As we keep rolling through the Big 12 skill positions we've reached the third and final part of the "Three Headed Monster." Turnover seems to be the key phrase when describing the conference running backs as OU, OSU, Texas Tech, Baylor, Iowa State and Kansas State are all replacing their marquee guys from 2010.
While I was able to make arguments for Oklahoma to be atop the quarterback and receiver/tight end rankings but there's no argument to be made for the best set of running backs in the conference. Its clear cut...but its just not Oklahoma.
1. Texas A&M - Not only are the Aggies experienced and deep at running back but they're also talented. Christine Michael was averaging 5.0 yards per carry before a season ending injury and Cyrus Gray rushed for 1,133 yards on a 5.7 yards per carry average. They're both back, healthy and ready to become the top rushing duo in the conference. Again, not just looking at potential but by actual productivity Texas A&M tops the list.
2. Oklahoma - DeMarco Murray is gone but Oklahoma has been building a talented stable of backs behind him. We saw a glimpse of Roy Finch last season while he averaged 4.7 yards per carry as a true freshman, Jonathan Miller sat out as a redshirt in 2010 but averaged 7.2 yards per carry in spot duty as a freshman in 2009. Brennan Clay had an impressive spring and true freshman Brandon Williams is drawing more praise than any Oklahoma freshman running back since Adrian Peterson.
3. Missouri - Led by De'Vion Moore the Tigers have four experienced backs that averaged more than five yards per carry. Moore led the team with 99 carries but Kendial Lawrence was just behind him with 73 carries but averaged 5.8 yards per carry as opposed to Moore's 5.2. Henry Josie also averaged 5.8 yards per carry on 76 carries Marcus Murphy averaged 8.2 yards per carry on just 22 touches.
4. Oklahoma State - Much like the Sooners the Cowboys lost their top rusher to the NFL but also like the Sooners they'll be just fine. Sophomores Joseph Randle and Jeremy Smith played exceptional last year averaging 5.5 and 4.7 yards respectively. The Cowboys aren't as deep as Oklahoma and Missouri but their top two can run with anyone in the conference.
5. Kansas - James Sims is the Big 12's second leading rusher after going off for 742 yards on 168 carries. Darrian Miller had a strong spring and looks to see some time this fall alongside Sims.
6. Texas Tech - Eric Stephens takes over as the feature back in Tommy Tuberville's new "balanced" attack. This should equate to more carries than any Red Raider rusher has seen in a while. Stephens is more than capable of handling the load after rushing for an average of 5.3 yards per carry over 127 attempts. The question mark to Texas Tech is behind Stephens where there is a lack of experience.
7. Baylor - Terrance Ganaway is a big back who rumbled his way to a 6.4 yards per carry average in 2010. He'll share the field with Jarred Salubi who only managed to get 26 carries last season but averaged 8.3 yards per carry.
8. Texas - We've seen Cody Johnson and Fozzy Whittaker for years now and can attest to their ineffectiveness. Unfortunately for the Longhorns Johnson and Whittaker are the returning leading rushers with no one behind them with significant experience. Thus all hopes are being thrown on true freshman Malcolm Brown who has already been tabbed as the savior of the Texas rushing attack. Can the Longhorns move up this list? Absolutely, if Brown is able to live up to the hype. Should they be ranked higher right now? No.
9. Iowa State - Shontrelle Johnson only has 35 career carries but the Cyclones are banking more on his 6.2 yards per carry average more than they are his experience.
10. Kansas State - The only problem with having a two-time conference rushing leader is that when he's gone there's no experience behind him. The Wildcats are hoping that Bryce Brown can step into Daniel Thomas' shoes and carry the team. Currently John Hubert is the leading rusher with 28 yards on 12 carries.