2013 Preseason All-American Projections: Running Backs

By Charlie Campbell
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Heading into the 2013 college football season, WalterFootball.com will debut our projections for the nation’s leaders during the fall. The All-American teams always have some surprises, and this coming fall’s stars could be the headline players next April for the 2014 NFL Draft.

First-Team Running Backs:

T.J. Yeldon, Alabama

Yeldon looks like he is going to be the man this season for Alabama. The program has been a factory for elite running backs recently, sending a number of special backs to the NFL in the last few years. Yeldon helped contribute to the Crimson Tide’s National Championship last year as part of an excellent debut season. The freshamn occasionally outshined starter Eddie Lacy.

Yeldon received only 175 carries in 2012, but totaled 1,108 yards and 12 touchdowns. He also caught 11 passes for 131 yards and a score. While Lacy was a large downhill runner, Yeldon has some explosiveness. He ripped off a number of big gains with mismatch speed last year. His first-step quickness is phenomenal. Yeldon is now listed at 218 pounds at 6-foot-2, but didn’t look that heavy as a freshman. He figures to be the starting running back for Alabama this fall now that Lacy has moved on to the NFL.

The Crimson Tide’s offense is a basic system that beats teams with the talent of its running backs and offensive line. There are some whi believe that Yeldon could be more talented than other recent Alabama running backs including Trent Richardson and Mark Ingram (both first-round picks). Some observers feel that Yeldon could turn out to be the best of the bunch.

If Yeldon can maintain his speed at the heavier weight, he could be a rare back who has the ability to rip off long touchdowns runs while also being big enough to pound the ball between the tackles. Yeldon figures to be the focal point of Alabama’s offense this year and is a serious preseason contender for the Heisman Trophy.

De’Anthony Thomas, Oregon

Oregon has dominated the All-American team the past three seasons with LaMichael James and Kenjon Barner. James was listed as an all-purpose player and Thomas could have the same designation. The 5-foot-9, 173-pound Thomas is perhaps the fastest player in college football. He could take over as the featured play-maker in the Ducks high-powered offense now that both James and Barner have departed fro the NFL.

Thomas spent 2011 backing up James and Barner, and only received only 55 carries as a result. However, the freshman averaged 10.8 yards per carry and totaled 595 yards with seven touchdowns. Thomas was also used as a wide receiver. He hauled in 46 passes for 605 yards and nine touchdowns. Thomas got in on kick returns, averaged 27 yards per return and taking two back for touchdowns.

Last year, Thomas ran for 701 yards (7.6 average) and 11 touchdowns. He also caught 45 passes for 455 yards and five scores. The sophomore averaged 24 yards per kick return and 17 yards per punt return, plus took back one of each for touchdowns.

Thomas has the speed and play-making ability to produce a massive season. His size and speed are similar to former West Virginia wide receiver Tavon Austin. The highlight-reel plays that Thomas provides should help him to get noticed. The Ducks figure to be leaning on him to produce a massive season and it wouldn’t be at all surprising if he’s the team’s next All-American.

Second-Team Running Backs:

Lache Seastrunk, Baylor

The Baylor offense has been a prolific point machine the past few seasons led by a high-powered passing attack. However, quarterbacks Robert Griffin III and Nick Florence have moved on from Waco, leaving the Bears having to break in a new signal-caller. Baylor is fortunate to have a ground offense ready to make up for the change and Seastrunk is the talent that could drive the team in 2013.

Seastrunk finished the 2012 season in impressive fashion with 843 yards in the final six games. He averaged 7.7 yards per carry in 2012 and totaled 1,012 yards and seven touchdowns. The sophomore ran over some tough opponents including Kansas State (19-185), Oklahoma State (16-178) and UCLA (16-139).

Defenses will be aiming to stop Seastrunk this year, and it wouldn’t be surprising if they play their safeties in the box, but the 5-foot-10, 210-pounder has a rare combination of size and speed to beat extra defenders. Seastrunk has a nice complement in Glasco Martin, but the former should be the Bears featured player. The Oregon transfer Seastrunk looks capable of turning in a massive season.

Ka’Deem Carey, Arizona

Carey took college football by storm in 2012 as he led the nation in rushing with 1,929 yards, 23 touchdowns and an average of 6.4 yards per carry. He also hauled in 36 receptions for 303 yards and a score. Carey was very consistent throughtout the year, picking up over 100 yards in all but three games. The sophomore ran for 366 yards and five touchdowns on only 25 carries against Colorado.

defenses are going to be selling out to stop Carey in 2013, and his production will probably take a hit from the loss of quarterback Matt Scott and some other weapons. Still, Carey figures to be the lead dog for Arizona and should have a solid season. The 5-foot-10, 196-pounder is a quick, tough runner. While the junior isn’t a big back, he has some physicality to him and can pick up yards after contact. Carey had a number of big runs last season after breaking a tackle in the first 10 yards.

This coming season was almost derailed when Carey was arrested on domestic violence charges, but the charges were dismissed in mid-June. If that hadn’t been the case, he could have faced a potential suspension to start the year. Carey has name recognition after his prolific 2012 season, so that could help him to be selected as an All American after another good year.

Third-Team Running Backs:

Todd Gurley, Georgia

Yeldon wasn’t the only freshman running back to burst onto the scene in the SEC last year. Gurley had a superb debut to lead the Bulldogs ground game, averaging 6.2 yards per carry on a total of 1,385 yards and 17 touchdowns. He ran for 122 yards on 22 carries with two touchdowns against Alabama in the SEC Championship.

The 6-foot-1, 232-pound back has speed to go along with size and power. Georgia’s offense is led by senior quarterback Aaron Murray, so the experienced signal-caller should help to keep defenses honest with the threat of big plays downfield. The Bulldogs’ well-stocked offense should leave Gurley poised for a massive sophomore season.

Matt Jones, Florida

I’m going out on a limb to a degree with this selection because Jones was a backup as a freshman and didn’t get a lot of playing time. However, Florida is planning its offense around him as its feature player this year. The sophomore takes over as the starter with Mike Gillislee playing for the Dolphins.

The 6-foot-2, 226-pound Jones was a prize recruit who flashed a physical downhill running style with a burst as a true freshman. He ran for 275 yards and three touchdowns on only 52 carries. Jones ran for 81 yards and a touchdown against Florida State to conclude the regular season.

Jones and freshman running Kelvin Taylor (son of Fred Taylor) were the talk of the Gators program this spring. I think Jones is going to have a big season and is my darkhorse pick to be a 2013 All-American.

Honorable Mentions: Oklahoma running back Damien Williams, Florida State running back James Wilder, Ohio State running back Carlos Hyde, Texas A&M running back Ben Malena, Mississippi State running back LaDarius Perkins, LSU running back Stephen Hill, Miami running back Duke Williams and Washington running back Bishop Sankey.

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