College Football Recruiting RB Rankings 2015: Top 10 After the Opening
There may not be a generational talent like Leonard Fournette to command the spotlight this year, but the 2015 recruiting class still boasts a bevy of difference-makers at running back. Prospects who can pound the ball between the tackles, explode off the edge and contribute as pass-catchers are dominating on fields across the country.
Several of these backs have flashed their skills in summer showcases, including The Opening, as they tune up for one final high school season. Collegiate stardom awaits many of them, though ultimate destinations remain a mystery for uncommitted standouts.
Here's a rundown of the top-ranked 2015 running backs, ordered by their placement in updated 247Sports composite rankings, with analysis from what we've seen on game film and in person at The Opening.
This article is a part of Bleacher Report's CFB 200 Recruiting Rankings Series. The overall rankings are based on the 247Sports composite system, which takes into account every recruiting service's rankings. The positional rankings also correspond with those composite scores. Stay tuned over the next two weeks as we take an in-depth look at college football's stars of tomorrow.
10. Derrius Guice, Catholic High School (Baton Rouge, Louisiana)
Committed to: LSU
Derrius Guice, who pledged to the hometown Tigers over Alabama in late May, is an elusive rusher who doesn't require much space to slip past the defense in search of daylight. His short-area quickness complements a formidable frame that makes it difficult for opponents to haul him down in the open field.
The 5'11", 219-pound playmaker won't outsprint the speediest defensive backs at the next level, but his acceleration is impressive. Guice can slam into a crowd along the trenches and burst through to the second level, setting the stage for a possible future as a goal-line back.
He catches the football cleanly when called upon to make plays in the flat or on designed screens.
While you have to like his element of elusiveness, Guice occasionally gets himself in trouble by attempting to bounce outside before a play has fully developed. He'd be more effective by implementing a little more patience identifying where and when to use a cutback.
There are some concerns to monitor with Guice after he was suspended by his high school team for the 2014 spring football session and one game last season due to undisclosed reasons, per The New Orleans Advocate. He has since been reinstated and is expected to lead the Catholic offense this fall.
"I’d say it was a reminder to stay focused," he told Robin Fambrough of The Advovate in June. "I got hung up with outsiders. I let things distract me and keep me from focusing on my main goals, which are to graduate from here, try to win a state championship and then go off to LSU.”
Guice, who gained 1,100 yards and scored 13 touchdowns on the ground last year, has a college-ready physique, but his path to playing time won't be an easy one at LSU. Top-ranked 2014 prospect Leonard Fournette and fellow 4-star commit Nock Brossette will command plenty of carries themselves in coming years.
9. Jordan Scarlett, St. Thomas Aquinas High School (Fort Lauderdale, Florida)
Committed to: Miami
Though we're still not sure whether Jordan Scarlett can serve as workhorse back in college, there's plenty to love about his presence in the backfield. He's a dynamic dual-threat who forces defenses to account for his every move due to explosive quickness.
The 5'11", 210-pound speedster typically maintains excellent pad level, though a little more lean in his rushing motion could create more balance and tackle-breaking ability. He carries a ton of momentum upon contact with defenders, enabling him to plow through arm tackles.
Scarlett does a solid job stretching outside rushing attempts before delivering a powerful cut off his back foot. He can be a very dangerous player on pitch plays.
The main concern with his approach is an occasional lack of vision. Though there isn't any hesitation when he receives the ball, Scarlett sometimes struggles to see and exploit the path of least resistance.
This leaves him bottled up in the backfield, forced to bounce outside in hopes of salvaging a broken play. This isn't a regular occurrence, but it's a habit that must be addressed before he can fully earn the trust of a collegiate coaching staff.
Scarlett rushed for 932 yards and 14 touchdowns at University High School in 2013, averaging nearly eight yards per carry. He impressed as a receiver at The Opening and you can expect the Hurricanes to implement him in the passing game throughout his career.
Scarlett committed to Miami during his stay in Oregon, weeks after backing off a verbal pledge to FAU.
"I really like the coaching staff at Miami," he said after the decision. "Al Golden is a great coach and it feels like home."
8. Johnny Frasier, Princeton High School (Princeton, North Carolina)
247 Crystal Ball Prediction: Florida State (100 percent)
Though some have questioned the talent level of his opponents on a game-by-game basis, there's no denying Johnny Frasier would be a featured running back in any high school league across America. The 5'11", 200-pound prospect is a tank who takes on tacklers and regularly leaves them grabbing at grass.
He registered more than 220 carries during each of the past two seasons, breaking out in 2013 with a virtuoso performance. Frasier averaged 12 yards per rushing attempt, gaining 3,042 yards on the ground.
His onslaught included 45 rushing touchdowns and another five scores through the air. Frasier flashed excellent receiving skills out of the backfield throughout his junior season, catching 25 passes for 555 yards.
He displays big-play potential wherever he lines up on the field and the prospect of trying him out in the slot from time to time may seem alluring at the next level. His quickness (timed at 4.45 seconds in the 40-yard dash, per 247Sports) enables him to build up steam and break tackles in the defensive secondary.
Frasier is deceptively agile and features a developing arsenal of moves that help free him from crowds of defenders.
"I realized that if I could get myself in the open field I could really help our team,” Frasier told D. Clay Best of the Smithfield Herald last fall. “So I’ve done more cutting, using moves to get in the open field than I was before.”
Frasier can make an immediate impact in college and could eventually carry an offense to great heights as he physically matures.
7. Ronald Jones II, North McKinney High School (McKinney, Texas)
Committed to: Oklahoma State
Ronald Jones is the rare breed of running back who can run you over and beat you in a footrace. Everything he does is full-throttle and the results have been spectacular.
Jones is workmanlike between the tackles, driving downhill with tremendous anticipation and bursting through cutback lanes. Vision is a huge part of development for any rusher and he appears more advanced in that capacity than many of his peers, rarely failing to exploit the space his linemen create.
Everything about his running style is smooth, from a compact upper body to fancy footwork that enables him to slide past defenders without sacrificing speed. He stays narrow while navigating through traffic, tucking the ball tightly and maintaining a low pad level.
Jones, who rushed for 2,406 yards and 39 scores as a junior, can dominate in a one-cut rushing scheme. He is one of a few backs on this list who possesses legitimate breakaway speed, clocked at 4.41 seconds in the 40-yard dash, per The Oklahoman.
Jones uses that quickness to surge down the sideline toward the end zone, but it also comes in handy when he meets a defender in the open field. The 6'0", 185-pound playmaker lowers his shoulders and escapes tacklers attempting to establish balance in his path because his speed eliminated angles.
With elite change-of-direction agility, Jones can also be a valuable contributor in the passing attack.
Though he remains committed to the Cowboys, Jones told 247Sports official visits to USC and Baylor are planned for this fall. His focus increased following the loss of his father as a sophomore, resulting in a relentless approach.
“(My dad) was in and out of my life throughout high school and middle school, but when the heart attack happened, I started playing for him," Jones told Cody Stavenhagen of The Oklahoman. "He motivated me to actually go to classes and go to practice and work even harder. When I run the ball, I run for him.”
6. Desherrius Flowers, Vigor High School (Mobile, Alabama)
Commited to: Alabama
Desherrius Flowers doesn't have many tricks up his sleeve, but he's a beast as a straight-line rusher. The 6'1", 212-pound running back is a perfect fit for Alabama's punch-you-in-the-mouth run game.
His violent style shines on game tape and bodes well for what may lie ahead against hard-nosed SEC defenses. Flowers, who rushed for 1,099 yards and 12 touchdowns last fall, finds the hole in a hurry and hits it with tenacity.
He carries the football with authority and uses an above-average burst to bully opponents who attempt to halt him at the line. Flowers can often be found shrugging off defenders, using raw physicality to push through the line like a battering ram.
He projects, at the very least, as an effective short-yardage and goal-line weapon. Flowers rarely goes down without fighting for extra yards, always seems to fall forward and gang-tacking is routinely required to bring him down.
A lack of top-end hip fluidity limits his ability to do a lot of damage with lateral movement, but he'll still sidestep a defender from time to time. Flowers' best highlights will occur when he is rumbling downfield in north-south fashion.
Flowers has drawn comparisons to current Alabama running back T.J. Yeldon, a possible 2014 Heisman Trophy candidate from the same community.
"He's got good speed and he's just a powerful back," Vigor assistant coach Ashley Johnson told Mike Herndon of AL.com after Flowers received an offer from Alabama. "As young as he is, he's just going to get bigger and stronger. He loves the weight room."
5. Larry Scott, Hubbard High School (Hubbard, Ohio)
Committed to: Michigan State
Larry Scott is a bullish back who wears defenses down during the course of four quarters. When his team is looking to preserve a slim lead late in the game and milk the clock, he is fully capable of taking on the role of a "closer".
He doesn't dash for long-distance touchdowns with consistency, but that isn't Scott's style. The 6'0", 205-pound prospect powers his way through cracks in the defense and picks up tough yardage.
He isn't a burner, attacking teams methodically instead. Six yards here, nine yards there, another eight yards on the next play and so on.
There's an authoritative aura projected by the way he pushes past defensive linemen and drags linebackers into the secondary. Scott provides an intimidating presence in the backfield and only seems to grow more ferocious as the game progresses.
He carried the ball 346 times for 3,295 yards and 44 touchdowns during the past two seasons. Scott is well-suited for a Michigan State team that thrives with strong defense and a powerful rushing attack, particularly when brutal weather arrives in Big Ten country.
Hubbard head coach Brian Hoffman has been amazed by Scott's production, but isn't surprised he developed into a coveted recruit.
"It was pretty evident during his freshman year that he was going to reach this point," Hoffman said this spring. "Since then, he’s obviously had some outstanding seasons for us. Physically, the maturity is evident and he has great weight-room numbers."
His punishing approach and ability to command 20 or more carries per game provides the Spartans with a potential multiyear starter. It's a task he's ready to accept.
"I'm a power back," Scott said. "I really like (Michigan State's) running game."
Fans in East Lansing may enjoy it even more when he arrives on campus.
4. Soso Jamabo, Plano West (Plano, Texas)
247 Crystal Ball Prediction: Baylor (37 percent); Oklahoma (31 percent); Texas (17 percent); Notre Dame (11 percent); Texas A&M (3 percent)
Soso Jamabo is one of the most compelling offensive talents in the 2015 class because his game is largely indefinable. Standing at 6'3", he's significantly taller than most of the running backs who landed on this list.
That physical frame stands out while he works his way downfield as an upright runner. It results in a lack of desired pad level for a back but doesn't decease Jamabo's effectiveness.
He could comfortably bulk up to the 230-pound range and become the "thunder" who contrasts a smaller, quicker "lighting" backfield mate. Jamabo, who rushed for 2,774 yards and 34 touchdowns during the past two seasons, may end up looking more like a pass-rusher than a running back as he physically matures.
Some programs certainly have him slotted in the "athlete" category due to his potential to play other positions. He looked extremely comfortable as a receiver at The Opening, running smooth intermediate routes and hauling in everything thrown his way.
It's possible Jamabo could eventually blossom into a hybrid tight end, given his size, speed and hands. He flashed those skills with 35 catches for 678 yards and four touchdowns as a sophomore and junior.
"I feel like I can bring a lot to any offense because of the different things I do," Jamabo said after seven-on-seven action in Oregon. "I'm more than just a runner."
His multidimensional abilities are alluring for any college coaching staff. If he stays at running back, there's a lot to like about the way Jamabo carries the football.
He uses a powerful slide cut to reach the second level, where defenders often have trouble bringing him down alone. Jamabo juked out several opponents in limited space while working against linebackers at The Opening, revealing impressive lateral movement for an athlete of his stature.
3. Taj Griffin, McEachern High School (Powder Springs, Georgia)
Committed to: Oregon
Taj Griffin turned heads during his stay in the state he'll call home during college. The speedy playmaker reached the SPARQ national final on national television during The Opening, boasting the best 40-yard dash of the day (4.31 seconds).
Griffin, a 5'10", 175-pound playmaker, is scintillating in the open field, gliding in and out of rushing lanes without decelerating. He puts tremendous pressure on linebackers and safeties in the box because they must account for his quickness along the edge.
SEC squads swarmed to Griffin during a junior season that featured 1,253 rushing yards and 13 touchdowns, per The Register-Guard.
Griffin's vision can improve, particularly when navigating between the tackles, but that elite speed often bails him out even when he appears bottled up in the backfield. His physical frame requires more bulk to survive the demands of double-digit carries each game in college, and that development should come in time.
Griffin, also an asset as a kick returner, is the biggest "home run" threat in this running back class.
"I'm all about making the big play," he said. "The plays that can change a game and help my team."
Griffin is a threat to take one to the house every play. Few college offenses seem like a better fit for him than Oregon, where he will add more firepower to a potent, fast-paced attack.
Ducks coaches can create matchup nightmares by placing Griffin in the slot in multiple offensive sets. He has the receiving skills and evasiveness to thrive as a creative pass-catcher.
Pac-12 defenders will watch him fly by for years to come.
2. Jacques Patrick, Timber Creek High School (Orlando, Florida)
247 Crystal Ball Prediction: Florida State (100 percent)
No running back brings a more well-rounded skill set to the field than Jacques Patrick, placing him among the nation's premier difference-makers in this class. The 6'1.5", 230-pound back excels between the tackles and along the outside edge while providing a reliable short-area outlet in the passing game.
He is a load to bring down, churning through tackles with a powerful lower body that allows room for growth at the next level. Patrick puts defenders on their backside by exploding with proper pad level at the point of contact and dishes out a devastating stiff-arm.
"I like being physical," he said during a break at The Opening. "If I'm getting it done, that opens things up for other players."
Patrick posted his second straight 2,000-yard season and scored 30 rushing touchdowns in 2013. While we don't yet know where Patrick will punish opponents at the next level, Florida State is the favorite with a cluster of programs following behind.
Power is the pillar of Patrick's success as a rusher, but it's just part of the package.
He bursts downfield in a hurry and exploits space for sizable gains. Patrick also picks his holes appropriately, displaying patience as blockers pave a path.
He did a solid job on passing assignments at The Opening, even when a mid-route adjustment was necessary. It's just another attribute that will continually keep the opposition on high alert.
"I want to be the kind of running back that can beat teams in different ways," Patrick said.
1. Damien Harris, Madison Southern High School (Berea, Kentucky)
247 Crystal Ball Prediction: Ohio State (70 percent); Kentucky (15 percent); Michigan (15 percent)
Damien Harris doesn't quite fill the shoes of top-ranked 2014 running back Leonard Fournette, now a freshman at LSU, but he tops this list for a reason. His track record suggests he can carry the load as the feature back in an offensive attack for several seasons without wearing down.
Already built with a college-ready physique, the 5'11", 205-pound prospect took the ball 220 times as a junior. He used the heavy dose of handoffs to produce prolific statistics, posting 2,621 yards and 42 touchdowns.
His finest efforts occur in the red zone, where he simply cranks things up a notch with the goal line so close. Harris rushed for 77 touchdowns during the past two seasons.
He isn't the fastest runner in the bunch, but Harris can scoot and often manages to catch the defensive secondary off guard, though that isn't likely to happen much in college considering the talent level leap.
Harris is more fundamentals than flash.
He attacks the defense with rare anticipation, immediately reacting to the first moments of a play in order to make a decisive move toward the targeted rushing lane. Once he finds it, his balance and pad level are persistently polished.
He's well aware of the national accolades but aims to look past them.
"I've definitely worked hard to get where I'm at right now," Harris said at The Opening. "I try not to pay too much attention to the rankings and stuff like that, but it's nice to see that people appreciate the way I play."
He seems to have a great head on his shoulders and is knowledgeable enough about the game to quickly make the transition into a collegiate backfield. There will be early opportunities for a player who continues to improve each detail of his game.
Harris has every-down back potential and a competitive streak to fuel his journey toward stardom.
All quotes obtained firsthand by B/R national recruiting columnist Tyler Donohue unless otherwise noted.
Recruit information and statistics courtesy of 247Sports unless otherwise noted.
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