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Ranking the Pac-12's Running Backs for 2015

Devontae Booker

Devontae Booker

The Pac-12 is a loaded league for running back talent in 2015. Utah’s Devontae Booker is coming off a huge season in his first year with the Utes and ranks as the conference’s top back. But UCLA’s Paul Perkins is a close second, and the junior will take on an even bigger role in the offense with quarterback Brett Hundley’s departure.

The depth of the league’s running backs extends to Oregon’s Royce Freeman. The sophomore might be the league’s most talented running back, but Thomas Tyner is expected to see plenty of carries in 2015. Arizona’s Nick Wilson and California’s Daniel Lasco round out the top five backs in the Pac-12 this year.

To help compile the rankings, there was some projection involved for 2015. This was not a ranking of running backs only based on accomplishments so far or pro potential. All factors - pure talent, supporting cast, 2015 projection and scheme changes (just to name a few) - were considered and projected to rank the running backs in the Pac-12 for 2015.

Ranking the Pac-12’s Running Backs for 2015

1. Devontae Booker, Utah

2015 Year of Eligibility: Senior

In Booker’s first season in Salt Lake City, the California native emerged as the Pac-12’s top running back. In 13 games, Booker rushed for 1,512 yards and 10 scores and caught 43 passes for 306 yards. Booker led the Pac-12 by averaging 22.5 rushing attempts per game and recorded seven 100-yard efforts. His best performance came in a 29-23 overtime win over Oregon State with 229 yards on 32 carries. Defenses often stacked the box against Booker with an inconsistent passing game, yet the junior college product managed to average 116.3 rushing yards per game in 2014.

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2. Paul Perkins, UCLA

2015 Year of Eligibility: Junior

It’s a close call between Booker and Perkins for the top spot in this article. A slight edge goes to Booker, but Perkins led the Pac-12 by averaging 121.2 rushing yards per game in 2014. He also recorded nine scores on the ground and averaged 6.3 yards per carry. Perkins posted six 100-yard efforts and had three games where he averaged at least nine yards per rush. With Brett Hundley off to the NFL, Perkins will be the focal point of UCLA’s offense in 2015. 

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3. Royce Freeman, Oregon

2015 Year of Eligibility: Sophomore

Just based on overall talent, a strong case could be made Freeman is the No. 1 back in the Pac-12. As a true freshman in 2014, Freeman recorded 1,365 yards and 18 scores and caught 16 passes for 158 yards. The California native also posted six 100-yard efforts, including a 114-yard game against Arizona in the Pac-12 Championship. With Thomas Tyner back at full strength, Freeman’s totals may not climb much in 2015.

Related: Oregon Turns the Page from "Emotional" Ending

4. Nick Wilson, Arizona

2015 Year of Eligibility: Sophomore

Rich Rodriguez handed the Arizona backfield to a pair of freshmen last year, and Anu Solomon (QB) and Wilson (RB) delivered in a big way. Solomon passed for 3,793 yards, while Wilson led the team with 1,375 yards and 16 scores. Wilson missed the game against USC due to an ankle injury but still tied for the Pac-12 lead in runs of 30 yards or more (seven). And here’s the scary thought for the rest of the Pac-12: Wilson is only going to get better in 2015.

Related: Arizona's Rich Rodriguez is the Pac-12's No. 2 Coach for 2015

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5. Daniel Lasco, California

2015 Year of Eligibility: Senior

Lasco might be the Pac-12’s most underrated player. While California’s passing attack and quarterback Jared Goff grabs most of the headlines, Lasco quietly rushed for 1,115 yards and 12 scores last season. The Texas native also grabbed 33 receptions in 12 games and ended the year with three 100-yard efforts over his final four contests. At 210 pounds, Lasco is versatile, has the size to attack defenses between the tackles but also possesses the necessary quickness to hit the outside.

Related: California's Jared Goff Ranks as the Pac-12's No. 2 QB for 2015

6. Demario Richard, Arizona State

2015 Year of Eligibility: Sophomore

Richard is the first of two breakout candidates to rank inside of the top 10 for 2015. Just how confident is Arizona State’s coaching staff in Richard’s ability to carry the rushing attack this year? D.J. Foster was moved from running back to receiver after rushing for 1,081 yards in 2014. Richard recorded 478 yards and four scores on 84 attempts and also caught 13 passes for 156 yards and four touchdowns last year. Expect big things from Richard over the next few seasons in Tempe.

Related: Arizona State's Todd Graham Ranks as the Pac-12's No. 1 Coach

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7. Thomas Tyner, Oregon

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2015 Year of Eligibility: Junior

Tyner made a splash as a freshman in 2013 serving as a backup to Byron Marshall, rushing for 711 yards and nine scores on 115 carries. Most expected Tyner to move into the top spot in the Oregon backfield, but Royce Freeman stole the spotlight as a true freshman and finished with the team lead in rushing yardage. Tyner finished 2014 with 573 yards and five scores but also missed four games due to injury. The junior could rank higher on this list based on talent. However, how will the carry situation play out in Eugene this year?

8. Storm Woods, Oregon State

2015 Year of Eligibility: Senior

New coach Gary Andersen plans on altering Oregon State’s offensive approach, and Woods should see more opportunities in 2015. The Texas native has led the Beavers in rushing yardage in two out of the last three years and nearly reached the 1,000-yard mark in 2012. Woods averaged 6.4 yards per carry in 2014 and is poised for his best season in an Oregon State uniform.

Related: Oregon State's Kalani Sitake is a Defensive Coach on the Rise

9. Christian McCaffrey, Stanford

2015 Year of Eligibility: Sophomore

McCaffrey is poised for a breakout year in his sophomore campaign. The Colorado native rushed for only 300 yards as a freshman in 2014. However, 217 of those yards came in the final four games of the year, including a 77-yard effort on eight carries against Utah. McCaffrey also showed why he’s an all-purpose threat for coach David Shaw, catching 17 passes for 251 yards and averaging 17.1 yards on nine punt returns.

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10. Dwayne Washington, Washington

2015 Year of Eligibility: Junior

Washington was a bright spot on a Washington offense that ranked ninth in the Pac-12 in scoring last season. The California native was voted as the team’s Most Outstanding Offensive Player after rushing for 697 yards and nine scores in 2014. Washington battled injuries last season but closed out 2014 by rushing for at least 100 yards in three out of his last four games, including a 135-yard effort against Washington State.

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Other Pac-12 Running Backs to Watch in 2015

Kalen Ballage, Arizona State

Demario Richard is Arizona State’s big-play back, while Ballage is 6-foot-3 power rusher from Colorado. Ballage recorded 126 yards on 42 attempts last season and is due for an uptick in carries with D.J. Foster moving to receiver. And how’s this for versatility: Ballage may play a few snaps on defense this year.

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Justin Davis/Tre Madden/Ronald Jones, USC

Will the Trojans find a No. 1 back or use a committee approach? Coach Steve Sarkisian has some talented options to choose from, including Davis who rushed for 595 yards last year. Madden recorded 703 yards in 2013, while Jones was a four-star recruit in the 2015 signing class.

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Christian Powell, Colorado

Colorado’s backfield depth is improving under coach Mike MacIntyre, and the Buffaloes are expected to use a committee approach once again in 2015. Powell has led the team for rushing in three consecutive seasons but has never recorded higher than 700 yards in a season.

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Remound Wright, Stanford

Wright led Stanford with 601 yards and 11 rushing scores last season. The senior is expected to retain a major role in the Cardinal backfield for 2015, but Christian McCaffrey is expected to slide into the No. 1 job.

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Gerard Wicks/Jamal Morrow, Washington State

It’s no secret the Cougars are a pass-first offense, and coach Mike Leach’s team had the fewest rushing attempts of any FBS program last year. Wicks and Morrow combined for just 585 yards and four scores in 2014 and return as the top options in 2015. Morrow also grabbed 61 receptions last season.

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