Running Back Defensive Line
Wide Receiver Linebacker
Offensive Line Defensive Back
Running Back
West Virginia
With a big, powerful and fast group, this is the main reason the Mountaineers are in most preseason top 10’s. Even with the unexpected losses of Pernell Williams and WVU’s most highly touted recruit Jason Gwaltney, the unit just plugs in more names. Well-built Jason Colson is likely returning to the backfield (a slot guy much of ’05), but they are good enough that the senior is a back up to emerging sophomore speedster Steve Slaton. Massive junior Owen Schmidt is the secret weapon after leading the team’s returning RBs in per carry average, and the fact that he lost no yards on 48 attempts means bankable gains every time he carries the rock. The crushed facemask of a defender Owen ran over sits on coach Rodriguez’ desk as a souvenir. We could go on and on (they go even deeper). Add the dimension of sophomore QB Pat White as a ball-carrier to know why they only passed 114 times compared to 625 rushes last year. Opponents know they are going to run, and still they will be unstoppable.

Ohio State
Antonio Pittman is a proven commodity who hasn’t even reached his potential…yet. Look for dual-threat QB phenom Troy Smith, as well as their creative sets that bring Ted Ginn’s feet into play, to further distract defenses for optimal effect. Smith is the best duel threat QB for 2006. Look for five-star prospect Chris Wells to get reps early and often, for this prep all-American is assuredly the future in Columbus. With Stan White bulldozing holes for all, the Buckeyes will continue to run it more than 60% of the time to wear down defenses for win after win.

Kenny Irons leads a pack of Tigers, each who could be their top runner if given the chance. But it is Irons who took over last season with seven games left to lead the SEC in rushing, quite a statement in I-A’s toughest conference. Brad Lester and Carl Stewart offer contrasting styles that keep opponents off balance. Auburn runs right at you, daring even the best front sevens to stop them. In this classic offense where the run keeps defenses honest to set up the pass, we cannot ignore how far the Tiger’s senior interior up front will take them.

Robert Merrill came back for his senior campaign, catapulting the deep Horned Frog’s RB unit into a top five group. Whereas this San Antonio-native and classmate Lonta Hobbs have ample girth to run between the tackles, Aaron Brown sveltely takes corners to earn his all-conference status. The play-calls by coach Patterson make it seem easy for TCU to rule this conference, and it’s from the ground up that they hop over opponents.

All-American Michael Bush, who could have had a job on Sundays, gives the Redbirds confidence that their deep group can carry them to new heights. Including George Stripling and fellow-senior Kolby Smith, UL has their top three grinders from 2005 returning. FB bowling ball Deriontae Taylor just decimates would-be tacklers. Brohm’s arm has to be respected, so LBs are kept flat-footed as this balanced backfield trio rotates the right guy in for maximum impact, as needed.

Just Missed: Arkansas, California, Oklahoma, Texas