As we learned yesterday, Mississippi State senior tailback Vick Ballard was named third-team preseason All-SEC by the coaches, meaning they believe him to be one of the top seven running backs in the league.
Exactly where does Ballard rank? And where could he rank by season’s end? I don’t know, but let’s do some comparisons between him and the other All-SEC backs.
• First team: Marcus Lattimore, South Carolina; Trent Richardson, Alabama.
Hard to argue with these picks. Lattimore rushed for 1,197 yards last season, second among SEC running backs, and scored 17 touchdowns. This was as a freshman, and at 6-foot, 231 pounds he’ll just keep punishing defenders.
Richardson has had to back up Mark Ingram the past two years, but he’s shown enough to be considered an elite back. Richardson has rushed for 700 or more yards in each of his first two seasons, averaging 5.7 yards per carry.
• Second team: Knile Davis, Arkansas; Jeff Demps, Florida; Mike Dyer, Auburn.
Davis trailed only Auburn QB Cam Newton in rushing and was the only SEC tailback to average more than 100 yards per game (101.7). His 6.48 yards per carry was the highest average in the country among running backs with at least 200 carries.
Demps is known for his speed and is more of an all-around threat. He had a team-high 927 all-purpose yards, and 551 of that came on the ground. He scored just three rushing TDs.
Dyer had a strong rookie campaign in a crowded backfield, rushing for 1,093 yards (a school freshman record) and five touchdowns. He had four 100-yard rushing games, including a 143-yard outing against Oregon in the BCS title game.
• Third team: Onterrio McCalebb, Auburn.
Ballard’s fellow third-teamer should not be overlooked. After a solid freshman year (565 yards), he made the most of his carries last year, gaining 810 yards with an 8.5-yard average, best on the team among those with more than 60 carries.
As for Ballard, he led MSU with 968 yards (5.2 ypc) and scored 19 rushing touchdowns, a school record and second in the SEC to Newton.
Can Ballard reach 1,000 yards this year? Well, he’s going to be sharing carries again with sophomore LaDarius Perkins and quarterback Chris Relf. Talent-wise, though, Ballard stacks up pretty well with the above-mentioned group.
By the way, six of the seven All-SEC backs have been named to the Doak Walker Award watch list, McCalebb being the lone omission. Also on the list are Brandon Bolden of Ole Miss and Tennessee’s Tauren Poole.