After quite a break I'm finally getting to part two in my series on who the best college players are heading into 2009.
The end of the 2008 season saw quite a few of the top running backs in college football leave for the NFL draft or early defection and as well graduation.
This is not going to leave teams in 2009 struggling for rushing production, however, because there is a bevy of great backs returning for their final season or seasons of the inaugural decade of this millennium.
So here we go, the top running backs for 2009 are:
10. Noel Devine - Jr., West Virginia:
Devine exploded onto the scene in West Virginia's Fiesta Bowl romp over Oklahoma in 2008. Many expected big things of Devine with the departure of Steve Slaton.
The 2008 season saw Devine put up big yardage numbers going for 1,289 yards, but he somehow only mananged four touchdowns on the year.
With Pat White leaving due to graduation Devine will have to be the big play-maker that the Mountaineers need to be successful.
Devine has terrific speed and may be one of the fastest tailbacks in America, but he is very undersized, which could be the big factor as to why he had so few touchdowns in 2008.
9. Michael Smith - Sr., Arkansas
Smith was perhaps the only bright spot on the Razorback offense in 2008.
He rushed for 1,072 yards and scored eight TDs. He averaged out to 107.2 yards/game.
Obviously with an anemic passing game, Arkansas was going to have to run the ball quite a bit, and Smith did it very well. Many people think of Bobby Petrino's offensive scheme as a pass happy one, but his offense depends greatly on the ability to run in order to set up the play action pass.
When he was at Louisville the offense was only ever effective as long as they were able to run the ball effectively. Smith will give Petrino and quarterback Ryan Mallet the ability to be able to efficiently run the play action fakes, which could mean a big year offensively for the Razorbacks.
8. Charles Scott - Sr., LSU
Scott was a powerful force for the LSU offense in 2008. Unfortunately, they weren't able to depend on him quite as much as they had hoped to because of their inexperience at quarterback.
Still, Scott was able to chew up 1,174 yards and 18 TD's including three in LSU's romp of former SEC slayer Georgia Tech.
With more experience around him on offense expect that Scott should be able to perform better while at the same time be depended upon less.
7. Demarco Murray/Chris Brown - Jr./Sr., Oklahoma
Both Murray and Brown were able to rush for over 1,000 yards in 2008. Murray did it despite missing the final two games of the season, and being hobbled early.
While it's astonishing that both could rush for over 1,000 yards in the same season their quarterback threw for just shy of 5,000 yards, the two combined for 34 TD's as well, and their quarterback threw for another 50.
That kind of production isn't easy to come by with an offense that is able to move the ball and score threw the air at such a prolific rate.
If Murray is able to be healthy start to finish this could be the most dynamic duo in the country.
6. Jonathan Dwyer - Jr., Georgia Tech
Perhaps a player that is unknown too many, Jonathan Dwyer headed up one of the best rushing attacks in 2008. Granted Georgia Tech barely throws the ball in their triple option offense, but Dwyer isn't the only person touching the ball either.
Dwyer was able to rush for 1,395 yards and accumulate 12 TD's despite defenses knowing exactly what play Tech would run on almost every down.
Dwyer is one of the unique backs that possess both strength and speed, which is what makes him so deadly in the option offense. He has the ability to break tackles and then run away from the rest of the defense.
5. Miquale Lewis - Sr., Ball St.
The Ball State offense didn't revolve completely around now departed quarterback Nate Davis. Miquale Lewis' running ability helped to provide Davis with the balance he needed in order to put up big numbers.
Davis is gone, but Lewis should come up with another big year.
In his junior season Lewis was able to run for 1,736 yards and 22 scores. Those are some monster numbers regardless of what conference it is that you play in.
Anticipate a jump in those numbers as well because Ball State will become more reliant on Lewis with the departure of Davis.
4. Jacquizz Rodgers - So., Oregon State
Jacquizz finds himself as the youngest player on my list. He burst onto the scene and onto the tips of everyone's tongues this past season in Oregon State's show stopping upset of USC.
Jacquizz did have some struggles in 2008, but he was in no way a one game wonder. He managed to post 1,253 yards and 11 scores for the Beavers in 2008.
Everyone, including myself, only expect bigger and bigger things from this small, but talented, former Texas High School player of the year.
3. Evan Royster - Jr., Penn State
Evan was a player that had Nittany Lion fans wondering how he wasn't in the running for the Heisman trophy. He led one of the better offenses in the history of Penn State football, and with the departure of the teams three best receivers his numbers and chances should only go up in 2009.
In 2008 Royster went from unknown to one of the best in the country. He put up 1,236 yards and 12 TD's. Royster looks to be the best running back in the Big 10 in 2009, a conference notorious for great rushing attacks.
2. Kendall Hunter - Jr., Oklahoma State
In a pass happy league Oklahoma State chooses to remain a balanced offense. Hunter was by far and away the best running back in the Big 12, and will no doubt find himself a finalist for the Doak Walker award this year.
Hunter managed to run for 1,555 yards and score 16 times despite being flanked by one the best wide receivers in the country, and one of the best tight ends in the country.
Experience and the play making ability of quarterback Zac Robinson will only help to make Hunter a more dangerous force in the Big 12 in 2009.
1. Jahvid Best - Jr., Cal
Jahvid is perhaps easily the best returning back in 2009. Of the returning backs he averaged more yards per game than anyone at 131 yards per game.
In 2008 he was able to rattle off 1,580 yards and 15 TDs. This year he will be called upon to lead a Cal offensive attack that expects to compete with USC for the Pac-10 title.
The success of the Golden Bears in 2009 rests solely upon Jahvid's broad shoulders. The answer is to just simply be the Best.
Well there you have it, my top 10 running backs for 2009. I know there are many others worth mentioning so I leave it up to my loyal readers to bring them to light.
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