of the game. Prior to the game, HC Larry Coker commented on how
Moss still couldn’t make some cuts and the surgically-repaired
left knee was not fully healthy. However, the explanation for his
absence in the game and disposition on the sidelines was that he
was suffering from a severe migraine headache. The following week
against the Tarheels, Moss did not play because he needed to rest
the knee. After practice the next week Moss claimed he was “100%”,
as well as that the knee is feeling much better, but the results
failed to support him. Moss had just 27 yards on ten carries in
a blowout of Florida International. He was similarly unimpressive
in a surprisingly tough win against Duke and bottomed out with seven
yards on five carries in a loss at Georgia Tech. As it appeared
time to completely write Moss off for the season, he capitalized
on an unexpected shot at redemption. When James left in the second
quarter of the Virginia Tech game with a hip pointer, Moss took
over and his sole highlight of the season. Moss rushed for 103 yards
on 13 carries, including a career-long 50-yard TD run. The run was
pretty impressive, if not controversial. On a third-and-one in the
fourth quarter, Moss was met by two Hokie defenders up the middle.
It appeared his forward progress had been stopped, but he kept churning
his legs and spun out to the left before outrunning the rest of
Tech, some of whom seemed to think the play was over. The score
temporarily tied the game, but the Hurricanes went on to lose their
fourth game of a season for the first time since 1999. After Moss’
best performance of the season, James returned as the starter the
following week at Maryland, but Moss was given more work. This time,
he failed to take advantage, posting 37 yards on 12 carries in another
loss. He then saw just one carry for five yards in their sixth loss
at Virginia. He did not play in his final home game, a shocking
upset of Boston College. Moss hopes to end his career on a high
note in the MPC Computers Bowl, not your typical Hurricane post-season
Moss momentarily teased with his single outstanding performance
of the year against VaTech, but quickly disappeared again. Even
when healthy, Moss has never been a home run hitter. Don’t
look at Frank Gore and Willis McGahee and think Moss can be that
when the knee is finally healthy. He has never had the talent those
two do. This is a guy who could not beat out Jarrett Payton. The
50-yard run was an anomaly. In 40 career games, it was his only
one longer than 37 yards and his sub-5.0 ypc is another indicator
of his lack of dynamic ability. His six receptions this year increased
his career total to eight, so he has a long way to go to even be
a serviceable receiver. While the blown knee is his biggest health
concern, durability overall has been a problem and he has a propensity
to put on pounds in the off-season. When his knee is finally healthy,
he is a fireplug who runs with good pad level and power with an
excellent nose for the end zone. He’ll need to take advantage
of his opportunity at the Shrine Game and perform better than expected
at the Combine to rebound from where he is buried on Day Two right
Ronnie McGill (North Carolina – 4SR)
5’11” 220 - Bio
He battled cramps early in the season, but otherwise McGill remained
relatively healthy and played in every game for the first time since
his freshman year. However, injury problems caught up with him in
the season finale at Duke. He tore his left ACL in the first half
of his final college game. McGill had surgery 12/22/06 and won’t
be ready for the Combine. He finished the season with career highs
in carries (192) and rushing yards (790), with seven rushing TDs
and another on one of his 15 receptions. He had three 100-yard games,
including an impressive 29-117-1 effort in a near-upset of ACC Champion
A sprained ankle in 2004 season and a torn pec started his 2005
already made durability an issue for McGill, now the untimely torn
ACL will not enable this potential sleeper to workout much prior
to the draft. Remember his name, though. He was overlooked when
he came out of high school and thrived, now faces the same challenge
in getting in to the NFL.
Justin Vincent (LSU – 5SR) 5’10”
223 - Bio
After an incredible recovery from a torn ACL in January, Vincent
had a great camp and started the first four games. However, he was
unable to separate himself from a RB revolving door and not only
lost being the starter in name, but fell to the back of the line.
Other than the Mississippi game, where freshmen Charles Scott and
Keiland Williams – both whom passed him – were inactive,
Vincent’s number was rarely called in the second half of the
season. He finished fifth on the team in carries (45) and sixth
in yards (139).
Coming back healthy and winning the starting job were big steps
for Vincent in getting back on the NFL radar, but the season quickly
spiraled downward for him. With a poor outlook for being able to
show anything statistically or on film, the 2003 Sugar Bowl MVP
is left with an all-star game and the Combine, if he gets an invite
to either, to make an impression. It is likely Vincent is still
rusty and not fully recovered from the knee injury. He could surprise
as an UDFA because he does have some talent as a big back who can
catch the ball a bit.
Courtney Lewis (Texas A&M – 5SR)
6’0” 204 - Bio
Started the season stuck in a triple-headed RBBC monster with super-sized
FB tweener Jorvorskie Lane and freshman sensation Mike Goodson.
The carries were distributed fairly evenly, with Lane seeing the
short yardage and goal-line work. After being the leading rusher
in essentially a practice game to open the year against Citadel,
Lewis saw the least work against Louisiana-Lafayette. He was out
for a win at Army with an unspecified injury. He suited up, but
also missed the La Tech game. HC Dennis Franchione said he could
have played after the game, but was recovering from injury. Lewis
had his biggest game of the season the following week against Texas
Tech, leading the team in carries (13) and rushing yards (60). He
barely saw 13 more carries the rest of the season. Lane and Goodson
became a dynamic duo, while Lewis missed two more games and saw
no carries in two more as he battled a nagging groin injury the
rest of the season.
His career has gone in reverse since being a Freshman All-American
in 2003. He can be an explosive player, but injuries undermined
his career and barring an unexpected post-season showing and Combine,
he’ll be lucky to be drafted Day Two.
Ibraham “E.B.” Halsey (Illinois
– 4SR) 5’10” 200 - Bio
A RBBC with Pierre Thomas devolved into Halsey losing carries to
Rashard Mendenhall and moving increasingly out of the picture in
the running game with mobile QB Isiah Williams taking over as the
starter. Halsey had four carries in the last seven games and was
even rarely involved in the passing game.
The highly-touted recruit from New Jersey failed to develop in to
the big play threat he has the skills to be. An offense without
the skill level to use him properly and inconsistent play have impeded
his development, but unlike Pierre Thomas, he hasn't been able to
rise above that. He is a decent receiver and can return both kicks
and punts. However, his disappearance from the game plan makes it
unlikely he’ll even get a shot as an undrafted free agent.
Players no longer in the draft picture for 2007.
Austin Scott (Penn State – 4SR) 6’0”
209 - Bio
After reminding people of his potential with a 26-110-2 performance
in the Orange Bowl after Tony Hunt was injured, Scott was expected
to see more work this season. However a sprained knee kept him out
during the spring and an ankle injury has prevented him from playing.
With a redshirt available, he’ll return for a fifth year,
and with Hunt gone after this year, he has a chance to be the feature
back next year.
Players improving their draft stock so far this year.
Marshawn Lynch (California – 3JR)
5’11” 217 - Bio
After struggling, along with the rest of the team, in a season-opening
loss at Tennessee, Lynch again looked like an elite back when
he rattled off four consecutive 100-yard games. He had already
rolled up 50 yards on the ground and caught a 23-yard pass in
what would become a blow out of Oregon on 10/7/06, but had to
leave in the second quarter after aggravating an ankle injury.
He bounced back the following week with 165 rushing yards at Washington
State and would finish the season with career highs across the
board. Lynch led the conference with 1,245 rushing yards and nine
touchdowns on 203 carries. The talented receiver also had 31 catches
for 311 yards and four scores. He was recognized for his accomplishments
as PAC-10 Offensive Player of the Year, as well as a semi-finalist
for the Maxwell and Doak Walker Awards.
The ill-informed tend to question if Lynch will be the next J.J.
Arrington, but all the two share is having played the same position
at the same alma mater. Lynch has the prototype size, speed, and
receiving skills to be a tremendous feature back at the next level.
Although he is an excellent kick returner, he was removed from
that role this year to protect his health. The multi-talented
Lynch has even thrown for a couple TDs in his career. Playing
on the West Coast, he got significantly less recognition, and
didn’t put up eye-popping numbers because he battled two
ankle sprains and back soreness this season. Even if he had been
completely healthy all year, a talented back-up in Justin Forsett
would have gotten a similar share of touches. Still, Lynch and
Adrian Peterson, both underclassmen, are the two most talented
runners in this class. Assuming both declare, they should be the
first two running backs drafted. It wouldn’t be an upset
if Lynch was the first RB selected overall.
Antonio Pittman (Ohio State – JR)
5’11” 195 - Bio
After continually proving he deserved to be the feature back in
a tough early season schedule, he was spelled more frequently
by freshman stud Chris Wells as the Buckeyes got in to the soft
part of their schedule. After starting the season with 100 yards
in four of the first five games, he had just three in his last
seven, which featured multiple blowouts. HC Jim Tressel rode him
when it mattered most, like in their season-ending thriller against
Michigan. Pittman finished with 139 yards on 18 carries, including
a 56-yard TD run in the third quarter after the Wolverines has
closed the lead to four points. He finished the regular season
with a career-high 13 TDs, but his 232 carries and 1,171 rushing
yards were down slightly from the previous year. The Big Ten coaches
named him first team all-conference.
Pittman has said he would like to return for his senior year and
compete for the Heisman, but he has submitted his name to the
NFL underclassmen advisory committee. He says he’ll review
the information when it returns before making a decision. The
reality is his value is unlikely to be higher. Chris Wells will
only continue to cut in to his carries if he returns next year
and if they win the national championship, Pittman should definitely
take the money and run. While still overshadowed by his more high-profile
teammates, Pittman’s skills and value are recognized. He
is on the NFL radar, so the feedback he gets will be positive
and it would be an upset if he didn’t declare. His important
role in the continued success of his team keeps his value on the
rise more than his numbers, which are solid, but unspectacular,
much like his game.
Dwayne Wright (Fresno State – 5JR)
6’1” 220 - Bio
Although he has another year of eligibility remaining, after a
devastating knee injury cost him most of the last two years, it
is no surprise Wright was the first underclassmen to declare for
the draft. He made the decision after his final home game, a 34-0
shutout of Idaho. He celebrated the following week with a school-record
295 yards rushing at Louisiana Tech, including a game-winning
33-yard TD run. Wright finished the season with 261-1,462-11 (5.6
ypc) good for eighth in the D-IA in rushing with 121.83 ypg. Surprisingly,
he was only second-team All-WAC.
Wright is 23, graduates in December, and already has a family,
so after his outstanding comeback from a serious knee injury,
it was a no-brainer for him to leave early. A strong runner with
good size, he didn’t have top speed before the injury, but
still has a nice burst through the line. Wright has surprisingly
good hands for a big back, he was second on the team with 29 receptions.
He has Day One potential, but it will all be contingent on medical
reports on his knee and how he tests out.
Ahmad Bradshaw (Marshall – 3JR) 5’11”
192 - Bio
In a breakout season, Bradshaw finished with 249-1,523-19 and
17-129-2, leading C-USA with 126.9 yards per game – also
good for sixth in D-IA. He scored 19 rushing touchdowns this season
(third-most in Marshall History) and ranked second in D-IA with
Stop me if you’ve heard this before, talented player runs
into trouble with the bigger name program that recruited him,
lands at Marshall, and blows up. While Bradshaw is no Randy Moss,
he has turned his career around since alcohol possession by a
minor and the subsequent resisting of arrest involved lost Bradshaw
a spot as a Virginia recruit. Flying under the radar, Bradshaw
is a home run hitter who has now demonstrated the consistency
and durability to be a feature back over the last two years. He
has requested a draft grade from the NFL advisory committee and
don’t be surprised if he declares and is a fast riser in
Players whose value remains unchanged (for better or worse) so
far this year.
Adrian Peterson (Oklahoma – 3JR)
6’2” 218 - Bio
Peterson was clearly back to his 2004 Heisman runner-up form this
year. He rushed for 100+ yards in all six games he played, including
being the first to do so against Texas and his fourth career 200-yard
game in a controversial loss at Oregon. He has 22 100-yard rushing
games in 30 games played for his career. Against Texas, despite
running 25 times for 109 yards, including a 29-yard TD, he did
have some problems in the game. He was held to only 38 yards in
the second half and lost a huge fumble in the fourth quarter at
the Texas 15-yard line with his team down 21-10. On the following
drive, a pass in the flat bounced off Peterson’s hands.
He gave up on the ball, assuming it was incomplete, but Texas
didn’t. It was scooped up and walked in for a TD. The ruling
was it was a lateral, so the score counted, and Texas secured
the victory. The following week against Iowa State, a 53-yard
TD run in fourth quarter capped off a day where he posted 26-183-2
and 3-45-0. However, that latest dazzling run has been his last
run so far this year. He was tripped up heading to the end zone
and dove across the goal-line for the TD, landing with all his
weight on his left shoulder. The result was a broken collarbone
that kept him out of the rest of the regular season. He is expected
to return to play Boise State in the Fiesta Bowl. Despite missing
the last seven games, he finished with 168-935-10 and was named
First Team Big 12 All-Conference.
The injury is unlikely to prevent him from declaring for the draft
or hurt his draft value, but it is the latest question about his
durability. He needed shoulder surgery before last season, was
hampered by an ankle sprain last season, and now missed the second
half of this year. There are also concerns about his height exposing
him too much as a target. However, his exciting combination of
size, speed, and raw natural talent is reminiscent of Eric Dickerson,
who thrived as a taller RB. His value is on hold, but as there
were no complications in his recovery and he is expected to play
in his bowl game, he is still a favorite to be the top RB selected
and in the running to be the first player chosen overall.
Chris Henry (Arizona – 4JR) 5’11”
230 - Bio
Henry led the team in all rushing categories, but with just 165-581-7.
He started the first two games before Chris Jennings replaced
him for six. Henry then finished strong, piling up the bulk of
his production in the final four games.
A track runner who plays football, Henry’s decision to declare
is a major surprise. This was the first season he saw significant
action, and at 3.5 ypc, he didn’t give much reason to believe
he’ll be special. He does have ideal measurables, but has
a long way to go to be a running back. Apparently he is upset
over losing his starting job during the season and uncertain of
his role in new OC Sonny Dykes’ offense, so as opposed to
transferring, he’ll gamble with declaring. He’ll be
lucky to be a UDFA.
Players whose draft stock has been hurt so far this year.
Gary Russell (Minnesota – 3JR) 5’11”
After being academically ineligible this year, Russell was unable
to transfer to another NCAA school because he was not in good
academic standing or enter the supplemental draft because he was
not three years removed from his high school graduating class.
He allegedly spent some time in JUCO, but it appears his first
option for next season is to jump to the NFL. He has requested
a draft grade from the NFL advisory committee.
Russell was set to be the next great Gopher until he fell behind
in school. The track record of players sitting out an entire football
season and getting drafted is not a good one. The last RB to try,
Demetrius Summers, went undrafted. In 2005, Russell and eventual
first round pick Laurence Maroney both went over 1,000 yards,
with Russell being the goal-line runner and posting a school-record
18 rushing TDs. At this point, he is back on the radar, but with
his value on the decline by nature of having just missed an entire
season. However, he is an intriguing prospect to keep an eye on
if he decides to declare.
Danny Ware (Georgia – 3JR) 6’1”
222 - Bio
Number 2 in RBBC with Thomas Brown in 2005, he fell behind Kregg
Lumpkin, as well, in 2006. In a bit of a surprise, he submitted
his name to the NFL underclassmen advisory committee seeking a
draft grade. With Brown and Lumpkin, as well as two other scholarship
backs, set to return next season, he will look at his NFL options
as he has said he will not transfer. He has NFL size, but has
seen his numbers decline each season since a breakout true freshman
campaign in 2004. Similar career path as LSU’s Justin Vincent.
Players no longer in the draft picture for 2007.
Mike Hart (Michigan – 3JR) 5’9”
196 - Bio
Hart put an injury-plagued 2005 behind him and returned to being
the standout workhorse he was as a true freshman in 2004. He had
nine 100-yard games and never less than 19 carries or 90 rushing
yards in any game this season. He had one of his best games in
the most important game of career. Although Michigan lost the
thriller at OSU to decide which would play for the national championship,
it wasn’t due to any lack of effort or production from Hart.
He rushed for 144 yards on 23 carries and scored three times.
In his previous two games against the Buckeyes, he had a total
of 76 yards on 27 carries. Hart finished with career-best rushing
totals across the board with 301-1,515-14 and was a consensus
first team Big Ten all-conference RB.
Despite a weak senior RB class making it a good year for him to
make the jump, it appears almost certain Hart will return. "I've
got one year left, and I'm going to get them next year,"
was his quote after the OSU loss. While talk is cheap, there has
been no indication he has submitted his name to the NFL underclassmen
advisory committee and he has been active in lobbying other Wolverine
underclassmen to return. He’s off the radar as a draft prospect
Yvenson Bernard (Oregon State – 4JR)
5’9” 203 - Bio
After 299 carries in 2005, Bernard was the workhorse again in
2006. He finished with 273 carries, fifth-highest in D-IA this
year with almost identical results, relative to slightly fewer
carries, as the previous year: 1,210 yards (1,321 in 2005) and
12 TDs (13 in 2005). Less carries this year were the result of
him missing the Beavers shocking upset of USC, unfortunate for
a player lacking the national recognition he deserves, due to
a right ankle sprain. Bernard was recognized for his season by
being named PAC-10 first team all-conference. He was squeezed
out last year when the conference was packed with great backs.
Bernard said if he was informed he would be an early-round pick
he may consider declaring early, but his goal is to gain a merchandise
management degree. He has not requested a draft grade yet, so
expect him to be back in Corvallis next fall.
Darius Walker (Notre Dame – 3JR)
5’10” 208 - Bio
Walker had a very similar, and impressive, statistical season
this year as he did in 2005. However, his numbers got fat on their
weaker opponents. Four of his six 100-yard games were against
the three armed forces and hapless Stanford. Fumbling also became
a problem for the first time this year, as he lost his first fumble
in 405 carries early in the season and couple more the rest of
the year. Where he continued to thrive was as a receiving option,
finishing third on the team with 54 receptions. There are mixed
opinions on Walker and whether or not he can be a feature back.
While the weak senior class would make it a good year to jump,
there has been no indication he will and he appears set to return
to South Bend.
Lynell Hamilton (San Diego State –
4JR) 6’0” 220 - Bio
Hamilton got off to a slow start as he tried to rebound from severe
leg problems to his incredible 2003 MWC Freshman of the Year form,
when he threatened Marshall Faulk’s freshman school-record
1,429 rushing yards before getting hurt. He was never able to
get over 100 yards and scored just one TD in the first three games.
The injury bug bit him again in the third game against Utah on
9/23/06. He tore the meniscus cartilage in his left knee and was
expected to missed three weeks. He returned for a loss to D-IAA
Cal Poly and another at Wyoming the following week, but was limited
to seven total carries in the two games. Lingering soreness in
the knee shut him down for the rest of the year. He finished with
145 rushing yards on 54 carries and one TD for the season.
The lasting impact of the original leg injury, particularly on
his speed, was troublesome, but after another injury in 2005 and
yet another this season, his durability is a serious concern.
With his size, running and receiving skills, he has the potential
to be a feature back at the next level. His 26 receptions in 2005
made him the second-leading returning receiver and he had 15 for
102 yards in the first three games this year. However, he has
never lived up to his great expectations because of injuries.
He will graduate after three and a half years this semester, but
has said he will go to graduate school, so he is expected to return
for his final year of eligibility and regain some draft value.
Alley Broussard (LSU – 4JR) 6’0”
247 - Bio
After missing his chance to be the feature back last year due
injury, what should have been a breakout season this year continues
to be a disappointing struggle in a multi-headed RBBC. In a loss
at Florida, he had the second-most carries (eight), but managed
just 15 yards on 1.9 ypc. He wouldn’t have more than eight
carries the rest of the year. In their season-ending win at Arkansas,
he contributed with five straight tough carries on a scoring drive
in the third quarter, but then lost a crucial fumble deep in Razorback
territory. He finished the game with 37 yards on eight carries.
He was second on the team in carries (74) and third on the team
in rushing yards (281) and TDs (4).
He is a big back built to move the pile, but he lacked top speed
and elusiveness prior to his torn ACL last year. He lacks the
explosion he had shown early in his career, which wasn’t
helped by his struggles with weight and lingering knee pain. His
dedication became a question when rumors surfaced he had left
the team after sitting out against Kentucky for missing a meeting
a meeting. With just two career receptions, and none this year,
he is a non-factor in the passing game this year. While he likely
is no longer viewed as a candidate to be a feature back at the
next level, he can be a short yardage and goal-line specialist.
Freshmen Charles Scott and Keiland Williams alternated showing
flashes between the first and second half of the season, respectively,
but neither has shown enough to lock down the feature role next
year. So with a year of eligibility remaining, Broussard is expected
to return next year and will have to show a lot more to salvage
his draft value.
Chauncey Washington (USC – 4JR) 6’0”
215 - Bio
Finally academically eligible after having it cost him two years,
the timing for Washington and USC appeared fortuitous with the
departure of Reggie Bush and Lendale White. Washington was expected
to win the starting job, but a recruiting class full of stud runners
arrived in the fall. A hamstring injury lingered with Washington
through the summer and training camp, so it was freshman C.J.
Gable who started in the season opener at Arkansas. However, Washington
and freshman Emmanuel Moody would surpass Gable over the next
several games. Washington appeared to be in command when he posted
his first career 100-yard game against Arizona State. He carried
the bulk of the workload until, after already going over 100 against
Oregon a month later, Washington sprained his knee and Moody sprained
his ankle. Washington struggled against California the following
week, while Gable would put up the first of two 100-yard games,
returning to prominence with Washington and Moody dinged up. Washington
would be limited by the knee the final two games of the season
and has been resting it in practice to get healthy for the Rose
Bowl. Washington still finished leading the team across the board
in rushing with 155-736-9.
When healthy, Washington showed he could be a workhorse and the
thunder to the lightning of the smaller, faster young backs. While
he didn’t take long to shake off the rust of two lost years,
injuries and sharing the load prevented him from much more than
showing flashes of being able to play at the next level. Washington
indicated he sent in his paperwork to request a draft grade from
the NFL advisory committee, but then said he needs another year
to prove his talent and will be coming back. Unless his grades
are a problem again, which very well may be why he sent the request
in at all, he will return.
Kregg Lumpkin (Georgia – 4JR) 6’1”
224 - Bio
After blowing up as a true freshman in 2003, he tore his ACL and
missed 2004. Thomas Brown and Danny Ware showed up and both were
similarly exciting freshman. Lumpkin struggled to work his way
back in 2005, but after a strong spring in 2006, he was back in
the mix and ended the season as the leading rusher on the team.
He was featured after Brown was lost to a season-ending knee injury.
He has said he will return in 2007.
Thomas Brown (Georgia – 3JR) 5’8”
186 - Bio
Led Georgia in rushing in 2005 and was back in RBBC this year
when he tore his ACL in the midst of his best game against Vanderbilt
on 10/14/06. He will be back in 2007.
These lower division players have the talent and measurables,
but their achievement is always looked at as relative to the competition.
It is a much harder road to the NFL for sub-Division I-A players,
but every year there are a few small school surprises. These are
the most likely candidates at RB.
Arkee Whitlock (Southern Illinois –
5SR) 5’9” 200 - Bio
A 2004 transfer from Coffeyville Community College, he joined
a recruiting class that featured two RB transfers from major programs.
Despite lacking the accolades and upside of the other two, Whitlock
won the starting role over a former I-A 1K starter (Terry Jackson
at Minnesota) and a future fourth round pick in the NFL (Brandon
Jacobs from Auburn). Despite sharing the ball, he broke out for
959 rushing yards and 12 TDs, helping the Salukis to a 10-1 conference
championship season and top seed in the I-AA playoffs. After the
departures of Jacobs and Jackson, he was just as successful in
2005 as the workhorse behind a completely new offensive line.
He rushed for 1,457 yards and 14 TDs, while catching 24 passes
and returning kicks for 408 yards. In the first playoff win by
the team in 22 years, he rushed for three scores. In his final
season in 2006, he held off Kansas transfer John Randle to finish
with his best numbers yet. Whitlock posted 317-1,828-25 and led
the Salukis to their second-straight quarterfinal appearance.
In his only game against a D-IA team, he went over 100 yards in
at upset against Indiana in Bloomington. He became the Gateway
Conference all-time leader in all-purpose yardage.
An instinctive runner with quickness to get the edge and breakaway
speed to hit the home run, Whitlock is an explosive all-purpose
threat who has demonstrated he can catch and block, as well return
kicks. However, in addition to his accomplishments coming at a
lower level, he is a bit undersized. Still, he has been on the
radar of NFL teams since holding his own against Brandon Jacobs
and a string of D-IA transfers. He will test his skills against
some D-IA competition again in the Hula Bowl.
Germaine Race (Pittsburgh State –
4SR) 5’11” 227 - Bio
His numbers are incredible regardless of the level of competition.
He went over 2,000 yards rushing on a DII record 8.96 ypc in 2004,
with 26 TDs. He finished with 33 TDs and 1,846 rushing yards in
2005, but a hamstring injury in late October prevented him from
even bigger numbers. He had 1,944 rushing yards and scored 31
TDs this year, on his way to becoming the all-time DII rushing
leader (6,985 yards). He is also the all-time, all-division college
scoring (658 points) and TD (109) leader. He was first team AP
A bowling ball with quick feet, he piles up yards after first
contact. Race will impress with his tremendous strength in workouts.
However his speed is a question mark, although it is alleged to
be in the 4.5 range and he has had at least one run over 60 yards
each of his four years. To have a chance at being a feature back
at the next level, he’ll need to develop some blocking and
receiving skills, a few things he hasn’t worked on much
in his collegiate career. His accomplishments are relative to
the competition level, but Race has NFL measurables and a bruising
running style that could translate well. He is definitely the
rare intriguing DII RB prospect. Hopefully he gets an invite to
Steve Baylark (UMass – 5SR) 5’11”
222 - Bio
Amazingly consistent his first three years, Baylark carried between
243 and 268 and produced from 1,057 to 1,117 yards with 8 to 10
TDs. In 2006, as his team advanced to the championship game, he
didn’t wear down. Baylark had over 100 yards in each of
their playoff games, finishing the season with 338 carries for
1,960 yards and 15 TDs. He was the Atlantic 10 co-offensive player
of the year and second team AP D-IAA All-American.
Baylark joins Jerry Azumah and Adrian Peterson, both of whom found
relative success in the NFL, as the only D-IAA players to rush
for 1,000 yards four consecutive seasons. In addition to durability
and reliable production, he brings NFL size as a north-south pounder.
However, he is more of a naturally strong runner, so his strength
tests may disappoint. His speed is also expected to be a liability.
Baylark will have the chance to test his skill against some D-IA
competition in the East-West Shrine Game.
Justise Hairston (Central Connecticut State
– 4SR) 6’1” 210 -
The Rutgers transfer lit up D-IAA, setting Central and Northeast
Conference (NEC) single-season rushing records (1,847 yards),
as well as leading D-IAA in rushing yards (167.9 a game) and all-purpose
yards (199.8 a game). The NEC Offensive Player of the Year was
a third-team AP D-IAA All-American and will play in the Hula Bowl.
Clifton Dawson (Harvard – 5SR) 5’10”
197 - Bio
The first freshman to rush for 1K in Ivy League history, he did
it for his fourth consecutive year in 2006. He already held every
significant school record, and became the most productive Ivy
League runner ever this season, passing Cornell’s Ed Marinaro
for the conference record.
Dawson is a pure natural talent on the football field. In addition
to his running skills, he is a talented receiver and although
not used much as a returner, he has flashed tremendous talent
there, including a 92-yard TD return last year and a 93-yard return,
just one of two he took, this year. He had the skills and potential
to play I-AA. The Northwestern recruit transferred after redshirting
in 2002. However, his success has come against significantly lesser
competition. He is reported to bring top speed, but is undersized
and needs to bulk up. Dawson is a tremendous small school success
story, but it is unlikely to translate as a runner to the next
level, although he could get a shot as a return man and offer
upside as a change of pace runner with his hands. The Ontario
native already has a job in the CFL if the NFL doesn’t work
out. He can also probably find a pretty good job outside football
with his economics degree from Harvard.