Philadelphia, PA – A potent ground game can mask a litany of problems for a program, as shortening the game with extended drives is a recipe for success.
With that in mind, here is a list of the top tailbacks in the FBS for the 2013 season.
KA'DEEM CAREY (Arizona) - No player in the country made a bigger splash on the national scene save for "Johnny Football" down in College Station. The 5- foot-10, 196-pound Carey burst on the scene as a sophomore in 2012, leading the nation in rushing with 1,929 yards, scoring a whopping 23 touchdowns on the ground, while averaging 6.4 yards per carry. A workhorse in Rich Rodriguez's offensive scheme, expect to see a lot more of the talented All- American. That is of course, if he can stay on the field. Injuries aren't a concern, but rather Carey's decision making. He has had a couple of run-ins with the law in the last six months and it remains to be seen if Carey's behavior will continue to be a problem in the desert.
D'ANTHONY THOMAS (Oregon) - There may not be a more dangerous player with the ball in his hands than this Oregon Duck. Simply put ... Thomas can do it all, as evidenced by his amazing 2012 campaign where he rushed for 701 yards and 11 TDs on 7.6 ypc, while catching 45 balls for 455 yards and five more scores. The 5-foot-9, 175-pound speedster wasn't done there however, adding two more touchdowns on special teams, taking both a kickoff and a punt return the distance. Chip Kelly is no longer calling the shots in Eugene, but new coach Mark Helfrich will get the ball in Thomas' hands early and often in 2013, guaranteed.
BISHOP SANKEY (Washington) - The run of top-notch tailbacks in the Pac-12 continues with the 5-foot-10, 200-pound Sankey. Head coach Steve Sarkisian may not have had the season he had hoped for in 2012, but it wasn't because of a lack of production from Sankey, as the then sophomore posted the school's third-most rushing yards in a season (1,439). He closed out the year with a 205-yard effort against Boise State in the Las Vegas Bowl, and finished with 16 rushing scores on an even 5.0 yards per carry. Another year of seasoning in the Pac-12 could push Sankey into elite status around the time NFL teams start looking for a franchise back next year.
T.J. YELDON (Alabama) - A conveyor belt of talent in Tuscaloosa's backfield continues in 2013, with the 6-foot-2, 218-pound Yeldon. Despite splitting carries with Eddie Lacy, Yeldon carved out a terrific freshman campaign, earning Freshman All-America honors after rushing for 1,108 yards and 12 touchdowns on 6.3 yards per carry. There is little chance that a sophomore slump is on the horizon for Yeldon, who should see his workload increase as Nick Saban's Crimson Tide set out for a third straight national championship. If Alabama is able to find its way into title contention once again, there is little doubt that Yeldon will play a huge role.
TODD GURLEY (Georgia) - Gurley provided instant impact as a freshman in 2012 for the Bulldogs, rushing for 1,385 yards and a freshman school-record 17 touchdowns. Not many teams were able to contain the 6-foot-1, 232-pound youngster, including two-time defending national champion Alabama and its vaunted defense, which relinquished 122 yards and two TDs to the Georgia standout in the SEC title tilt. With the ability to run through and around defenders, the sky is the limit for Gurley, and in turn for the Bulldogs as a whole in 2013.
DUKE JOHNSON (Miami-Florida) - A highly touted recruit coming into 2012 at Miami, this 5-foot-9, 190-pound youngster did not disappoint. He was actually second on the team in carries with just 139, but certainly made the most of those, rushing for 947 yards and 10 touchdowns on an impressive 6.8 yards per carry. Another dynamic playmaker with the versatility to score in a number of ways, Johnson could be just guy to return the Hurricanes to gridiron glory.
DAMIEN WILLIAMS (Oklahoma) - Now that Landry Jones has moved on to the NFL, there is every reason to believe that there will be more of a balanced offensive attack in Norman this season. Bob Stoops will likely get more conservative with a new signal-caller under center, and Williams could be the primary benefactor. In Oklahoma's pass-happy offense a year ago, the 5- foot-11, 215-pounder still rushed for just under 1,000 yards (946) and 11 touchdowns. More focus on the ground game should inflate Williams' numbers, and put the Sooners in position to contend for the Big 12 crown.
SILAS REDD (USC) - The former Penn State Nittany Lion is now all settled in at USC and had a strong debut with the Trojans in what was otherwise a disappointing season for the Trojans in 2012. The 5-foot-10, 200-pound Redd rushed for 905 yards and nine touchdowns, averaging 5.4 yards per carry last season. Redd led the Trojans in rushing, but split the workload with Curtis McNeal, who has since departed. As the go-to-guy in the backfield in 2013, much more is expected of Redd, who could deliver in a huge way for the Trojans.
CARLOS HYDE (Ohio State) - By no means a threat to score every time he touches the ball, Hyde is a different breed than the rest of the players on this list, as he is a bruising back that is simply tough to bring down. The 6-foot, 242- pounder was a stabilizing force in the backfield for Urban Meyer in 2012, as he rushed for 970 yards and 16 touchdowns on 5.2 yards per carry. A big reason that Ohio State was able to run the table last season, Hyde will do his part in keeping the win streak going this fall.
ANTONIO ANDREWS (Western Kentucky) - The most productive player in the country last year did not reside in a power conference, but rather the Sun Belt in the form of the 6-foot, 211-pound Andrews. In his first season as the team's workhorse, Andrews led Western Kentucky in all-purpose yards (3,161), rushing yards (1,728), carries (304), kick return yards (726) and punt return yards (234). His all-purpose yardage total was the second-highest in FBS history, behind only Barry Sanders. Andrews had four games in which he eclipsed 300 all-purpose yards last year. Expect more on the same in 2013, as the senior should once again run roughshod over the competition.
HONORABLE MENTION: Lache Seastrunk (Baylor), John Hubert (Kansas State), James White (Wisconsin), James Wilder, Jr. (Florida State), Ameer Abdullah (Nebraska)