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Pac-12 Unit Rankings 2014 - Backfields: Oregon, UCLA and Arizona State bolstered by standout quarterbacks

Marquee quarterbacks headline most of the top backfields in the Pac-12 in 2014.

Doug Pensinger

1. Oregon (QB Marcus Mariota, RB Byron Marshall, RB Thomas Tyner, RB Royce Freeman, RB Ayele Forde)

The Ducks have held down the top backfield spot in the conference for the past seven or eight years now and though they don't have superstar running backs, Mariota is probably the best overall player in the conference coming into 2014. Don't sleep on the Ducks' running backs though as Marshall is the top back returning in the conference, Tyner has Olympic speed and is poised to become the best home runner hitting back in the conference and true freshman Freeman is maybe the best incoming freshman back in the conference.

2. UCLA (QB Brett Hundley, RB Jordon James, RB Paul Perkins, LB Myles Jack, RB Steven Manfro)

Hundley headlines this group, but the running backs also have some serious potential. If healthy, James could be a first-team All-Pac-12 back, Perkins was an underrated freshman last season and Jack is a pinch hitter that is a linebacker but actually one of the best red zone backs in the conference with his size and strength.

3. Arizona State (QB Taylor Kelly, RB D.J. Foster, RB Deantre Lewis, RB DeMario Richard)

Kelly could sneakily end up being the best quarterback in the conference at the end of the season with his dual-threat skills and D.J. Foster is the best pass-catching running back in the league that should turn up his production as the only feature back in their offense in 2014. Lewis is a solid back up who can get the tough yards that Foster can't and Richard is one of the best incoming freshman backs in the conference.

4. USC (QB Cody Kessler, RB Javorious Allen, RB Tre Madden, RB Justin Davis, FB Soma Vainuku, FB Jahleel Pinner)

I was tempted to put USC higher because they have the best running backs in the conference, but Kessler is still a somewhat unproven commodity at quarterback and Mariota, Hundley and Kelly are world class talents at the position. Allen, Madden and Davis are all All-Pac-12-level backs with great size that should be a devastating three-headed monster in 2014.

5. Oregon State (QB Sean Mannion, RB Storm Woods, RB Terron Ward, RB Chris Brown, FB Tyler Anderson)

Mannion is the star here, as the most purely productive quarterback in the conference, but Woods and Ward have the potential to return the Beaver running game back to where it should be. Woods and Ward struggled behind a bad offensive line in 2013, but the Beavers should be better up front in 2014 and both backs have the potential to be 1,000-yard backs.

6. Cal (QB Jared Goff, RB Khalfani Muhammad, RB Daniel Lasco, RB Jeffrey Coprich, RB Darren Ervin)

Goff immediately showed the ability to be efficient and fill up the stat sheet in Sonny Dykes' system and should do even more of both of that in his second year in the system. Muhammad quickly established himself as one of the fastest backs in the conference in 2013 and should be poised for an even bigger season as a sophomore as he will be paired with the bigger, more pounding Lasco.

7. Utah (QB Travis Wilson, RB Bubba Poole, RB Lucky Radley, RB Marcus Sanders-Williams)

The return of Wilson after a head injury scare completely changes the outlook for the Utah backfield as he has the potential to have a breakout season as a junior if he can lower his frequency for tossing interceptions. Poole is another underrated talent that runs hard and could turn into one of the better backs in the conference, but he has some serious challengers in the rest of the depth players in Utah's backfield such as Radley.

8. Colorado (QB Sefo Liufau, RB Michael Adkins II, RB Christian Powell, RB Donta Abron)

Liufau emerged as a full-time starter as a freshman in 2013 and looked like the best Colorado QB in a long time. Adkins and Powell emerged as a solid one-two punch in the backfield with Adkins as the lightning and the powerful Powell as the thunder.

9. Stanford (QB Kevin Hogan, RB Remound Wright, RB Barry Sanders, RB Ricky Seale)

Hogan has endless potential, but was a major liability for the Cardinal at times in 2013, but now it will be his time to step up and be a leader with Tyler Gaffney and the bulk of the Stanford offensive line off to the NFL. Losing Gaffney will be huge, but the Cardinal have a stable of big, talented backs that haven't shown much yet, but could turn into standouts.

10. Washington State (QB Connor Halliday, RB Marcus Mason, Teondray Caldwell, RB Jeremiah Laufasa, RB Theron West)

Halliday is a gunslinger that can put up yardage and touchdowns through the air, but will also throw back-breaking interception after back-breaking interception. The Cougars don't run the ball much, but they do have a deep backfield of backs that are effective when they get the rare handoff.

11. Washington (QB Cyler Miles, RB Dwayne Washington, RB Jesse Callier, RB Deontae Cooper)

This is where it starts to get hard to rank as the Huskies probably won't name a starting quarterback until the season starts, but Miles looked solid in limited time in 2013 and even though he might be suspended for the start of the season, he looks like their best QB thus far. The Huskies have to replace Bishop Sankey and they have a committee of lightly-used backs that will take on the tall task, but don't have much proven production.

12. Arizona (QB Jesse Scroggins, RB Jared Baker, RB Nick Wilson, RB Pierre Cormier)

Arizona's backfield is almost exactly like Washington's in that the quarterback situation is very cloudy and they are trying to replace an All-American running back with a collection of unproven backs.