Published July 27, 2011 - 11:47am
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As we all know, the SEC is full of unbelievable talent this year at the running back position, possibly more so than any other time in the history of the league.
It’s pretty simple really – teams that don’t have a running game are at a huge disadvantage. Sure, teams will win a couple with a high-powered passing offense, but a balanced offense wins more games than non-balanced. You know this already.
Obviously there are more factors than just the running backs that make up the total running game, like the play of the offensive line, quarterback, etc. Still, the play of the running backs is crucial to a team’s success.
The SEC East might have the best running back in Marcus Lattimore, but as a whole, the West has the upper hand compared to the East.
Here is an outlook of each of teams from the SEC East’s running game as we know it:
Florida Gators – The Gators have more of a speedy one-two punch with Jeff Demps and Chris Rainey at running back. However, the best running back on this Gator team could be Mike Gillislee because of his size and speed combination. With the Gators transitioning over to a pro-style offense, there are concerns about the lack of size for both Rainey and Demps running between the tackles, and questions about how their game will translate to the different offense. Rainey did run the I-formation in high school, so he could have a great opportunity to return to greatness in this offense. Florida does have talent at the offensive line positions, but the depth is a concern if anyone goes down with an injury. Overall, the Gators have a positive outlook in the running game. It’s the passing game I’d be worried about.
South Carolina – The Gamecocks feature arguably the best running back in the league in Marcus Lattimore, but in addition to a dynamic running back, the offensive line has really come around as well. There is a better than good possibility Lattimore will rush for more than 1,000 yards again this season, and I believe running the football will be the biggest factor of their success on offense again. While there are concerns about the overall weight of every player along the offensive line (a little light), I expect the line to be adequate enough to excel Lattimore to have another great season. Behind Lattimore, Kenny Miles and Eric Baker will provide good depth. Spurrier is known for his passing offense, but he will lean heavily on his horse – Marcus Lattimore.
Tennessee Volunteers – Tauren Poole rushed for 1,000 yards last season, and he has a chance to be only the second Vol ever to rush for back-to-back 1,000 yard seasons. Even though Poole had a great year, the Vols’ running game was dead last in the SEC. This year, I expect it to be much improved with more experience, talent and depth along the offensive line than a year ago. Rajion Neal also broke out this spring and looks to be a solid backup for Tauren Poole. This running game will be nice changeup to the passing offense.
Georgia Bulldogs – With Washaun Ealey’s transfer and Caleb King being ineligible this season, the Georgia Bulldogs will rely on incoming true freshman Isaiah Crowell to carry the load in the running game. Along with Crowell, Georgia moved Richard Samuel back to running back from his middle linebacker position to provide depth. Samuel entered Athens as a running back but changed position two years ago. Now, he is back. Carlton Thomas also will be factored into the mix in the depth chart. There are questions for me at offensive line for Georgia with the injury to Trinton Sturdivant and their resulting patch-work offensive line. Cordy Glenn is good and so is Ben Jones. However, there is just too much inexperience at both the running back position and offensive line to make me think this running game has a good outlook for 2011. There is a ton of upside, though.
Kentucky Wildcats – Former running back Derrick Locke is now gone, and without Locke, the running game could have a drop off this year. Raymond Sanders had a good spring, and he looks good enough to provide a spark at the position. There are also several other guys vying for playing time in Brandon Gainer, Marcus Caffey and Josh Clemons behind Sanders. The obvious strong point to me about Kentucky is their offensive line with four returning starters. Joker Phillips will put this running game on the shoulders of his line, and the Wildcats could surprise some people this year. There are too many questions for me though at running back for this running game to carry the load.
Vanderbilt Commodores – The Commodores have three pretty good running backs in Warren Norman, Zac Stacey and Wesley Tate. I love the way Norman plays football, and he will be a leader on this team. Vanderbilt is excited for their cast of running backs, but what they are cautious about is their offensive line. The depth at line does return, but the talent level might not be good enough to bust a grape. If the Dores can put a patch-work offensive line together somehow and block for the three tailbacks, they have a chance to be okay this year. However, right now, there are some big questions in the running game.