Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) - The 2013 FBS season saw a number of players put up eye-popping numbers on the ground.
The numbers ranged from a 2,177-yard effort at Boston College, a 1,920-yard performance at Northern Illinois (albeit by a quarterback), three 1,800-plus- yard seasons at Arizona, Washington and Auburn, and another three 1,700-plus- yard campaigns at Western Kentucky, Colorado State and Stanford.
All that production is moving on from the college ranks. However, that doesn't mean the FBS cupboard is bare this year.
Here is a list of the top running backs for the upcoming season:
AMEER ABDULLAH: Both an All-American third-team and All-Big Ten first-team selection as a junior, the 5-foot-9, 195-pound Abdullah was a workhorse for Nebraska in 2013, rushing for 1,690 yards on 281 carries (six yards per carry) with nine touchdowns, adding two more scores on 26 receptions. It was the fourth-best season in school history and the most rushing yards since Ahman Green in 1997. With two 1,000-yard campaigns already in the bank, Abdullah could become the first player in school history to collect three 1,000-yard seasons. He also has an outside shot at Nebraska's all-time leading rusher Mike Rozier (4,780) provided coach Bo Pelini continues to feed him the ball.
TODD GURLEY: The 6-1, 232-pound Georgia Bulldog is a monster with the ball in his hands. After earning Freshman All-American honors in 2012 with 1,385 yards and 17 touchdowns, Gurley struggled with an injury-plagued 2013 campaign, only suiting up for 10 games, Still, he finished with 989 yards and 10 TDs while adding six receiving scores. With veteran signal caller Aaron Murray no longer under center, a transition to a new field general could force coach Mark Richt to lean on his talented tailback even more this year. Provided he stays on the field, Gurley could be in store for his best season ever.
T.J. YELDON: Another team transitioning from a seasoned veteran under center, Alabama may just have to get back to what it does best and that is run the football. The Crimson Tide have the benefit of one of the nation's premier talents in the backfield in the 6-2, 218-pound Yeldon. In 2012, he made an immediate impact, becoming the first true freshman in school history to rush for 1,000 yards, all while coming off the bench. With 207 touches (17.3 carries per game) in 2013, Yeldon netted six yards per touch and finished with 1,235 yards, and 14 TDs. The Alabama backfield is chock-full of talent once again, but Yeldon should garner the lion's share of the carries, and his numbers will reflect that.
MELVIN GORDON: The 6-1, 207-pound Gordon has played in 27 games over the last two seasons at Wisconsin but with only eight starts over that time due to a very talented backfield. That is going to change in 2014, as he will finally be the go-to-guy in the Badgers' ground game. Despite splitting carries with James White in 2013, Gordon definitely did his part when given the ball, rumbling for 1,609 yards and 12 TDs on a whopping 7.8 yards per carry, en route to All-Big Ten second-team honors. Gordon and White combined for over 3,000 yards and 25 TDs last season, and with White moving on, Gordon's numbers could improve. That is a scary thought for the rest of the Big Ten this season.
JEREMY LANGFORD: A special teamer in 2011 and 2012, the 6-foot, 205-pound Langford burst on the scene as Michigan State's starting tailback in 2013, rumbling for 1,422 yards and 18 scores. Talk about consistency - Langford rushed for over 100 yards in a school-record eight straight games, playing a huge part in Michigan State's run to the Big Ten title. A second straight Big Ten crown is certainly within the Spartans' grasp, provided the team's workhorse continues to get the ball after leading the conference with 292 carries in 2013.
MIKE DAVIS: There have already been a couple of SEC running backs mentioned, but that shouldn't take away from South Carolina's Davis, who posted the fourth-best single-season rushing total in school history in 2013, amassing 1,183 yards and 11 TDs, earning All-SEC second-team honors. A consistent performer who hasn't received a great deal of fanfare outside Columbia, the 5-9, 218-pound Davis is poised for a big season with the Gamecocks, especially considering the fact South Carolina is another SEC team forced to make a change under center.
JAY AJAYI: Despite not playing in a power conference, the 6-foot, 216-pound Ajayi is a nightmare to handle and is starting to get noticed outside the Mountain West. An All-MWC first-team selection for Boise State in 2013, Ajayi rushed for 1,425 yards (fourth-best single season in school history) and 18 TDs as a sophomore. The 2013 outburst came after a freshman season in 2012 that saw Ajayi average a school-record 6.7 yards per carry on a mere 82 touches. He seemed to handle the increased workload with ease as he could actually post even better numbers in 2014.
BYRON MARSHALL: There have been some talented running backs in Eugene over the years and that trend will continue in 2014, as the junior Marshall should assume a much bigger role in Oregon's backfield. That's kind of hard to picture considering Marshall rushed for 1,038 yards and 12 TDs in 2013 on 6.2 yards per carry. Still, he had to share touches with the likes of QB Marcus Mariota and backs Thomas Tyner and De'Anthony Thomas. Oregon's offense is at its best when spreading the wealth, but more carries for Marshall is a recipe for success no matter how you look at it.
DUKE JOHNSON: One of the ACC's top playmakers, the 5-9, 206-pound Johnson earned second-team all-conference honors despite playing in just eight games. Johnson rushed for 920 yards and six TDs before breaking his ankle in early November, ending his sophomore campaign. A healthy return in 2014 should have Miami right in the thick of the conference race, continuing an upswing for a program that participated in its first bowl game in three years in 2013.
KARLOS WILLIAMS: A converted safety, the 6-1, 219-pound Williams has found a home in the Florida State backfield. Despite a backfield-by-committee in 2013, Williams played an integral role in FSU's national championship campaign, averaging eight yards per carry (sixth in the nation), finishing the year with 730 yards and 11 TDs on just 91 carries. Expect more of the same in 2014, as the Seminoles will once again be the team to beat nationally.
HONORABLE MENTION: Jamaal Williams (BYU), Shock Linwood (Baylor), Malcolm Brown (Texas), Alex Collins (Arkansas), Tevin Coleman (Indiana), Travis Green (Bowling Green).