Published July 29, 2012 - 11:00am
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SDS is getting into the Olympic spirit, and the ceremonies carry us just about right into the start of football season. We will be handing out SEC Podium Awards for the top three players at each position. Next up are the running backs.
Running backs are always harder to rank than other positions. We have been very blessed with good backs in recent years in the SEC, and this year will be no different. Every year guys will emerge who are either unforeseen going into the season or are buried on the depth chart. That will also happen this year, too. The top three backs returning next year are all coming back from season-ending injuries.
Gold: Marcus Lattimore, South Carolina
The best running back returning in the SEC is Marcus Lattimore. Obviously everyone knows we’re not sure what to expect from his ACL recovery, but he is ahead of schedule and will be back in the lineup for game one. Lattimore has been the workhorse of the SEC the last two seasons, carrying a total of 412 times. That’s a career for some guys. We all know about his ability to break tackles in the open field and run between the tackles. It’s very evident on Saturdays. But the most overlooked aspect of his game is his ability to catch the ball out of the backfield. During his freshman season, not only did Lattimore draw comparisons to former SEC greats, but he also proved he was a weapon as a receiver. He was the team’s third leading receiver, behind an actual receiver and a tight end. That year – the one full year he has played – he posted 29 catches for 412 yards and two touchdowns. I love the way this kid plays, and I just hope we witness a purely healthy Lattimore for one more full year.
Silver: Knile Davis, Arkansas
There is very little difference between Knile Davis and Lattimore. The specimen size has something to do with the small gap, though. We have just seen Lattimore play more than Davis. If you think about it, Davis really has only played one half of one year as the featured back. In 2010, his breakout year, he did all his damage in the second half of the year to eventually wind up leading the SEC in rushing with 1,322 yards and 13 touchdowns. He was used very sparingly his freshman year and the first half of 2010. Coming off a broken ankle that sidelined him for all of ‘11, I’m sure Davis is chomping at the bit to get back on the field. This young man has a very high ceiling, and the ability he flashed in ’10 only scrapes the surface of his full capabilities. Judging by his recent 600lb squat, I’d say Davis is ready to rock and roll. I want to see Lattimore and Davis healthy for a full year. Then I will feel comfortable naming a No. 1 and No. 2 running back in this league.
Bronze: Christine Michael, Texas A&Ms
Christine Michael enters the SEC with the most career yards as a player, totaling 2,374 rushing yards. If you didn’t watch TAMU play the last few years, you will be pleasantly surprised. He’s a very explosive running back, and like Lattimore and Davis, he is returning from a season-ending injury; a knee injury. He fits in with every SEC back because of his running style, a very hit-you-in-the-mouth style that will make SEC fans turn their heads. Michael burst onto the scene as a true freshman, rushing for 844 yards and 10 touchdowns. He has been very good every year, and he has been one recruit who has lived up to his five-star status in high school. SEC fans are in for a treat watching this kid play.