Published July 28, 2011 - 11:50am
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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 simple – teams that don’t have a running game in the SEC will not win football games. 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.
Make no mistake about it – the SEC West could have the best running backs in any half of any division in America.
Here is an outlook of each team’s running game as we know it:
Alabama – The Alabama Crimson Tide is a team that has a tremendous outlook in the running game. Alabama returns Trent Richardson, who figures to be a top-tier back across the country, as well as formidable backup Eddie Lacey, who could start at many other schools. With Richardson’s ability aside, the Alabama offensive line alone would propel an average back to have a great season, but Trent Richardson is not your average back. Alabama’s ability to run the football has an opportunity to set them apart this season. This will certainly be an exciting run game.
Auburn – Auburn could have the best backfield tandem in the SEC with Michael Dyer and Onterio McCalebb – thunder and lightning as they call them on The Plains. Dyer crushed for over 1,000 yards on the season last year, and McCalebb can take it to the house at anytime and averaged 8.5 yards-per carry. I am a little concerned about the offensive line because so many starters are gone from a year ago, but the running game will be the base for Gus Malzahn’s offense this season, and he certainly has a great cast of backs to work with in both Dyer and McCalebb. The running game will carry this football team.
Arkansas – Knile Davis is possibly my favorite SEC running back right now. He has a nice combination of size and speed, and he looks faster than both Lattimore and Richardson, all the while being just as explosive as either one. Behind Davis, Dennis Johnson returns to the lineup after being injured early last year that forced him to miss the rest of the year. Along with Johnson, Ronnie Wingo, Jr. will help to provide depth, as he is a bruiser who can run for tough yardage (not that Davis couldn’t handle that task). Arkansas does return some experience on their offensive line, so this running game should be firing on all cylinders come fall.
Ole Miss – Believe it or not, Ole Miss has one of the stronger backfields and offensive lines in the conference. I absolutely love Brandon Bolden, who is an underrated player, and he could run for 1,000 yards this season. Along with Bolden, Jeff Scott is a blazer who can provide the homerun threat Ole Miss needs, and Enrique Davis also returns as well. With Ole Miss having such a strong offensive line and a talented backfield, the Rebels’ ground game will be better than average – even in the talent-filled SEC West. It will carry this football team.
Mississippi State – Believe it or not, I think this Mississippi State offense has a chance to have a top-three running game in the entire league. Dan Mullen knows rushing offense like Bo knows football. Vick Ballard and LaDarius Perkins form a formidable duo in the backfield to give this State team a legit backfield duo. Ballard led the league in scoring just last year. Yes, more than Cam Newton. Along with Ballard and Perkins running the football, quarterback Chris Relf will carry quite a punch in the running game as well. His bruising 240 lb body can take 15 carries a game or more. There is nothing pretty about this offense, but it plays ball-control and keeps its competitor’s defense on the field to eventually tire them out in the fourth quarter.
LSU – LSU lost their top running back from a year ago in Stevan Ridley, but don’t expect them to just lie down. Even though the running game may be questionable at this time, I fully expect Spencer Ware and Michael Ford to form a great one-two punch. Along with Ware and Ford, Jakhari Gore adds a spark to the depth of this position. Make no mistake about it – Spencer Ware is the next guy at LSU at running back. The only reason this running game is questionable right now is because there is no one returning that is proven. Now, Ware did show incredible flashes of talent in the Cotton Bowl, but I’m going to wait a game or two before I buy that stock. I will in all likelihood be too late.