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Pac-12 returning running back rankings: USC, Oregon, UCLA at the top

The Pac-12 is losing running backs.

Doug Pensinger

While the Pac-12 will be especially rich in quarterbacks next season, running back will need a bit more replenishing. The Pac-12 had only three running backs average more than 100 yards a game, and all of them went off to the NFL Draft last season (Ka’Deem Carey, Bishop Sankey, Tyler Gaffney). In fact, the top four Pac-12 rushers are all gone.

So who will take the mantle next season? There will not be a lot of proven commodities, but there’s plenty of potential talent at the position.

1. Javorious Allen, Tre Madden, Justin Davis, Ty Isaac, USC.
Steve Sarkisian will have the deepest running corps in the conference. Four Trojans will be in the rotation, and Allen probably has the inside track for first team All-Pac-12. A lot of talent for the Trojans offense.

2. Thomas Tyner & Byron Marshall, Oregon. A disappointing season for De’Anthony Thomas opened up the way for the two young Duck backs. Marshall proved to be a solid grinder insider, while Tyner looks like the more complete runner who could break out next season. Both of them will be the engine with Marcus Mariota lacking playmaking receivers.

3. Jordan James, Paul Perkins, Craig Lee, UCLA. The Bruins also return a deep squad of runners. Unfortunately for the Bruins, nothing is certain with the group they bring back. Will Myles Jack be needed here again, or can a clear hierarchy emerge with Bruins fans?

4. D.J. Foster, Arizona State. Marion Grice has handled the load the last two seasons, but it’s Foster’s turn, and it’s time for the athlete to prove he can be the primary playmaker. Foster has proven he can thrive in space. Can he be the number one option and keep the offense humming?

5. Remound Wright, Barry J. Sanders &  Ricky Seale, Stanford.
This is out of respect for the Cardinal and their physical offensive front, but this will be the most untested group of Cardinal runners since pre-Toby Gerhart. Sanders is the attractive name, but it’s hard to see this not being a running back by committee team with no Stepfan Taylor or Tyler Gaffney back there.

6. Jesse Callier, Deontae Cooper, and Dwyane Washington, Washington.
Callier and Washington have injury issues, but if they get healthy expect them to make a big impact. Cooper has seized the opportunity and could be quite an important runner.

7. Terron Ward & Storm Woods, Oregon State
. Oregon State was a pass-first team when Sean Mannion to Brandin Cooks was the first, second and third options for the Beavers offense. Ward and Woods will have to pick up the slack this season, as the Beavers will try to return to balance.

8. Khalfani Muhammad & Daniel Lasco, Cal. Cal has lot of uncertainty at running back this season, but Muhammad does seem like a player to watch. He had more rushing yards and touchdowns than the disappointing Brendan Bigelow. Lasco will try and bring tough running on the inside.

9. Christian Powell and Michael Adkins II, Colorado.
Powell and Adkins showed flashes of the players they could be. On a Buffs team that’s challenging to be good again they will be necessary components to a Buff resurgence.

10. Bubba Poole and Lucky Radley, Utah. Utah’s rushing game was hardly its strength last season, and their returning runners are not going to be players to fear. The Utes will be looking for new blood this season.

11. Marcus Mason, Washington State.
This team does not run much. Don’t expect much to change this season.

N/A: New people, Arizona. With Ka’Deem Carey gone, the Wildcats are really going to have to figure out where the running yards are coming from with this team. All the other Arizona rotation running backs appear to be out of commission, so expect new blood in the rotation this season.