While there is immense depth at the quarterback position in the Big 12, the running back position isn't nearly as strong, at least not on the surface. It's certainly not for a lack of talent or ability at the position. The problem is that most of the best players are very young and inexperienced. In fact, Texas A&M is the only team on the Texas schedule that won't have a first-year starter this season.
Here's a look at the top 10 running backs on the Longhorn schedule this season, based on past production, and how well they are expected to do this season.
The skinnyAfter Darren McFadden and Felix Jones both left Arkansas early to enter the NFL draft, all eyes have turned to the third running back from that 2005 class. At only 5-7, 173 pounds, Smith is undersized as a running back so he will most likely split carries with fellow running backs Brandon Barnett, Chip Gregory, and highly regarded true freshman De'Anthony Curtis, but his speed and pass catching ability set him apart from other Razorback runners and should allow him to have a large role in Bobby Petrino's offense.
The skinny: After a season where he nearly caught as many passes (38) as he had rushing attempts (63) Rose is one of the most versatile backs that the longhorns will face this season. The junior from Lutz, Florida has been used as a fullback, running back, and h-back in his three years with the owls and has proven to be a solid lead blocker and powerful runner. Although only a fullback, Rose made this list because he is one of the top FBs in the nation and someone that is already highly regarded by many NFL scouts. Rose is currently rated by some draft sites as a potential 4th-5th round NFL draft pick as a full back after scoring eight total touchdowns last season.
The skinny: With DeMarco Murray coming off of a knee cap injury he sustained late last season Calhoun should be able to receive playing time early in the season as Oklahoma brings Murray back slowly. Calhoun is a big back at 6-0, 210 and like Scott he has very good speed for a player his size. As a senior at Van high school Calhoun was the second-ranked player in the state of Texas and considered the second-best downhill runner in the nation by rivals and the number one ranked running back by scouts inc.
The skinny: To the casual football fan across the country, Lane looks more like a lineman than a running back, but over the past few seasons he has enjoyed great success as the thunder to Michael Goodson's lightning in the A&M rushing attack. In his first three seasons at Texas A&M, Lane has already set the school record for career touchdowns with 44. At 6-0 and a biscuit over 280 pounds, the junior from Lufkin displays very quick feet and above average speed for a player of his size. New coach Mike Sherman has moved Lane to fullback this season, and he that the move not only gets Lane to the right position on the field, but it will prepare him for his future position in the NFL.
The skinny: Scott's name is not one that is unfamiliar to Longhorn fans. The five-star running back from St. Bonaventure high school in southern California narrowed his favorites to Texas and Colorado, and on national signing day he made his decision to play for Colorado official on ESPN. Scott possesses a rare blend of size and speed that allows him to run by, through, or around defenders. Such skills have led some experts to compare the 6-2, 220-pound back to former Heisman trophy winner Eddie George.
Scott arrived to Colorado a little late as he had to take care of minor grade issues, but so far he has been just as impressive in boulder as he was in high school. Darrell is the favorite right now to earn the starting tailback job week one thanks to the graduation of last year's starter Hugh Charles.
The skinny: While he's about 70 pounds lighter than Lane, Brown teams up with DeMarco Murray at Oklahoma to form a power-speed combo similar to the one in College Station. Brown spent most of last season as the short-yardage and goal line back for the Sooners, and despite spending his first two seasons as the third guy on the OU depth chart, Brown has made the most of his opportunities thus far. As a true freshman in 2006, Brown rushed for 170 yards against Baylor in only his second career start, and amassed at least 50 yards in seven games last season. A powerful runner, Brown has above average speed and is just as likely to run by you as run over you, or he may do both.
The skinny: Despite playing behind 1,000-yard back Brandon McAnderson last season, Sharp was nearly able to tally 1,000 total yards himself running the ball and catching it out of the backfield. Sharp is a little undersized, which is why the Kansas coaches haven't used him as their feature back yet, but with his speed and pass catching ability he was a very good compliment to McAnderson last year. Brandon McAnderson is now gone after graduating last year, so Sharp will be competing with highly regarded Junior College transfer Jocques Crawford for the starting tailback job. Even if Jake isn't listed as the starter on Saturdays, he'll get enough touches running and catching the ball that will allow him to be a difference maker for the Jayhawks this fall.
The skinny: The theme at the top of this list is speed, and Hunter is no different. At 5-8 he may be a little undersized for the position, but he makes up for it with quickness, agility, and surprising strength for a player his size. Like Murray and Goodson, Hunter will be a first-year starter this fall, but he played extensively last season, and is one of the rising stars in the big 12. Only a sophomore from John Tyler high school in Tyler, Texas, Hunter is able to see the field very well and exhibits rare patience for a young runner.
The skinny: Blessed with exceptional quickness and open field moves, Goodson uses his speed and elusiveness to make defenders miss, and is a threat to score every time he touches the ball. Goodson has proven to be a dependable receiver out of the backfield and new coach Mike Sherman will look to try to move him around to create the best mismatches against opposing defenses as he plans to make Goodson the focal point of the aggie offense this fall.
Goodson has expressed that he didn't feel like he fit in Dennis Franchione's zone-read offense where he was taking the ball from the quarterback in a shotgun formation. Coach Sherman is using the I-formation now and it should lend to Goodson having the breakout season as a junior that aggie fans have expected since he arrived to College Station.
The skinny: With lighting quick speed, this sophomore from Las Vegas isn't just one of the fastest players on his team, he is one of the fastest football players in the nation. In a platoon role last season with senior Allan Patrick, Murray still had over 10 touchdowns, including a 65-yard touchdown run against the Longhorns in the Red River shootout. With Murray now the unquestioned starter, and being fortunate enough to run behind one of the best offensive lines in college football, he has the potential to have a Heisman Trophy type of season for the Sooners this fall.