August 21, 2007

Better or Not: Running backs

Last week we began a feature called "Better or Not," where I looked at the top quarterbacks for the class of 2007 and determined whether they'll be better or worse than their predecessors.

It's time to take a look at some of the running backs and figure out if Joe McKnight can be better than a gaggle of other All-American running backs.

Better or Not: Running backs
Joe McKnight, USC
McKnight HS video
If McKnight were trying to replace Reggie Bush, this would be a different discussion. However, McKnight is looking to replace Emmanuel Moody - who just bolted because of depth chart issues. There is plenty of competition for time in the USC backfield, but McKnight is special. He'll be an immediate upgrade to USC's running game.
Verdict: Better

  • Vote: Joe McKnight at USC - Better or Not?
  • Armando Allen, Notre Dame
    Allen HS video
    Darius Walker left early and declared for the NFL Draft. As it turned out, he was not chosen and was recently released by the Houston Texans. However, there is little doubt that he was a productive running back for Notre Dame. Walker lacked game-breaking speed, the kind of speed that Notre Dame needs badly. Allen has that speed, and he'll be an upgrade if he can stay healthy.
    Verdict: Better

  • Vote: Armando Allen at Notre Dame - Better or Not?
  • Marc Tyler, USC
    Tyler HS video
    Ooops. You didn't realize that USC had the two of the best running backs in the country did you? Tyler is a tremendous running back and is eventually expected to play the LenDale White role to McKnight's Reggie Bush. Tyler could very well redshirt this year, so his expected impact will be delayed. His main competition will be Stafon Johnson, Allen Bradford and Broderick Green down the line for that big back role. The son of former NFL standout Wendell Tyler would be a three-year starter for any other team in the nation.
    Verdict: Better

  • Vote: Marc Tyler at USC - Better or Not?
  • Enrique Davis, Auburn
    Davis HS video
    This is a good one because Davis will be replacing Brad Lester next season rather than Kenny Irons this year. Davis is currently enrolled at Hargrave Military Academy because he didn't make the grades to enroll as a freshman at Auburn. Another year of prep football will only make him more ready to make an early impact in the SEC (a la Danny Ware at Georgia and Keiland Williams at LSU). Lester had a nice junior season (4.9 yards-per-carry) and is expected to have a big senior year. Davis is a 5-foot-11, 220-pounder with light feet – similar to former Auburn standout Ronnie Brown. But watch out for Ben Tate, who could also be a Brown clone.
    Verdict: Better

  • Vote: Enrique Davis at Auburn - Better or Not?
  • John Clay, Wisconsin
    Clay HS video
    The top running backs for the class of 2007 seemed to be dropping like flies. While Tyler has been banged up and had some NCAA Clearinghouse issues, Clay had apparently joined Davis as a non-qualifier this year. However, after a lengthy process, Clay has been cleared to play at Wisconsin this season. It could be hard to keep him off the field. Clay missed much of fall practice while waiting for clearance, but he's back now and has been impressive. However, as good as Clay is there's a chance he could be a backup at Wisconsin for the next couple of seasons. The reason? P.J. Hill. I'm not as high on Hill as many others are, and I think he's more of a product of the system than he is an outstanding talent. However, you can't argue with 1,500+ yards and 15 scores as a freshman. Hill is a downhill runner who has shown more speed than expected. Clay runs a bit upright and could take some serious shots in college. I think Clay is simply more talented and more explosive, and that will show in the long run.
    Verdict: Better

  • Vote: John Clay at Wisconsin - Better or Not?
  • Brandon Saine, Ohio State
    Saine HS video
    While Chris Wells is formidable competition and could keep Saine in a lesser role for quite some time, Saine is technically replacing another pretty good back in Antonio Pittman. Saine is fast and has pretty good size, but he's not better than Pittman. The former OSU back was underappreciated by the national media at Ohio State. Saine can catch the ball out of the backfield and do different things, but it's doubtful he'll be able to carry the load.
    Verdict: Not

  • Vote: Brandon Saine - Better or Not?

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