Who will be the best among several premier running backs expected to take the field for Pac-12 teams this fall?
Returning four players with at least 1,300 yards rushing in 2014, the Pac-12 has an argument for being the best running back league in all of college football.
Here is a look at 10 of the top running backs in the league heading into the 2015 season.
10. Tre Madden, USC
The basics: 6-foot-1, 225-pound senior.
2014 stats: Did not play.
Madden missed the 2014 season with a serious turf toe injury, but he’s expected to be back and a major factor for the USC rushing attack in 2015. He started the first six games of the 2013 season, tallying 703 rushing yards on 138 carries and seven total touchdowns for the year.
9. Justin Davis, USC
The basics: 6-foot-1, 195-pound junior.
2014 stats: 129 carries for 595 yards and four touchdowns.
While Madden brings a physical approach to the USC backfield, it may be Davis that brings the big-play ability. Last season, he served as the primary backup to Buck Allen, who ran for 1,489 yards. Given that he and Allen combined for over 2,000 yards, there is a good chance that he and Madden could combine to again approach that number in 2015.
8. Dwayne Washington, Washington
The basics: 6-foot-2, 226-pound junior.
2014 stats: 119 carries for 655 yards and nine touchdowns.
Washington played in 12 of 14 games and started seven, leaving some upside possibility to his game. He was a tad bit streaky last season, but Huskies fans will point to the following excerpt from Christian Caple’s piece in The News Tribune to highlight the potential here:
In a three-game stretch against Arizona, Oregon State and Washington State, Washington rushed for 383 yards on 49 carries and scored five touchdowns — including runs of 66, 68, 51 and 60 yards.
7. Storm Barrs-Woods, Oregon State
The basics: 6-foot, 207-pound senior.
2014 stats: 121 carries for 766 yards and five touchdowns.
With 440 carries under his belt, Barrs-Woods is one of the league’s most experienced backs. He will play out his final season as a Beaver looking for his first 1,000-yard rushing season, and playing for the head coach that just sent Melvin Gordon out to gain 2,587 rushing yards in 2014 may be just the trick.
6. Demario Richard, Arizona State
The basics: 5-foot-10, 220-pound sophomore.
2014 stats: 84 carries for 478 yards and four touchdowns.
How good does Arizona State coach Todd Graham think Demario Richard can be? He moved a rising senior and 1,000-yard rusher (D.J. Foster) to wide receiver to clear room for his talented sophomore running back. This could be the league’s breakout running back in 2015.
5. Daniel Lasco, Cal
The basics: 6-foot-1, 205-pound senior.
2014 stats: 210 carries for 1,115 yards and 12 touchdowns.
There has been plenty of talk about how potent the Cal passing game will be under the direction of QB Jared Goff in Sonny Dykes’ offense, but one of the more underrated pieces of that offense is the balance that Lasco was able to bring in 2014. Expect more of the same from the senior this season.
4. Nick Wilson, Arizona
The basics: 5-foot-10, 199-pound sophomore.
2014 stats: 236 carries for 1,375 yards and 16 touchdowns.
Flashing plenty of ability as a freshman, Wilson should again be a feature back in Rich Rodriguez’s running back-friendly offense. Pay no attention to the mention of the “co-starter” status he has shared with Jared Baker during fall camp, this is Wilson’s job as long as he is healthy.
3. Royce Freeman, Oregon
The basics: 5-foot-11, 230-pound sophomore.
2014 stats: 252 carries for 1,365 yards and 18 touchdowns.
Last season, Freeman became Oregon’s first-ever true freshman to run for more than 1,000 yards. With a season-ending injury to RB Thomas Tyner and the graduation of QB Marcus Mariota, the Ducks should again rely on the talented sophomore to carry the ball as many times as he can handle.
2. Devontae Booker, Utah
The basics: 5-foot-11, 212-pound senior.
2014 stats: 292 carries for 1,512 yards and 10 touchdowns.
He was a first-team All-Pac-12 player in his first year with Utah after transferring from American River College. Expect the Utes to ride Booker as far as he will take them in his senior season, with a 300-plus carry season not out of the question.
1. Paul Perkins, UCLA
The basics: 5-foot-10, 210-pound junior.
2014 stats: 251 carries for 1,575 yards and nine touchdowns.
The only question I have about his phenomenal 2014 season is how he only found the end zone nine times. His 1,575 yards rank No. 2 on UCLA’s all-time single season rushing list. It is exciting to think about what Perkins may be able to do for an encore on a team with an experienced offensive line and College Football Playoff aspirations.