Here is installment number 2 of the conference top players. Today's selection is top running backs in the conference.
Rodney Ferguson, University of New Mexico
Reason for this spot: Rodney was the leading rusher last year in the conference. He did have one game of two hundreds last year and three others over 100 yards. They also bring back 3 offensive line starters, a JUCO transfer, and another who is a senior. Also with the return of their starting QB and top 2 receivers defenses have to be honest.
Reasons not this spot: For the 3 games he had over one hundred yards that left 9 where he was held under one hundred yards. Ferguson only had 7 touchdowns in 13 games all season. Overall the Lobo offense was 7th in conference and the team only averaged 3.3 yards per carry.
Kyle Bell Colorado State
Reason for this spot: Bell was named to multiple pre season awards for the conference, but tore his ACL in fall camp in 2006 and had to sit out the year. He had one full year to recover from his injury, so Bell should be ready to go. In 2005 his Sophomore Bell accumulated 1,288 yards and 10 TD's and led the team to the Poinsettia Bowl against Navy. Offense should be improved with experienced QB Caleb Hanie running the plays.
Reasons not this spot: The obvious Bell tore his ACL IN 2006 and he missed out on a year of football. The Rams were not good last year going 4-8 and losing their last 7 games. Can Bell take the load after having major knee surgery.
Aaron Brown, TCU
Reason for this spot: Besides being the third leading rusher in the conference Brown also is a weapon to catch ball out of the backfield, and a good return man. All of those touches allowed Brown to be third in all-purpose yards in the conference. Also, with a new quarterback with minimal experience Brown will be asked to take on a bigger role in the offense.
Reasons not this spot: If Brown is used in return game and with the bigger offensive load Brown might tire more. Also, with the new QB teams may stack up the box which would make running more difficult. He only had one game over 100 yards rushing.
Chad Hall, Air Force Academy
Reason for this spot: Hall will be the main runnng back in the new Air Force offense where there will be more of a passing game. However, this also means the bulk of the carries will go to Hall instead of the QB or FB taking away carries from Hall. Hall also is a threat in the new offense to catch a couple passes a game.
Reasons not this spot: Other teams will not be confused by the triple option and will be more prepared for the more traditional offense. The adjustment to a new system does take some time so expect Hall to struggle in the running game early on.
Matt Asiata, University of Utah
Reason for this spot: Asiata a JUCO transfere from Snow Junior College and was an All American and First team Western States Player. He led WSFL in rushing with 1,365 yards and 15 touchdowns in 2006 and averaged 6.3 yards per carry at 136.5 yards per game. He has big play potential by averaging over 6 a carry, and he despertely help the Ute running game.
Reasons not this spot: This could go either way here, Asiata could struggle with a different style of offense and type of play or he could adjust quickly and play well just as he did at Snow. The Utes do have Darryl Poston returning so that will help Asiata adjust, but I see Matt being the main back especially since Poston had a tough time staying healthy. If Asiata can come close to what he did at Snow he might a top 3 back in the league.
Attiyah Henderson, San Diego State
Reason for this spot: Henderson is one of the top returning rushers from last year and managed 764 yards and a 4.4 yards per carry on a terrible offensive team. He earned those yards while playing in only 10 games. Henderson did have 5 games of 90 or more rushing yards, plus Henderson can catch the ball getting almost 2 receptions a game.
Reasons not this spot: He plays for an offensively challenged team that is always trailing so the running game is thrown out for the pass game to play catch up. Henderson had only 1 rushing touchdown all season. He is only a sophomore so for a Freshman to have the year he had is encouraging tot he Aztecs. Some publications have Henderson as a 2nd team all conference player. With their scheudle of games that include home games against Cincinati and Portland State, Henderson could rack of yards early on.
Fui Vakapuna, BYU
Reason for this spot: Vakapuna is the teams returnig leading rusher, however he only had 442 yards last season as the primary back up, however he was the teams leading scorer as running back with 8 TD's.
Reasons not this spot: By being the featured back Vakapuna should get more scores and increase his yardage output, especially with new quarterback Max Hall.
David Peeples, UNLV
Reason for this spot: Mike Sanford's spread offense has had very few bright spots if any. Also, always being behind in games means the running game is going to be used minimally as a method to catch up. Peeples only averaged 43 yards per game to go with only 7 TD's.
Reason for this spot: Unless the UNLV offense takes off and is more competitive in games that is one of the ways this run game will not be near the bottom of the league. Another way to get the running game going is to establish it early and not get behind.