Last year was a big year for Big 12 running backs. But this year, Kendall Hunter, Demarco Murray and Daniel Thomas are gone to the NFL leaving just one of the leagues top 11 rushers returning. For the most part, everyone is starting from scratch. Only a handful of schools come in to this season with the luxury of an established back.
Let's take a look at the current ranking of Big 12 running backs.
1. Joseph Randle, Jeremy Smith - Oklahoma State, 31 carries for 197 yards, 3 TD's
After two weeks of play, Randle looks the part of a feature back, carrying the rock 37 times for 250 yards and 4 TD's in just 2 games. He's averaging almost 7 yards per carry and that's exactly what Oklahoma State needs to control the tempo and open up the passing lanes for Blackmon. Jeremy Smith has been sensational at the goal line and freshman Desmond Roland came out of nowhere against ULL to surprise everyone with a shifty 8 carry, 61 yard performance. Could Oklahoma State be even better running the ball this year without Hunter?
The Aggie tandem looked good running the ball against the Ponies of SMU in week 1. Gray finished with 132 yards rushing for his eighth straight 100-yard game dating back to last season. Michael, in his first game back since breaking his leg last season, added 85. It's going to be hard to stop this duo as long as they stay healthy. They should rack up some big numbers against this week against Idaho.
A big performance from Whaley out of nowhere - against Tulsa. Reminds me of those week 1 wonders in the NFL that blow up in week 1 - then fade into obscurity. Maybe Whaley is the real deal, but I seriously doubt it. It seems more like a one off performance against a bad run D. Brennan Clay also turned in a nice 14 carry, 64 yard, TD performance. Won't be surprised if it's a carousel at RB in Norman.
4. James Sims - Kansas, 26 carries for 110 yards and 2 TD's
Another great week for Sims, and this time it's against a FBS school! The kid has over 200 yards and 3 touchdowns on the year and in the Big 12 this year, that's enough for a top 4 ranking.
5. Terrance Gannaway - Baylor, 24 carries for 120 yards, 1 TD
Gannaway served as the primary backup to Jay Finley last year, but looks to be THE man this year in Waco. These days, it's hard to find any team that will settle on one back. I respect that Art Briles... Gannaway turned in a solid performance against TCU on a national stage and I expect him to do more of the same throughout the season.
Texas has apparently lost the ability to run the football. Their leading rusher against BYU was Brown, who finished with 68 yards of 14 carries. Cody Johnson had a barn burner of a day with 12 yards on 5 carries. He did add two touchdowns from the goal line but they didn't look great running the ball. Not breaking news by any means here but Texas is going to struggle, once again.
7. Eric Stephens - Texas Tech - 21 carries for 118 yards and 2 TD's
Stephen had a good game against FCS opponent Texas State, and was off in week 2. Yep, that's a good enough performance to keep him out of the cellar.
8. James White - Iowa State - 13 carries for 35 yards and 2 TD's
Congrats to Iowa State for being the 2011 Iowa Football champs. It's not every year they can say they beat Northern Iowa and Iowa in the same season. Oh yeah, we're talking about running backs here. White worked his ass off and got the game winning score. Shontrelle Johnson gets more carries. The only person people give a shit about though in Ames is Steele Jantz. Look out Seneca!
9. John Hubert - Kansas State, 17 carries for 91 yards
The Wildcats struggle to run the ball against Eastern Kentucky. The much hyped Bryce Brown finished with 16 yards on 3 carries and the mighty purple escaped with an electric 10-7 win which, by the way, required 10 points in the final 10 minutes of the 4th quarter to achieve. Luckily for them, they were off last week. They get the Golden Flashes of Kent State this week - who just lost to ULL 20-12. Talk about miserable.
10. Henry Josey and 20 others - Missouri, 9 carries for 94 yards
Missouri lost their "best running" back Kendial Lawrence to a fracture in his leg that will put him out at least 3-4 weeks. Supposedly, that was going to make Josey THE running back at Missouri in their loss to Arizona State, QBJames Franklin was the leading rusher. What's troubling here, especially if you're a Mizzou fan, is that the Tigers chose to roll the QB out in short yardage situations. Not exactly a vote of confidence for your running game. Pitiful.