Breaking Down the Running Backs in the 2014 Senior Bowl

By Rick Stavig
Senior Bowl
Robert Mayer-USA TODAY Sports

The rosters for the 2014 Senior Bowl are nearly complete.  As usual, the list of accepted invites to the game is overflowing with talented prospects hoping to improve their 2014 NFL Draft stock.  Considering how close we are to the beginning of practice week, let’s look at how some of the positional groups are shaping up.

First we looked at the quarterbacks (here), and now we’ll look at the running backs.

As of now there’s six running backs who’ve accepted offers to play in the Senior Bowl; Antonio Andrews (Western Kentucky), Marion Grice (Arizona State), Carlos Hyde (Ohio State), Jerick McKinnon (Georgia Southern), Charles Sims (West Virginia) and James White (Wisconsin).

Andrews has been an absolute workhorse for the Hilltoppers with 571 carries over the last two years for more than 3,414 yards and 27 TD’s, though the high number of carries could work against him.  Like with many small(er) school prospects, Andrews will be facing elite talent day-in and day-out for the first time, but definitely has the talent to prove he belongs.

Grice had a solid senior season and continued to prove his value as a receiver in addition to carrying the rock.  His biggest question mark is if he can consistently be a threat grinding it up the middle, or if he’s to be relegated to a 3rd down back at the next level.  We all know what he can do on the outside, but will be able to pound it up the middle 25 times a game if need be?

Hyde is the big name of the group to watch and for good reason.  He struggled coming back from an early season suspension, but from the Northwestern game on, he was hands down the best tailback in the country, racking up 1,395 yards and 15 TD’s in the Buckeyes final 9 games.  At 6-foot, 242-pounds, Hyde is an absolute load up the middle.  He doesn’t have top-end speed or cut back ability, but he’s a grinder who’s got ‘workhorse’ written all over him.

McKinnon actually played option-quarterback in college, but will be switching to running back full time for the NFL.  He’s not the biggest guy at 5-foot 9, 200-pounds, but he’s got good burst bouncing to the outside, and has a good vision for cut back lanes. Similarly to Andrews, he’ll going against top notch competition for the first time day-in and day-out, so it’ll be interesting to see how he fares against bigger, more athletic defensive linemen.

Sims transferred to WVU after starring for three seasons with the Houston Cougars.  He has a well rounded skill set and does everything well, but nothing spectacular.  He doesn’t run with explosive power, but has good vision and is very strong in the passing game, both receiving and blocking.

White has the most to gain in this game besides McKinnon.  He put up outstanding rushing numbers at Wisconsin, but who hasn’t?  His biggest question marks will be if he can pound it up the middle consistently and to show he can be a threat out of the backfield, neither of which he answered this year.  He needs to capitalize on his quickness and burst in practice.

This is an intriguing mix of running backs to watch next week, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see this list add another name or two before it’s all said and done.

Rick Stavig is an NFL Draft Columnist for Follow him on Twitter @rickstavig or add him to your network on Google+.


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