NCAA Football American Athletic Conference

Top 5 AAC Running Backs in 2013

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AAC RB Power Rankings

Power Rankings
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Over the past decade, NCAA football has experienced some major changes in the way the game is played. Offensively, more and more teams are moving towards a more pass-oriented game plan. As programs continue to switch to more open offenses, such as the spread, passing records are being shattered.

Because of the transition in offensive schemes, a solid, power running game is more important than ever. The AAC is full of teams that love to pass the ball, but it also has it's fair share of running backs. A power running game nowadays almost acts as a defense, as a good ground attack runs the clock and keeps the high-octane offenses sidelined. Despite the emergence in recent years of the passing game, the elite programs across the nation most often possess a balance of the two, such as a team like the Alabama Crimson Tide.

Over the next few weeks, we will be ranking the top five players at each position in the AAC. Last week, we began with ranking the top five quarterbacks in the conference. This week, we take a look at the top five running backs heading into the 2013 season. This list is based on each players stats from 2012 and who is expected to have the best campaigns in the AAC's inaugural year. The players are listed in ascending order from No. 5 to which back should have the best upcoming season. So, with that said, let's take a look at the top five rushers in the conference who look to make big impacts for their teams.

Bryan Heater is an AAC football and basketball columnist for Follow him on Twitter, Friend him on Facebook or add him to your Google network.

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No.5 Brandon Hayes

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Brandon Hayes is one of the lesser known guys on this list. A former walk-on for the Memphis Tigers, Hayes burst onto the scene late last season with a couple 100-yard games. For the year, he rushed for 576 yards and six touchdowns, with a nearly six-yards per carry average.

Now, as a senior, Hayes will get to show what he is capable of as the full-time starter. Hayes runs low to the ground and is very shifty, making it hard for defenders to tackle him. With many more touches coming his way, it would not be a shocker to see Hayes eclipse the 1,000-yard mark.

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No.4 Savon Huggins

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Rutgers Scarlet Knights running back Savon Huggins finally enters the 2013 campaign as the go-to back. In 2012, Huggins toted the ball 119 times for 410 yards and two touchdowns. With 1,000-yard rusher Jawan Jamison gone, Huggins now gets his chance to start.

Based on last season, there were several running backs not on this list that put up better numbers than Huggins did as starters, but it was largely due to the fact he was waiting his turn behind Jamison. He has vast potential and possesses great speed. So now as a junior, Huggins has the opportunity to show the conference and the nation why he was rated a five-star recruit coming out of high school.

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No.3 Storm Johnson

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The Central Florida Knights lost only one game last year in C-USA with one of the best backfields in the conference. An intricate part of that backfield is Storm Johnson, who rushed for 507 yards and four scores as the backup to Latavius Murray with a nice 4.5-yards per carry average. With Murray gone to play on Sundays, Johnson steps into the starting spot.

Johnson, a Miami Hurricanes transfer, is the epitome of the power running game at 6-foot-1, 217 pounds. The return of quarterback Blake Bortles should help open up running lanes. In 2013, expect Johnson to make a push for 1,000 yards barring any injuries.

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No.2 Lyle McCombs

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Lyle McCombs is the latest in a nice line of running backs to come through the Connecticut Huskies program. The 2012 season was not great, but McCombs was one of the bright spots. He ran for 860 yards and six touchdowns last year and also led the team in rushing as a freshman with over 1,000 yards. Had it not been for McCombs, the Huskies would have been much worse.

Entering 2013, the junior is one of the most reliable backs in the conference. The Huskies should be much improved on the offensive line and through the air, so another 1,000-yard season for McCombs could be in store.

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No.1 Senorise Perry

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Despite being the backup for the Louisville Cardinals, Senorise Perry rushed for 705 yards and a team-leading 11 touchdowns. His numbers could have been even better had he not torn his ACL in game 10 against the Syracuse Orange. The senior is back and, most importantly, healthy. Add to the equation that gone is leading rusher Jeremy Wright, and it equals a potentially highlight year for Perry.

It helps tremendously that Perry has a quarterback like Teddy Bridgewater who is one of the top at his position in the country. Perry will have a chance to take advantage of a league with many below-average defenses. Louisville also spreads the field a lot with the arm of Bridgewater, which should give Perry big holes to run through. As long as Perry's knee stays healthy, he can give the Cardinals another weapon and fuel a title run.