The College Football Notebook

November 10, 2010 8:39 AM

The SEC's Best Backs

MarkIngramAndOtherTopSECBacks.jpgThe SEC produced the Heisman Trophy winner out of its backfields last year, with Alabama's Mark Ingram winning the award. The conference is the favorite to win another Heisman, this time with Auburn quarterback Cam Newton, but they seem to have been grounded in the backfield. With Ingram missing time in September and then splitting carries with Trent Richardson, the possibilities of a second straight trophy for the Tide back went by the boards and no one else really caught steam in the national picture. But the SEC still has its share of good runners and the debate over who should populate the All-Conference team should be heated. Here's a list of the contenders...

Marcus Lattimore (South Carolina): The freshman who's a man among boys. Lattimore is perhaps the greatest physical specimen this league has seen at running back since Herschel Walker ruled the roost at Georgia from 1980-82. Lattimore's had huge games against the Bulldogs and Tennessee, and been productive against Alabama and Kentucky. In the latter game, though he "only" rushed for 79 yards, he racked up 139 receiving. He's the Gamecocks' best back since George Rodgers won the Heisman in 1980. And in a bit of self-promotion, if you want to read about Walker, Rogers and others of the best teams and players of their era, check out my book The Last New Year's.

Tauren Poole (Tennessee): Because the Volunteers are struggling, Poole isn't getting the recognition. Which is completely upside down if you ask me. If he doesn't have any help around him, doesn't that make his achievements more impressive? Poole had 100-yard games against both LSU & Alabama, and went off against Oregon for 162 yards. And he's been right in the same neighborhood in other games.

Washaun Ealey (Georgia): Like Poole, he's kind of under-the-radar, although he gets a little more support from a passing game with Aaron Murray and A.J. Green. Still, a steady body of work that includes good games against South Carolina & Arkansas.

Derrick Locke (Kentucky): The honorable mention candidate. He's missed the last four games with a shoulder injury and whether he'll make it back to help the 5-5 Wildcats get to a bowl is uncertain. But with equal explosiveness both running and receiving, he might have been the best of the lot.

Michael Dyer (Auburn): He plays second-fiddle to Newton, but don't overlook how his emergence as a 100-ypg threat gave Auburn the needed balance to have the season they're having. Dyer's come up big against South Carolina and LSU, when a quarterback, even Newton, couldn't have done it all.

Stevan Ridley (LSU): Steady and consistent, his 24 carries for 88 yards in Saturday's win over Alabama was a prototype for his season. And he's done it with a lot of inconsistency at quarterback.

Knile Davis (Arkansas): He gets overlooked in the hype over Ryan Mallett, but Davis has become one of the SEC's best. He didn't get a lot of action the first two conference games in September, and that hurts his candidacy. You can't basically miss a quarter of the league's schedule and not have it count against you. But these last four games, Bobby Petrino's given him the ball and he's racked up 459 yards, including games against Auburn & South Carolina. If Petrino keeps giving him the ball, the Hogs could win ten games and be playing in a BCS bowl.

We'll also give some honorable mention to Vick Ballard at Mississippi State and the Ingram-Richardson tandem is the top 1-2 punch. Who should make the All-SEC team? I certainly think Poole should top the list and even with the late start, I'm inclined to give Arkansas' Davis the benefit of the doubt for slot #2. Although the freshman sensation Lattimore could push himself into that group with a big game at Florida this weekend, the one for the SEC East title that will headline our Saturday morning game previews.

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Dan Flaherty is the editor of the Sports Notebook Family, published through the Real Clear Sports Blog Network, offering daily commentary in college football ,game analysis in the NFL. and coverage of college basketball. He is the author of The Last New Year's, a book that revisits the historic high points of college football's New Year's Day bowl games.

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