September 1st – Southern Mississippi
Player: Kendrick Hardy
Kendrick Hardy is the projected starter for 2012, but the running back corp. this year is one of the deepest in school history so look for the workload to be divided up a lot. In 2011 Hardy only played in four games, do to injury, but still managed to record 426 yards and two touchdowns. During his freshman campaign in 2010 he recorded 903 yards after not playing in his first three games. Hardy has the ability to be a real threat, but may not get many chances to be one.
Player: Johnathan Franklin
Johnathan Franklin became the first 1,000-yard rusher since 2006 in 2010 for UCLA. He missed having back-to-back 1,000 yard rushing seasons in 2011 by 24 yards. Expect for him to have a big year in 2012 since the Bruins lost their number two back, and he is only 1,063 yards away from breaking the UCLA career rushing record, so you know he will be giving his all every game to try to reach that.
After rushing 342 yards as a freshman, it appears first-year head coach Gus Malzahn will turn to sophomore Frankie Jackson to be his starting running back this fall, but a running back committee could be formed. Everyone is waiting for Auburn transfer Michael Dyer to get eligible, but that won't happen until 2013.
September 22nd- Idaho State
Playing on a primarily passing team, Jarrod Daniels only rushed for 157 yards (four yard avg.) in 2011. Expect for him to split playing time with Aaron Prier who rushed for 123 yards and two touchdowns in 2011. Daniels is a decent receiver out of the backfield recording a high, for running backs, of 56 yards (4.0 yards/attempt). The offensive scheme for the team most likely won’t change in 2012, so look for him to contribute more as a blocker, and a receiver out of the backfield.
Montee Ball was a Heisman finalist in 2011. As the top rusher for the Big Ten, and the FBS, Ball totaled 1,923 yards and 33 touchdowns. His 33 touchdowns destroyed the former Wisconsin record for rushing touchdowns, which was 24. Also his 39 (total) touchdowns tied the NCAA record. Look for Ball to have another big season, but his production could drop off some as offensive coordinator Matt Canada wants to work junior James White (2010 Big Ten freshman of the year) into the offense more than last year.
Jordan Hall is the projected leader for 2012, which will be his senior year. In 2011 he was third in rushing yards for running backs with 408 yards and two touchdowns. Expect him to split time with junior Carlos Hyde who finished the year as the second leading rusher for running backs with 566 yards and six touchdowns. Both of these rushers got plenty of work in 2011 when they were replacing former starter Dan Herron, who served a six game suspension.
Mike Trumpy suffered an ACL injury in 2011, which caused him to total a messily 182 yards and one touchdown. Look for him to come back strong and be a leader for a young corp. group of runners in 2012. The workloads will most likely be divided up among running backs, but he should be a key part of the Wildcats’ defense.
Fitzgerald Toussaint brought back the Michigan rushing game, which was completely dormant from 2008-2010, with 1,041 yards and nine touchdowns in 2011. Although the Michigan offense will still be focused around quarterback Denard Robinson, Toussaint will still get plenty of touches as a way to lessen the punishment Robinson takes.
In 2010 Le’Vonte Bell became the first Spartan true freshman to rush for 100 yards in his first game. His freshman season was later diminished by an ankle injury, but he came back strong his sophomore year rushing for 948 yards and 13 touchdowns. Look for Bell to have a big season in 2012 since MSU will be replacing former three-year captain Kirk Cousins at quarterback, and there is a saying that the best thing for a new quarterback is a strong running game.
Silas Redd was the number one team rusher in 2011 rushing for 1,241 yards and seven touchdowns. Redd is going to be looking to improve his stats in 2012 with no significant running back to back him up or split time with him. When PSU career leading rusher Evan Royster left he said that Redd will break his all time career rushing record, and Redd will be looking to do just that.
James Gillum had a solid JUCO career, rushing for 2,339 yards in two years. Expect for him to come into Minnesota and work his way into the starting role of a running back corp. that has not produced a 1,000-yard rusher since 2006. Gillum, during his first year in Minnesota, was a standout in the 2012 spring game, and is hoping to keep that going into the regular season. Although he is only a two-star prospect, Gillum will have a chance to have a good year at Minnesota.
With a backfield depleted by injury and transfers, Iowa currently is left with two returning scholarship running backs in the backfield. However, expect four-star recruit, and true freshman, Greg Garmon to earn the starting job over both of them. Garmon is weak in pass blocking, so expect for another back to come in during passing situations, but he has break away speed, good quickness, and good vision. Look for Garmon to take advantage of a golden opportunity presented to him at Iowa.
- Josh Harvey -