<
>

Post-spring position rankings: RB

Time to get back to our post-spring position rankings, with running back next up. Remember, we're looking for stars and depth here:

1. Pittsburgh: The Panthers have the Big East's offensive player of the year returning in Dion Lewis, who rushed for 1,799 yards and 17 scores a year ago. Backup Ray Graham, who averaged 5.7 yards per carry, could start for most teams. Henry Hynoski should be the best fullback in the league this year. That's enough to merit the No. 1 spot here.

2. West Virginia: Noel Devine alone would earn the Mountaineers a lofty ranking. But don't forget about bruising fullback/tailback Ryan Clarke, who had eight touchdowns a year ago. Throw in Shawne Alston and Daquan Hargrett, and West Virginia is loaded in the backfield. And that's not even counting Tavon Austin and Jock Sanders, who are considered wide receivers for the purposes of these rankings but who could easily move into running back roles.

3. Connecticut: Jordan Todman (1,188 yards) was the third-leading rusher in the Big East last season. The Huskies are high on Meme Wylie and Robbie Frey, and Martin Hyppolite and Jonathan Jean-Louis could contribute. Fullback Anthony Sherman has 21 career starts. And that UConn offensive line always makes its ballcarriers look good.

4. Cincinnati: I think this is the year that Isaiah Pead takes off and becomes a real star. John Goebel's return adds experience to the backfield, while Darrin Williams is a playmaking spark plug. The only question is how much the Bearcats want to run the ball.

5. Syracuse: Uncertainty over Delone Carter's status -- he has been suspended at least until the fall semester -- makes the Orange a tough team to rank at running back. With Carter, who was a 1,000-yard back last year, Syracuse has a frontline workhorse plus two versatile guys in Antwon Bailey and Averin Collier. Without him, this unit is average at best.

6. Louisville: When healthy, Victor Anderson is one of the best backs in the Big East. He went over 1,000 yards and was the league's newcomer of the year in 2008. He was plagued by injuries last season and was still recovering this spring. If he's back to form, the Cardinals will have a solid trio with Bilal Powell and Jeremy Wright also in the mix. That doesn't count Darius Ashley, whose move to cornerback this spring may be permanent.

7. Rutgers: I put the Scarlet Knights this low despite the return of Joe Martinek, who nearly ran for 1,000 yards last year. But he was far from an explosive runner, and Rutgers averaged just 3.6 yards per carry last season (hurt, no doubt, by a subpar run-blocking offensive line). This backfield needs more playmakers, whether that's from an improved Martinek, a more experienced De'Antwan Williams or one of the speedy freshmen arriving this summer.

8. South Florida: The departure of Jamar Taylor was the latest setback to a position that lacks proven depth. The Bulls will begin the year with a starting tailback (Mo Plancher) who gained just 581 yards last season, and a backup (Demetris Murray) who has 14 career carries. On the flip side, South Florida running backs haven't been given much of a shot to establish themselves under the previous, quarterback-heavy offensive schemes. Perhaps that will change under Skip Holtz, who wants his backs to do more.