I know I give my ACC colleague, Heather Dinich, a hard time every once in a while, but I’m straight out stealing one of her ideas today.
It’s a good one, too.
Who can we expect in the SEC to rush for 1,000 yards next season?
I’ll go on record and say it won’t be a quarterback that leads the league in rushing the way Cam Newton did last season.
But here are my top candidates, in order, to rush for 1,000 yards in 2011:
1. Marcus Lattimore, South Carolina: Especially now, with senior quarterback Stephen Garcia in serious danger of not coming back, the Gamecocks are going to lean on Lattimore more than ever. If he stays healthy, 1,500 yards isn’t out of the question.
2. Trent Richardson, Alabama: It’s his show now that Mark Ingram is gone, and Richardson is raring to prove to everybody what he can do with 200-plus carries. He only had 112 last season and still rushed for 700 yards.
3. Knile Davis, Arkansas: He’s bigger, stronger and faster and is finally healthy for a spring. Davis’ 1,322 rushing yards led all SEC running backs last season, but with the Hogs’ backfield depth and Dennis Johnson returning, the carries could be spread out a little more next season.
4. Mike Dyer, Auburn: Offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn has made it clear that the Tigers are going to lean on their running backs. Onterio McCalebb is the breakaway threat, but Dyer has a chance to do for the Tigers what Ben Tate did during the 2009 season.
5. Spencer Ware, LSU: You saw a glimpse of Ware in the Cotton Bowl last season. He has great moves, speed to go with those moves and delivers a blow. Running the football is a given with Les Miles, and Ware will step in for Stevan Ridley next season.
6. Brandon Bolden, Ole Miss: One of the more underrated players in the league last season, Bolden just missed 1,000 yards with 976 in 12 games. He averaged 6 yards per carry and will again be the focal point of the Rebels’ offense in 2011.
7. Tauren Poole, Tennessee: One of the surprise 1,000-yard rushers in the SEC a year ago, Poole runs with his heart on his sleeve every time he touches the ball. Looks like he’s going to have some help next season, too, with sophomore Rajion Neal having a big spring.
8. Vick Ballard, Mississippi State: We sure can’t forget about Ballard, who was a touchdown machine a year ago. The other thing is that we’ve learned under Dan Mullen at Mississippi State that he’s always going to have a bruising running game. Look for sophomore LaDarius Perkins to take some of the load off of Ballard.
9. Chris Relf, Mississippi State: The only quarterback on our list, Relf had 713 rushing yards last season. At 240 pounds, he’s always going to be a threat to run and isn’t shy about putting his head down and grinding for extra yards. He’s also improved as a passer, which means he might not pull it down and run as much next season.
10. Isaiah Crowell, Georgia: Can Crowell do for Georgia what Lattimore did for South Carolina last season as a true freshman? It sounds like Georgia coach Mark Richt is going to give him that chance, although Washaun Ealey and Caleb King aren’t just going to go quietly into the night.