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2005 Runningback Preview
By Michael Struening

2004 was supposed to be the draft to again give the NFL some highly ranked rushers. Kevin Jones and Steven Jackson fell much further than was thought preseason. We here at SidelineScouting can confidently say that 2005 will finally produce a top 10 senior talent, barring injury, in Carnell Williams. The Auburn star still has highly rated senior backup Ronnie Brown to steal a few carries, but with the transfer of Brandon Jacobs, Williams is poised for a huge year. He was, in fact, was the #1 rusher on many boards after last season, but chose to come back for another season. Averaging over 5.3 yards a carry for his career, he’ll also find himself a frontrunner for the Heisman Trophy.

Another rusher who carries a first round grade is Texas’ Cedric Benson. After giving up a possible career in baseball, Cedric has re-dedicated himself to football and the improvement has never been more obvious. During the latter half of the college football season, there wasn’t a back better. Over the final four games of the season Benson rushed for 779 yards and 10 touchdowns - a full season for some. If he continues where 2003 left off, Benson should find his name along side Williams as a high first round selection.

There are several other senior rushers who could hear their name called on the first day of the draft. Tennessee’s Cedric Houston, Syracuse’s Walter Reyes, Wisconsin’s Anthony Davis, and West Virginia’s Kay Jay Harris are all highly rated prospects. Auburn backup Ronnie Brown and former Auburn backup Brandon Jacobs (now at Southern Illinois) are rate well. Jacobs should excel now that he is out of the shadow of Carnell Williams. Kansas State’s Darren Sproles created a buzz last year, despite being only 5’7”. He adds a dynamic as a change of pace back and could be a very dangerous kick returner on the next level.

Underclassmen:
The future also looks bright at the halfback position. There are several talented underclassmen that could hear their names called highly in 2006 and beyond - if they don’t declare for this years draft first. Minnesota’s Marion Barber III would likely grade out as the #2 overall rusher if he was added to the list of seniors. T.A. McClendon of North Carolina State has overcome several injuries in his college career, and this season he will face a true test without Phillip Rivers manning the QB position. Miami’s Frank Gore was a top prospect coming into last year, but faced the same fate as his predecessor Willis McGahee and tore his ACL. He’ll now be splitting carries with super-soph Tyrone Moss. Louisville’s Eric Shelton is another player to keep an eye on.

Sleepers:
It’s hard to call Brandon Jacobs a sleeper, but in backing up Carnell Williams at Auburn he didn’t receive his chance to shine. Now that Jacobs has transferred to Southern Illinois for his senior season, he’ll be the starting rusher. Look for him to establish himself as a first round rated talent, despite playing paltry competition. Alex Haynes of Central Florida is another player to keep an eye on. A small school back, he has constantly produced over his three years at UCF, and seems to get better as games go on.

Future Years:
Figuring into future years will be talents like Michael Bush (also of Louisville), Demetrius Summers (South Carolina), Reggie Bush (USC), and DonTrell Moore (New Mexico). Guys like Michael Bush and Reggie Bush are athletes first and will bring in a new breed of rushers over the next few years. Don’t worry if your struggling team hasn’t yet picked up a rusher. 2005 and beyond will be the years to grab the NFL’s future stars at the position.
















©2004
Sideline Scouting Services

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