With spring ball a month away, we'll be ranking the position groups in the Big 12 over the next two weeks. These evaluations will be based on past performance, future potential and quality depth of the entire group. Our outlooks will probably look different after the spring. But this is how we see them at the moment.
We continue this series with the running backs:
1. Oklahoma: The Sooners might not just boast the best running back stable in the Big 12. They might have the best group in the country. Samaje Perine is a battering ram who has put up more than 3,000 rushing yards his first two seasons in college. Wingman Joe Mixon could start for most offenses in college football. Daniel Brooks is a nice change of pace option off the bench, while Rodney Anderson returns after drawing rave reviews as a true freshman last spring.
2. Baylor: As prolific as Oklahoma's running back rotation is, Baylor's is not far behind. Shock Linwood is a two-time 1,000-yard rusher, while Johnny Jefferson is coming off setting the FBS bowl rushing record. Terence Williams added 97 rushing yards and two touchdowns in the bowl. Devin Chafin is a tenacious short-yardage option. Baylor's biggest problem here will be finding everyone enough carries.
3. Iowa State: The Cyclones bring back ESPN's Big 12 Rookie of the Year in Mike Warren, who rushed for more than 1,300 yards as a redshirt freshman last season. In fact, Warren finished third in the Big 12 in rushing despite barely playing in Iowa State's first two games. Considering he committed to Matt Campbell and Toledo initially out of high school, Warren should have a nice rapport with the new staff.
4. Texas: Chris Warren III and D’Onta Foreman have the capability to give the Longhorns a tremendous thunder and lightning 1-2 punch. Foreman was only the Big 12 back to produce three runs of 60 yards or more last year. Warren rumbled for 382 yards and four touchdowns in Texas' final two games. The Longhorns have another pair of ESPN 300 backs coming up in Tristian Houston and Kyle Porter.
5. West Virginia: Losing Wendell Smallwood to early entry was a killer, but the Mountaineers still have Rushel Shell (1,492 yards over the last two years) as well as former ESPN 300 signee Donte Thomas-Williams. Juco transfer Justin Crawford and incoming freshman Kennedy McKoy figure to round out what should still be a strong rotation.
6. TCU: Aaron Green might be gone, but there is talent left in the TCU backfield. Rising juniors Trevorris Johnson and Kyle Hicks will get a chance to show they warrant more carries. It will be interesting to see what TCU does with Shaun Nixon, who started as a running back but thrived as an emergency slot receiver last year. Sewo Olonilua and Darius Anderson have the ability to step in as true freshmen.
7. Texas Tech: Gone is DeAndre Washington, Tech's only 1,000-yard rusher of this millennium. He won't be easily replaced. Still, the Red Raiders have been excited about the potential of Justin Stockton, who's been Washington's backup his first two college seasons. He'll have the opportunity to prove he can also be a feature back. Tech also has former ESPN 300 recruit Corey Dauphine to chip in, as well.
8. Kansas State: Charles Jones quietly was one of K-State most improved players last year, rushing for 696 yards while giving the Wildcats steady production. K-State needs either Dalvin Warmack or Alex Barnes or both to emerge, though, too, to give the backfield a little more pop. Don't forget about Winston Dimel, who is an All-Big 12 fullback.
9. Oklahoma State: The Cowboys were not impressive at running back last season, which is one reason why J.W. Walsh played so much as a situational, run-first quarterback. Oklahoma State will not be able to lean on that gimmick in 2106, which means somebody will have to step up to balance the rest of the offense. That somebody might not be on the roster. Stanford's Barry J. Sanders will be a grad transfer and is sure to consider the school where his Heisman father starred.
10. Kansas: Ke'aun Kinner cooled off after a hot start to last season, but he still averaged 4.2 yards per carry. The Jayhawks have almost no experience at the position otherwise, with De'Andre Mann and Taylor Cox graduating. That could give Florida native Khalil Herbert the chance to help immediately as an incoming freshman.