NCAA Football

Top 15 Candidates for the 2013 Doak Walker Award

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2013 Doak Walker Award: Top 15 Candidates

Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

The 2013 Doak Walker Award preseason watch list will be announced tomorrow on July 18. I thought I would get a jump on it and tell you who I think will be the best running backs in NCAA football this year.

With all three of the 2012 finalists – Montee Ball, Kenjon Barner and Johnathan Franklin – graduated and drafted in the 2013 NFL Draft, the 2013 award for the best running back is wide open for the taking.

Looking at last year’s statistics, the 2013 winner will likely have to rush for at least 1,600 yards and score as many as 20 TDs on the ground in order to have a realistic shot.

With the college football game being so focused on mobile quarterbacks like Taylor Martinez, Denard Robinson and Heisman winner Johnny Manziel, the running backs will certainly have to make all of their touches count. Each of these three quarterbacks was able to rush for over 1,000 yards last year on top of their throwing yards.

Of all three finalists from last year, the winner, Montee Ball, ironically had the lowest average yards per carry at 5.1. But do not scoff at this number because rushing for five yards every carry is extremely difficult.

The 15 men on this list come from a wide variety of schools. You have your traditional powerhouses like the SEC, Big 12 and Big Ten conferences. But then there are also some of the little guys from the lesser known conferences.

I did my best to be all inclusive and to rank each player with as much realism as possible. The reality of the matter is that guys from the Sun Belt or American Athletic conferences just do not get the same respect and consideration from the voters as the other big conference players.

Isaac Comelli is a Los Angeles Dodgers writer for Follow him on Twitter @IsaacComelli, “Like” him on Facebook or add him to your network on Google+. You can see all of his articles here.

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No. 15 Dri Archer – Sr. – Kent State

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Dri Archer ran for an impressive 1,429 yards and scored 16 TD in 2012 for the Golden Flashes. Archer is small at only 5-foot-8, but he is elusive and can burst through the defensive line unscathed. He has a chance to be big this year but will be hurt by teammate Taryion Durham who splits time evenly with Archer. Durham had 1,315 yards and 14 TD last season, cutting deeply into Archer’s potential gains.

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No. 14 Tre Mason – Jr. – Auburn

JD Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

Tre Mason ran for just over 1,000 yards last year and punched in eight rushing TD. With a rebuilding Tiger squad, Mason will look to be the centerpiece of a potent running game.

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No. 13 Lache Seastrunk – So. – Baylor

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With the coolest name on the list, I can only hope Lache Seastrunk will have a great year so we can watch reporters awkwardly say his name. The 5-foot-10 running back from Texas rushed for just over 1,000 yards last year and will look to have more than that. Seastrunk – geez, that is even difficult to type – might have been higher on this list if the Bears were not so pass oriented.

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No. 12 Cody Getz – Sr. – Air Force

Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

I salute the lone military man on this list, Cody Getz. The main centerpiece on a team that loves to put the ball on the ground, Getz will look for a senior year with plenty of touches. I expect him to better his total of 1,248 yards and 9 TD from last season.

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No. 11 Venric Mark – Sr. – Northwestern

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The Wildcats tend to lean on the running side of offense, so 2012 Doak Walker Award semifinalist Venric Mark will have a chance to put up some huge numbers in the 2013 season. Finishing 2012 with 1,366 yards and 12 TD, Mark will look to lead Northwestern again.

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No. 10 David Fluellen – Sr. – Toledo

Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

David Fluellen just missed finishing in the top 10 in rushing yards for all running backs last season by 32 yards. Fluellen got 182 more carries than any other Rocket last season and will look to continue that trend as he strives to make a name for himself. He was a Doak Walker Award semifinalist in 2012 and will hope to be a finalist this year.

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No. 9 Ameer Abdullah – Jr. – Nebraska

Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

Quarterback Taylor Martinez was the sole focus of the Cornhuskers’ offense in 2012, recording almost 4,000 yards on the ground and in the air. Meanwhile, Ameer Abdullah still managed to rush for 1,137 yards. With Martinez still around, Abdullah will likely have similar results. Otherwise, I would have ranked him higher.

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No. 8 Beau Blankenship – Jr. – Ohio

Jim Cowsert-USA TODAY Sports

Beau Blankenship is a stud out of Norman, OK and will look to put on an impressive show for the Bobcats in 2013. Last season, Blankenship got over 300 carries and gained just over 1,600 yards. Those totals were enough to put him in the top 10 for all of the NCAA. Look for Blankenship to make a repeat performance.

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No. 7 Kasey Carrier – Sr. – New Mexico

Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

With the most fitting name for a running back ever, Kasey Carrier will lead the Lobos in his final season. As a junior, Carrier racked up almost 1,500 yards and scored 15 rushing TD. The Lobos will need him to have another great year if they want to move up the ranks.

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No. 6 James White – Sr. – Wisconsin

Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

This Floridian senior had to sit in the backseat to the eventual 2012 Doak Walker Award winner Montee Ball. So, it is probably no surprise that James White only gained 805 yards and 12 TD last year. But those are still very impressive numbers as White took advantage of every one of his limited touches. Averaging about 6.5 yards per carry on the year, White will get many more touches in 2013 and has a chance to be one of the best.

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No. 5 Antonio Andrews – Sr. – Western Kentucky

Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

Antonio Andrews and the Hilltoppers will look to have a repeat performance on the ground in 2013. Andrews racked up an awesome 1,684 yards and 11 TD last season as the feature back. If he can do it again this year, Andrews will have a portfolio that will certainly attract many professional teams.

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No. 4 De’Anthony Thomas – Jr. – Oregon

Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

Following Kenjon Barner was a tough challenge for De’Anthony Thomas who had to patiently wait for the chance to be the feature back for the Ducks. But with his former teammate and 2012 Doak Walker Award finalist taken in the draft, Thomas has his chance to be one of the best running backs in the nation. Barner had three times as many touches as Thomas last year and gained 1,767 yards and 21 TD. Expect Thomas to record similar numbers and to be a catalyst on an already explosive offense.

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No. 3 Todd Gurley – So. – Georgia

John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

Todd Gurley had a noteworthy freshman year for the Bulldogs, rushing for almost 1,400 yards and punching in 17 TD. The Bulldogs had a huge year in the air in 2012, but that did not stop Gurley from being one of the best backs in college football. He certainly has a good shot at being a Doak Walker Award finalist.

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No. 2 T.J. Yeldon – So. – Alabama

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As a freshman in 2012, T.J. Yeldon split time fairly evenly with standout running back Eddie Lacy. With Lacy being drafted in the second round, Yeldon will be the center of attention on one of the best teams in the nation. The Crimson Tide will look to roll all the way on the back of the big 6-foot-2 sophomore who easily eclipsed the 1,000 yard rushing mark as the No. 2 running back last year.

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No. 1 Ka’Deem Carey – Jr. – Arizona

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The nation’s leading rusher in 2012 was snubbed from the Doak Walker Award semifinalist list last year. Despite rushing for an astronomical 1,929 yards and punching in 23 rushing TD, Ka’Deem Carey did not get nearly as much attention as he deserved. With six other running backs in college football with more touches than Carey, the 5-foot-10 sophomore from Tucson averaged 6.4 yards per carry. With an extremely potent Wildcat offense, Carey will look to repeat in his junior season and will hopefully get the attention he deserves this time around.

So that does it for my top 15 list. Please leave a comment on whether you agree or disagree or if you know of some running backs who should have made the list.