From my initial evaluations, there is no doubt that the quality of running backs in the class of 2011 is much better than last year. There are several impact backs, including James Wilder Jr. of Tampa, Fla., whom I also will rank as the No. 1 linebacker in the nation.
In my view, Wilder had play either position in college. The 6-2, 225-pounder with 4.5 speed might be better at linebacker than at running back. He was All-State at both positions last year. He is the best running back in Florida, a superior athlete. He even played cover corner at the San Antonio combine and shut out some of the top wide receivers in the country.
Kenny Hilliard of Patterson, La., is a three-time All-Stater who was the state's offensive player of the year for the last two years. The 6-0, 230-pounder with 4.5 speed is committed to LSU.
Savon Huggins of Jersey City, N.J., might be even better than Wilder. The 5-11, 200-pounder averaged 9.6 yards per carry last season and has been timed in 10.7 seconds for 100 meters. He has offers from USC, Florida and Notre Dame.
Texas has three big-time ball-carrying prospects who are capable of being rated No. 1 in the nation. They are 6-1, 215-pound Malcolm Brown of Cibola, a suburb of San Antonio, 5-9, 190-pound Herschel Sims of Abilene and 5-11, 180-pound Aaron Green of San Antonio.
Brown has 4.5 speed and rushed for 2,100 yards and 33 touchdowns last season. Sims, who averaged 9.3 yards per carry while leading his team to the state championship last season, is the best running back to commit to Oklahoma State since Barry Sanders. Green, who is very explosive and boasts 4.4 speed, rushed for 2,000 yards as a sophomore and 1,400 as a junior.
Jameel Poteat of Harrisburg, Pa., has over 50 offers, including USC, Florida, Michigan and Notre Dame. The 5-11, 215-pounder is a power back who averaged seven yards per carry last year.
DeAnthony Thomas, a 5-9, 175-pounder from Los Angeles Crenshaw, is one of the fastest running backs in the nation--and one of the most exciting. He has 4.3 speed and is committed to USC. In college, he might be converted to receiver or slotback. He can't take the pounding of a big back. But he is the best kick returner in California.
At LSU, Kenny Hilliard will be joined by 6-0, 215-pound Jeremy Hill of Baton Rouge, La. Hill, Mr. Outside to Hilliard's Mr. Inside, has 4.5 speed.
Mike Bellamy, a 5-11, 190-pound from Punta Gorda, Fla., is the best running back in Florida this side of Wilder. He is the state 100-meter champion. He has 10.7 speed and averaged 7.7 yards per carry last season.
Isaiah Crowell, a 6-0, 200-pounder from Columbus, Ga., is the No. 1 running back in Georgia. Florida, Florida State, Auburn and Georgia have offered. He has 4.4 speed and can be an impact player as a freshman.
Illinois' No. 1 prospect is 6-3, 235-pound Rodney Coe of Edwardsville. He has 4.5 speed and is the most recruited prospect in the state. He has more than 30 offers, including Alabama, Tennessee, Michigan, Notre Dame, Ohio State and Illinois. He is the best running back to be produced in Illinois since Rashard Mendenhall.
Justice Hayes, a 5-10, 180-pounder from Grand Blanc, Mich., is the most exciting player in Michigan. He has 4.39 speed and has been timed in 10.7 seconds for 100 meters. Michigan, Michigan State and Notre Dame are the leaders.
Shon Carson, a 5-9, 195-pounder from Lake City, S.C., has 4.35 speed and looks great on film. But he also is a top-notch baseball prospect.