Where Do We Stack Up? Running Backs

Though the SEC West is losing its top 4 runners from 2007 (Darren McFadden, Felix Jones, Jacob Hester, and Benjarvus Green-Ellis in that order), it still has some monsters returning. Almost every team has real reason for optimism at running back. There's no Knowshon, but there's about a baker's dozen of folks that would start over this clown. So, in alphabetical order, here's how the West looks ball-toter:

Alabama
When Magnolia State prospects choose Mississippi State, I understand. When Coast Trash prospects choose LSU, I get by. But, when they choose Alabama, I am both angered and confused. Meanwhile, the Crimson Tide's leading rusher is Lumberton, MS product Terry Grant. I really hope this guy fails in football (and, at least until he learns his lesson about Alabama, in life), but he had 180 carries for 891 yards with 5.0 per carry average and 8 TD's in 2007. Additionally, Nick claims Terry Grant now comes with the ability to catch the ball, so now we have to call him versatile, which just make me hate you even more, Nick. Terry Grant's clunker (1.9 yards per carry, I think) against LSU in 2007 showcases God's sense of humor.

Arkansas
Is in so much trouble. Bobby Petrino, the Norse God of Mischief, has one (count 'em) half-way notable back returning: future Ryan Perrilloux business partner Michael Smith, who went to jail last September for stealing credit cards. Ironically, Smith is a native of Tallahassee. Here's the thing, Bobby, if you gotta have a criminal (and sometimes you just gotta have a criminal), you need to make sure he's a criminal that, y'know, plays football well. This is not an accurate description of Michael Smith. He is a scant 5-7, 173 lbs, and his stats are deceptive. Smith's average per carry last year was a promising 6.6, however if you remove an 81 yard scamper against powerhouse FIU and a 48 yard run against Sun Belt Conference champ runner-up Troy, his average falls to a more pedestrian 3.9 yards per carry. Plus, I want to see this guy either run through Peria Jerry or around Greg Hardy. So much trouble.

Auburn
Is in practically no trouble. Auburn's top three rushers from 2007 all return. The only solace Rebel fans find is in their penchant for injury. Top returner Ben Tate is a power runner who piled up 202 carries for 903 yards. Look for him to be an every-down back (even though he won't have to be with Brad Lester and Mario Fannin behind him). Fannin was, actually, probably the highest-touted of the three coming out of high school, and Lester showed signs of brilliance during his 2005 freshman campaign.

LSU
Jacob Hester is gone. He should have gone to Cincinnati or Chicago or somewhere else in Big 10 country where he belongs. Now, LSU is left with only almost-Rebel Keiland Williams (no silver medal in recruiting, Ed) and Trindon Holliday, who is only the fastest football player ever at LSU. Williams didn't have to run every down last year, but he can, and I hope you all remember what he did to Notre Dame in the 2007 Sugar Bowl. Whoof. And because they are LSU, we just have to assume that someone we've never heard of will end up being the MVP of the SEC Championship Game (Richard Murphy, who you know you've only read about, at best, averaged 6.6 yards per carry in 2007, and El Sombrero thinks he's the best all-around back on the team). The notes on Keiland Williams are his 6.8 yards per carry in 2007.

Mississippi State
Anthony Dixon caught my ire last year when he was invited to the Conerly Trophy presentation last year and Benjarvus was not. I never thought BJGE had a chance at being named the state's best college football player. I thought Titus Brown had it locked up, until this previously referenced clown walked home with it. Needless to say, Anthony Dixon and Terry Grant are kinda interchangeable on my hate list going into 2008. The only difference is that Anthony Dixon is really overrated. He is a big back (6-1, 240) that can stumble forward for a few yards, but against Ole Miss in 2007 he had quite a clunker. Christian Ducre is, in my opinion, more exciting and might be the starter by the end of the season. What I can't make sense of yet, is why Ducre was Croomed at the end of the season (getting only 18 carries in the final three games against Arkansas, Ole Miss, and Central Florida). Ducre was the hero of State's biggest win, going 19 for 119 against Kentucky. Mississippi State is solid at running back, but with this totally different clown behind center, it might be easy to load up the box and bring Mississippi State's offense to an even more grinding halt than we witnessed in 2007.

Meanwhile, the Rebs have nothing but question marks - is Cordera Eason for real? Will Enrique Davis be ready to play? Can Dexter McCluster slap the Chucky Mullins bust without breaking his hand? I think Eason will be a middle-of-the pack kind of back, no record-writer, but a solid option (something akin to Benjarvus' junior year). Dexter will be a dangerous weapon until he gets injured. Those two make Ole Miss competitive in the running game. Potentially throw in Davis, and we might be note-worthy.

So, how do we stack up? Auburn looks the best from top to bottom. Their backs are consistent, talented, and unpredictable, which is the key difference between them and the superstars at LSU. Terry Grant will have an All-SEC year for Alabama, but Cordera Eason will prove that the Rebs still have a better crop of runners than Mississippi State. And, over in Fayetteville, it will be a long season for Arkansas.

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