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August 12, 2010

Preseason unit rankings: Offensive backfields

Today, we unveil the first of our national unit rankings.

We'll reveal one unit per day and end next Thursday with overall coaching staffs.

The rankings take into account what the players have accomplished, how we think the players will do this season and sheer talent. But production does trump potential.

Here are the offensive backfield rankings. Next up: receiving corps.


: QB Tyrod Taylor has made big strides as a passer and remains a dangerous threat when he runs. TBs Ryan Williams and Darren Evans might be the nation's best tandem; if they're not No. 1, they certainly are No. 2.

: Jerrod Johnson threw for 3,579 yards and 30 TDs last season. The Aggies also had two running backs -- Christine Michael (844 yards and 10 TDs) and Cyrus Gray (757 and five) -- rush for more than 750 yards.

: Kellen Moore threw for 3,536 yards and 39 touchdowns (against just three picks) last season, and has thrown 64 TD passes and just 13 interceptions in two seasons. Jeremy Avery, Doug Martin and D.J. Harper give the Broncos three backs with 1,000-yard potential.

: Greg McElroy guided the Tide to a perfect record and the national title last season, his first as the starter. He should put up better passing numbers this season after throwing for 2,508 yards last season. RB Mark Ingram is the reigning Heisman winner, and there are some who say backup Trent Richardson is even more talented.

: Senior QB Jake Locker thrived in his first season in a pro-style attack, and he should be even more prolific in his second season with coach Steve Sarkisian. Chris Polk was overlooked in the running-back heavy Pac-10 last season, but he still ran for 1,113 yards and five TDs as a redshirt freshman.

6. USC
: Sophomore QB Matt Barkley is a rising star, and senior Allen Bradford heads a deep group of running backs. The Trojans could go four-deep at tailback without much of a drop-off.

: Senior QB Case Keenum could become the first player to throw for 6,000 yards in a season; he is a perfect fit for the Cougars' pass-happy spread attack. Bryce Beall has run for 1,917 yards and 20 TDs in his first two seasons, and he's also a prolific receiver.

: Junior QB Terrelle Pryor is physically gifted but remains a work in progress as a passer; he needs to display more accuracy and better decision-making ability. He remains a deadly runner. His sterling performance in the Rose Bowl is something to build upon. At running back, there are veteran options in Dan Herron and Brandon Saine.

: The Wolf Pack became the first team in history with three 1,000-yard rushers in a single season, and two of those guys return -- QB Colin Kaepernick (1,183 yards and 16 TDs) and RB Vai Taua (1,345 and 10). Kaepernick has a funky throwing motion, but he has thrown for 7,076 yards and 61 touchdowns (with just 16 picks) in his first three seasons.

10. UTAH
: Sophomore QB Jordan Wynn is a star on the rise; he has a strong arm and also is a dangerous runner. The Utes have two big-time runners behind him in Matt Asiata and Eddie Wide. Asiata is a bruiser who has been effective in the past out of the Utes' version of the "wildcat" formation.

: Senior QB Christian Ponder, who is coming back from a shoulder injury, is the ACC's best passer. The Seminoles also have a deep stable of running backs, with Jermaine Thomas and Chris Thompson competing for the starting tailback job.

12. TCU
: Senior QB Andy Dalton is a steady performer who threw for 2,756 yards, 23 touchdowns and eight picks last season. He also ran for 512 yards. The Horned Frogs are extremely deep at tailback. Matthew Tucker and Ed Wesley each ran for at least 638 yards last season in backup roles; they also combined for 12 touchdowns. UCLA transfer Aundre Dean, redshirt freshman Waymon James and touted true freshman Ethan Grant also are on hand.

DON'T OVERLOOK THESE 5: Arizona, Georgia Tech, Miami, Navy, Wisconsin.

(Rankings by Rivals.com staffers Olin Buchanan, Tom Dienhart, David Fox, Mike Huguenin and Steve Megargee.)

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