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Pac-12 2014 Positional Rankings - Running Backs: Ducks and Trojans have loaded backfields

Nearly have of the conference's 12 best running backs play for Oregon or USC.

Ronald Martinez
  1. Byron Marshall Jr. Oregon

Marshall was overshadowed by his fellow Pac-12 1,000-yard rushers last season (Ka'Deem Carey, Bishop Sankey and Tyler Gaffney), but he is poised to be the conference's premiere back in 2014, being the only back returning who ran for more than 800 yards in 2013. He isn't as electric as LaMichael James, Kenjon Barner or De'Anthony Thomas, but he can consistently pick up tough yards and soften up defenses so Thomas Tyner and Marcus Mariota can hit the home runs.

  1. Javorious Allen Jr. USC

Allen came on like a freight train in the second half of 2013, accumulating almost all of his 785 yards and 14 touchdowns in the latter half of the season. He has excellent size at 6'1 215 and is versatile, also totaling more than 250 yards in receiving in 2013.

  1. D.J. Foster Jr. Arizona State

Foster should take over his former teammate Marion Grice's role of being the top pass-catching back in the conference (He had 501 yards rushing and 653 receiving in 2013 with 10 total TDs) and he will have even more opportunities to shine with Grice now off to the NFL. He really showed what he could do in the final three games of 2013, totaling more than 140 combined rushing/receiving yards in the final three games of the season.

  1. Thomas Tyner So. Oregon

The vaunted high school prospect Olympic speed made a serious mark in a crowded Oregon backfield, racking up more than 700 yards on just 115 carries in 2013. He is probably the fastest back in the conference and will have more opportunities to make big plays in 2014 since he won't be sharing the electric playmaker role with De'Anthony Thomas.

  1. Tre Madden Jr. USC

Madden was poised to be one of the top running backs in the conference last season before injuries derailed him as he ran for 100 yards in four of the first five games of the season and totaled six touchdowns, but relinquished most of his production to Allen in the second half of the season. Like Allen, he has excellent size (6'1 220) and excels at catching the ball out of the backfield with more than 200 yards receiving and four receiving touchdowns in 2013.

  1. Jordon James Sr. UCLA

The Bruins desperately need a true playmaker to join Brett Hundley in the backfield, and if he can stay healthy, the explosive James should be that guy. He barely played down the stretch of the season, but he opened up 2013 with three-straight 100-yards games, averaging nearly seven yards per-carry and I expect him to do that in 2014 if he can stay on the field.

  1. Storm Woods Jr. Oregon State

Woods had a disappointing sophomore season, rushing for half of the yards and touchdowns than he did as a freshman behind a Beaver offensive line that really struggled. I expect him to bounce back in 2014 though, behind a more-experienced offensive line and after rushing for more than 100 yards in the Hawai'i Bowl.

  1. Paul Perkins So. UCLA

Perkins picked up the slack for James when he went down as UCLA's leading rusher at running back in 2013, but didn't perform exceptionally well when given the opportunity to be the Bruins' feature back. As long as James stays healthy, I like his ability to be a top-notch secondary option that can grow into one of the best backs in the conference.

  1. Bubba Poole Jr. Utah

Poole runs hard and made a name for himself by rushing for more than 100 yards against Stanford's vaunted run defense while leading the Utes to an upset victory. He saw his carries decrease later in the season, but with Kelvin York graduated, expect him to shoulder a heavier load in 2014 and make the most of it.

  1. Terron Ward Sr. Oregon State

Ward picked up some of the slack of Woods' disappointing 2013, outrushing his backfield mate, but he was still far from spectacular in the Beavers' struggling running attack. The Beavers hope that Ward's breakout, 145-yard performance in the Civil War and solid showing in the Hawai'i Bowl will carry into 2014 and I believe that they can.

  1. Michael Adkins II So. Colorado

Adkins quietly ran for more than 500 yards and had six touchdowns as a freshman in 2013 and was the lightning to Christian Powell's thunder in Colorado's run game. He mainly excelled against Colorado's weaker competition in 2013, but if the Buffs' offensive line can improve under Mike McIntyre, he should start getting more room to run and turn into one of the better backs in the conference.

  1. Justin Davis So. USC

It is a very crowded, but very talented backfield at USC this season and Davis has the potential to the best of the Trojan bunch with his slashing speed and big play ability. He ran 361 yards and six touchdowns in the first seven games of 2013 before going down with an injury and most impressively did it all on just 53 carries.

On the edge

Christian Powell Jr. Colorado

Khalfani Muhammad So. Cal

Marcus Mason Sr. Washington State

Royce Freeman Fr. Oregon

Dwayne Washington So. Washington