We’re taking a look at where each Pac-12 team stands coming out of spring ball on a position-by-position basis. We call them power rankings. You call them something to complain about. Today, we move on to running backs:
1. Oregon: Losing quarterback Marcus Mariota is an obvious blow, but the conference’s top-ranked rushing offense returns three players with more than 1,000 career rushing yards in sophomore Royce Freeman (1,365), junior Thomas Tyner (1,284) and senior Byron Marshall (1,877). If the College Football Playoff games were an indication of what’s to come, Freeman and Tyner figure to split time, while Marshall, the Ducks' leading receiver in 2014, can fill in when called upon.
2. UCLA: Paul Perkins was one of the more under-appreciated players in the Pac-12 last season despite finishing with a conference-best 1,575 yards rushing. Perkins' total wasn’t a product of more opportunity, either. Perkins averaged the most yards per carry (6.3) of the Pac-12's top 10 rushers. Other than Perkins, though, the Bruins lack experience at the position.
3. Utah: Coach Kyle Whittingham hasn’t been shy about touting senior Devontae Booker as a possible Heisman candidate after the senior put the NFL on hold for a second, and final, season with the Utes. If he rushes for 2,000 yards, it shouldn’t come as a surprise. However, after Booker (1,512 yards in 2014), the group is light. Veteran Bubba Poole is an option (though they would prefer to play him at receiver) and Troy McCormick will miss the season with an injury.
4. USC: The Trojans must replace Buck Allen, who opted for the NFL after rushing for 1,489 yards in 2014, but, as usually is the case at USC, there is some intriguing talent ready to step up. Justin Davis (595 yards) was a good No. 2 option a year ago, and the Trojans expect to welcome back a healthy Tre Madden, who ran for 703 yards in 2013. Adding to the mix is Ronald Jones, the top-ranked back in the Class of 2015, and Aca'Cedric Ware.
5. Arizona: Nick Wilson had an impressive season as a true freshman in 2014, running for 1,375 yards and 16 touchdowns in 13 games. The Wildcats need to replace capable backup Terris Jones-Grigsby from a group of unproven players, but that shouldn’t be much of a concern considering how easily they moved on from Ka'Deem Carey to find Wilson and Jones-Grigsby.
6. Arizona State: With D.J. Foster's best interest from a professional standpoint in mind, the Sun Devils opted to switch Foster to receiver. On the surface, it could seem like a risky move -- Foster has been one of the most productive players in the conference over the past few years -- but it makes sense. They can still have him carry the ball on occasion while sophomores Demario Richard and Kalen Ballage displayed enough to talent to instill a healthy level of optimism.
7. California: Daniel Lasco tends to get lost in the shuffle on an offense known mainly for what it does through the air, but the senior ranked fifth in the conference in rushing last season and should get a shot at the next level. Khalfani Muhammad (215 yards) and Vic Enwere (193) also return, while true freshman four-star Lonny Powell is a candidate to play from Day 1.
8. Stanford: All eyes will be on sophomore Christian McCaffrey as the Cardinal look to bounce back from an underwhelming 2014 on the ground. McCaffrey showed flashes of brilliance as a true freshman, but he carried the ball more than 10 times in a game just once. Remound Wright, Stanford's leading rusher last season with 601 yards, will be back, along with Barry Sanders Jr.
9. Washington: The Huskies' top two rushers from 2014, Dwayne Washington (697 yards) and Lavon Coleman (565), return from a team that ranked fourth in the conference in rushing. They’ll have to make do without Shaq Thompson, easily the most talented ball-carrier on the team a year ago, and adjust for an unsettled quarterback situation.
10. Oregon State: The Beavers finished 11th in the conference in rushing a year ago, but Storm Woods' relative lack of production (766 yards) could be chalked up to lack of opportunity (he averaged 6.3 yards per carry). Chris Brown drew solid reviews during the spring, capped by a 9-carry, 89-yard performance in the spring game.
11. Colorado: Three of the Buffaloes' top four rushers return -- Christian Powell (455 yards), Michael Adkins II (398) and Phillip Lindsay (391) -- but it’s not a group that strikes much fear in opposing defenses considering the team’s preference for throwing the ball.
12. Washington State: It’s tough to get a sense of how good Jamal Morrow or Gerard Wicks could be considering the rarity in which Mike Leach calls for running plays. The Cougars averaged just 39.8 yards rushing per game last year.