Running Back
Southern California
If there was an award for "Most Exciting Player" or even an "MVP Award" as opposed to just the Heisman, Reggie Bush might be the winner. NationalChamps.net took some flack last week as we released our top WR units and USC was not a part of that list. The sole reason has to do with how we list Bush exclusively as a RB in our unit comparison(s). Granted, had he been legitimately listed in both categories, it would have been impossible to deny Southern Cal's receiver class. But post-season awards work in much the same way within "exclusifying" a player's status, and thus, you now see our results. The extra-terrestrial Bush changes most games in ways numbers can't quantify - via mismatches and open-field instincts. He was both their second leading rusher and receiver, and he will continue to make the most of any touches he gets. Bush will likely lead the country in "how did he do that?" - big gainers (he had 33 20+yd plays). If teams don't double (or at least "shadow") Bush, just strike up the USC fight song now. Forming the other half of the nation's best one-two punch is the bruising LenDale White. The fellow junior is the workhorse, but opponents ostensibly cannot key on just him. While the 235lb White gains over 70% of his yards after contact, he still possesses 4.4 speed that makes him impossible to fully contain for 60 minutes. Injured Hershel Dennis will redshirt, but Brandon Hancock, fully recovered from 2004's season-ending knee injury, regains playing time at the FB spot with tough blocking and surprising receiving skills. Partnered with David Kirtman, this gives USC two FB options.

The most heralded freshman since Herschel Walker, Adrian Peterson is back for his sophomore year after rushing for 1,925 yards and 15 touchdowns. Peterson wound up finishing second in the Heisman race, a feat never before achieved by a true freshman. Peterson may be the country's toughest back to bring down (often a man amongst boys), a quality aspect this team will surely need. With eight Sooner players just selected in April's NFL draft, Adrian is likely to again be highlighted each and every week with the nation's media. His "backup", the also-physical Kejuan Jones, has a better set of hands, giving a job to the guy who looked to be the next great OU back before Peterson redefined the position/expectations in Norman. Making holes for both is FB J.D. Runnels, who is also a pass-catching option when two backs are in. Coach Bob Stoops has elevated this team's ground game to where it now compliments the list of Heisman QBs from the recent past. Their production is a big reason this group sits at No. 2 in this Unit Ranking.

Louisiana State
This backfield remains an embarrassment of riches, only with a reshuffled depth chart. Junior Alley Broussard rose from afterthought to record-setter, with an uncanny ability to find the endzone. His bruising style brands him the go-to guy in the red-zone, but his 74yd TD scamper in the Capital One bowl shows he's anything but a one-dimensional back. Flexible senior Joseph Addai won't have to worry about that label either. He's equally adept at gaining big chunks on the ground or through the air. The team's third leading receiver makes an ideal third-down back with a knack for the big grab in the clutch. Junior Justin Vincent, a hero on their national championship squad, must earn back playing time by returning his yards-per-carry to those astronomical numbers that led the Tigers in 2003. All of the backs are multi-dimensional, which mean this unit will not often be stopped, if at all. If depth were the sole factor with these rankings, LSU may be on top.

Florida State
"The Washington & Booker Show" highlights this offense. Leon Washington (Mr. Florida Football 2001), a serious senior contender for many (fairly extended) Heisman lists, has the right size-speed package when healthy. Washington is the best returning RB specimen (physically) in the ACC. Junior Lorenzo Booker is somewhat the opposite of Leon - smaller, but also shiftier, and with a better pair of hands (FSU's leading returning receiver). Locating a 1000-yard back in this Seminole system is difficult, as each of these gifted players receive an equal amount of carries. Balance is a huge part of what makes/keeps both energized and effective. Both were just short of that "1000-yard club" in '04. With a still unsettled QB situation in Tallahassee, they may each reach said-mark with this upcoming campaign. The fullback sees the field often, but carries the ball very little. FSU is blessed with two quality senior FBs (B.J. Dean and James Coleman) that block as well as any.

Fresno State
This is the one of the deepest units in the nation, and that's not hyperbole. Bryson Sumlin and UCLA-transfer Wendell Mathis were five measly yards from giving Fresno State two 1,000-yard rushers in the same season for the first time in school history. Now Dwayne Wright (1,000-yard back in 2003) returns from 2004's season-ending knee surgery. This is clearly a problem coaches love to have. It creates competition, but, more importantly, since the Bulldogs are a run-oriented team (63% in 2004), they employ a variety of different looks that send opposing defenses scurrying. Sumlin and Wright are bruisers with decent hands, while Mathis jukes his way with speed. In addition, fullback Matt Rivera is a viable ball-carrier (6.9 yards per carry) often found in the flat, while starter Roshon Vercher is huge, both in size and at picking up the blitz.

Just Missed: California, Michigan, Virginia, West Virginia


June 1 - Running Backs
May 23- Wide Receivers
May 16 - Offensive Line
May 12 - Defensive Backs
May 4 - Linebackers
April 28 - Defensive Line