Southwest Round-Up Unit Rankings: Running Backs

Ah, the running back position. The Round-Up ranks 'em 1-12. A few minor points.

First we take into account the returning offensive line for each school but most of the weight is given to the carries, yards, etc returning.  

We're highlighting a couple of advanced stats as well, they come to us courtesy of Football Outsiders. The Outsiders have a great section called Football Study Hall that explains the numbers and has miles of spreadsheets dating back to '05. Check it out and go blind.

Among the stats from Football Outsiders we pulled from were Running Play Success Rate and Adjusted Highlight Yards. 

Success Rate is essentially, on a given down, did the running game pick up enough yards to keep on schedule. In other words, on a 1st and 10 run, did the run game get 4+ yards? If so SUCCESS! It's more complicated than that, but I am not.  

Highlight Yards are the yards attributed directly to the running back and not to the line, which are known as Line Yards.  

Quarterbacks are running backs for purposes of the list. For that matter so are receivers who get carries. Maybe we should call it Run Game rankings. Screw it, we're already here.  

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The Aggies return 65% of their yards and 73% of their carries from what was the most potent running attack in the country. Manziel is a huge part of that success but don't sleep on Ben Malena, Trey Williams, Tra Carson and Brandon Williams.  The Aggies are deep and run a system that produces big numbers.

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Lache Seastrunk and Glasco Martin are Thunder and Lightening or Shake and Bake or Tango and Cash, whichever you prefer. Seastrunk is a Heisman candidate, but then again, at this point aren't we all? Seastrunk averaged over seven yards a clip and Martin was devastating at the goal line with fifteen TDs. We also think Bryce Petty will be a big bad bull in the run game.

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Texas, one could argue, should be number one on this list. They return everyone including the three headed monster at running back. Brown, Gray, and Bergeron are as talented as they get. Last year the Horns weren't bad running the ball, but they could have been better. Part of that will come with improved line play, but perhaps the other piece of the puzzle will be the tempo and increased plays which will give everyone more touches.

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Rice at four. Yep I know, this list is about as accurate as A&M on extra points. Hear me out then click away and never come back. The Owls return 91% of their carries and 61% of their yards from last year. The Owls also return the second most rushing yards in the Round-Up but most importantly they are a sum of their parts. Solid line play, a serviceable quarterback, and running back by committee will see Rice through.

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Tech's Kenny Williams should lick his chops with the season coming up. He'll get chances to run that eluded him last year. He and Sadale Foster were a pretty decent tandom and with Kilff's offense they should be better. Their line may hold them back. The Raiders lost a ton of starts and most of their depth up front.  

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UNT is at number 6 with a bullet. The Mean Green return 99% of their carries and yards from a productive 2012. UNT's running backs would benefit greatly from better line play, but last year it didn't seem to bother them too much. The Mean Green ranked in the triple digits in Success Rate and top 30 in Highlight Yards. How could that be? That tends to mean UNT was stuffed a bunch at the line, but their backs were able to make something out of nothing.  

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A lot went wrong for TCU last year. They lost their quarterback and their starting running back. They get both back this year. Waymond James makes his return for the Frogs after missing most of last season with a knee injury. He'll help a running game that struggled last year. TCU will end up high on this list if everyone stays on the field.

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UTEP gets help on two fronts this year. First they return Nathan Jeffrey and 82% of last years yards. Second they have a coach that wants to run the football. Sean Kugler has cut his teeth coaching as an offensive line coach. He wants a big, bad, physical football team which will help UTEP's run game. Now he just needs the horses up front to pull it off.

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Charles Sims will ply his craft in West Virginia next season. That's  a huge loss for the Cougars. Sims takes 851 yards and 6 yards per carry with him. Houston will replace him by committee. Kenneth Farrow and Ryan Jackson get first shot at filling Sims shoes. Doug Meachem's hiring should help. He was at Oklahoma State from 2005 up until last spring, now he come to the Bayou City to run the Cougars offense. 

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Here's the thing with UTSA, they return everyone, but their most talented players may be buried on the depth chart as UTSA's recruiting efforts start to pay off but experienced players hold down spots. The Runners return 15 players who carried the bread last year. Look for David Glasco to get the majority of work this season.  

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Texas State was quietly one of the most efficient running teams in the country in 2012. Then everyone went and graduated. This year the system is the same but the cogs are very different. Tyler Arndt gets the nod at quarterback, but he's not nearly the runner departed Shaun Rutherford was. Likewise Terrance Franks is good, but no Marcus Curry.  

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SMU loses Zach Line, an all-purpose machine at running back last  year. That being said, the Mustangs weren't real good at running the football last year. Enter Traylon Shead who hooks up with fellow Longhorn transfer Garrett Gilbert in the back field for SMU or Austin North. There is a line of thinking that says Shead could be just the talented shot in the arm SMU needs. At least that's what the Mustangs are hoping.