Recruiting Rewind: The top RBs from the class of 2011

The top running back recruit from the class of 2011 finished up his career at Alabama State; Photo: USA Today Sports

Yesterday, we dug up our time capsule and took a look back at the quarterbacks from the recruiting class of 2011. Today, we look at the running backs from that same class. For this flashback, we used 247 Sports individual rankings. The 2010 class featured Dillon Baxter, Michael Dyer, Marcus Lattimore, Storm Johnson, Silas Redd, Spencer Ware, Josh Huff and Lache Seastrunk as the highest ranked recruits. Let's see what became of the class of 2011..

A couple of observations before we start….

– Only one school, FSU, landed two of the top 10 recruits (although one of them was listed as an ATH by 247 Sports).

– Only two of the top ten RB recruits of 2011 went on (so far) to have a 1,000 yard season at the school that recruited them.

– 3 out of the top 10 RB recruits transferred before their college career was over

– 4 of the top 10 RB recruits will be in the 2014 NFL Draft

– Out of the top 20 RBs of this class, the conference breakdown was very even with the ACC, Big Ten, Pac-12 and SEC all getting 4 and the Big 12 grabbing 3. The remaining recruit signed with an American Athletic Conference team (that was then a Big East team and will soon be a Big Ten team).

Isaiah Crowell, Georgia (Rating=99)

Crowell was the crown jewel of Georgia's 2011 recruiting class (this class also included Ray Drew, Malcolm Mitchell, Nick Marshall and a QB we talked about yesterday- Christian LeMay). As a true freshman, Crowell led the Dawgs in rushing with 850 yards and showed signs of brilliance but also left the fanbase scratching their head at times. After his freshman year, Crowell would not play another down for Georgia. He was dismissed from Georgia and enrolled at Alabama State. As a sophomore at AlSt, he ran for 842 yards and 15 TDs and as a junior he ran for 1,121 yards and 15 TD and averaged a career high 6.6 ypc. Crowell has entered the 2014 NFL Draft.

De'Anthony Thomas, Oregon (Rating= 99)

Thomas was dynamic as a change of pace player as a freshman averaging 10.82 ypc and rushing for 595 yards. As a soph, he almost doubled his carries and ran for 701 yards with 11 TD. As a junior, he had a somewhat disappointing year playing in 10 games and running for 594 yards with 8 TD. Thomas caught 46 passes as a freshman, 45 as a sophomore, but only 22 as a junior. Like Crowell, Thomas will also enter the 2014 NFL Draft. Thomas had a solid college career but he definitely didn't go out with the bang that he wanted.

Brandon Williams, Oklahoma (Rating= 98)

As a freshman for the Sooners, Williams played in 8 games and ran for 219 yards. Shortly after the 2011 season, he announced he would transfer.  Last season, as a sophomore (he sat out 2012), he played for Texas A&M and rushed for 269 yards and averaged 6.11 ypc. Williams still has a chance to be a good back for Texas A&M but their backfield is very crowded.

Malcolm Brown, Texas (Rating=97)

In his three years at Texas, Brown has been a solid back but their offense has been up and down and the backfield has also been crowded. As a freshman, Brown led the Horns in rushing with 742 yards. As a sophomore he played in 8 games and rushed for 324 yards. In his junior season, he again led the team in rushing with 904 yards and also led the team with 9 rushing TDs. While he hasn't developed into the superstar that fans dream of during the recruiting process, he has been a solid player.

Savon Huggins, Rutgers (Rating= 97)

After three years at Rutgers, Huggins thought of transferring but the latest news I have read says that he has decided to stay for his senior season with the Scarlet Knights. In three years, Huggins has rushed for a total of 842 yards on just 3.2 ypc.

James Wilder, FSU (Rating= 97)

Wilder's three year run at FSU won't blow you off the page, but the Seminoles rarely relied on one feature back during Wilder's tenure in Tallahassee. Over three years, Wilder ran for a total of 1,358 yards and scored 20 TDs. As a junior, he posted a career best 7.0 ypc. He had 21 yards rushing on three carries in the Seminoles National Championship win over Auburn. Like Crowell and Thomas, Wilder will enter the 2014 NFL Draft. 

Devonta Freeman, FSU (Rating= 96)

Freeman was one of the players sharing the backfield with Wilder and he also led the Noles in rushing in 2013 with 1,016 yards which makes him the first of the 2011 recruiting class to rush for over 1,000 yards in a season (with their original school; Crowell did it at Alabama State). Freeman had 73 yards rushing and 1 TD against Auburn in the NCG this season. Freeman will also enter the 2014 NFL Draft.

Melvin Gordon, Wisconsin (Rating= 96)

After sitting behind Montee Ball as a freshman, Gordon got a chance to get on the field in 2012 and responded with 621 rushing yards (which was third on the team behind Ball and James White). In 2013, Gordon broke out with 1,609 yards rushing and 12 rushing TD on an average of 7.81 ypc. Gordon will return for his senior at Wisconsin.

Clifton Richardson, Virginia (Rating= 96)

As a freshman at UVA, Richardson ran the ball 72 times for 366 yards and 2 TD. During his sophomore season, Richardson saw action in seven games running for just 59 yards on 24 carries. Before the 2013 season, he transferred to Liberty where he played in 10 games running for 399 yards and 6 TD.

Kelsey Young, Stanford (Rating= 96)

So far in his college career, Young has ran the ball just 28 times. He has made the most of his opportunities as he has 270 yards rushing and 9.6 ypc. He played behind Stepfan Taylor in 2012 and Tyler Gaffney in 2013. Will he be the feature back in 2013?


Much like the QBs we looked at, simply being a top 10 recruit doesn't mean that they will pan out. Out of the top ten recruits only Melvin Gordon would qualify in the "superstar" category although Thomas, Brown, Freeman and Wilder went on to have solid to very good careers.

When we looked at the QBs, the "next ten" (QBs ranked from 11-20) were filled with stars like Teddy Bridgewater, Marcus Mariota and Johnny Manziel. That's not the same for the RB as six out of the ten have transferred schools and none of them have had a 1,000 yard season.

As for the other names in the Top 20 RB recruits from 2011? 

Amir Carlisle, USC- transferred to Notre Dame and rushed for 204 yards last year for the Irish.

Dee Hart, Alabama- has ran for 166 total yards in two years on 43 attempts in a very crowded backfield. He moved to DB in the spring of 2013, but still saw some action at RB.

Mike Bellamy, Clemson- ran for 343 yards as a freshman before becoming ineligible. Since then he has enrolled at East Mississippi Community College, Eastern Arizona College and he has now landed at Fort Valley State.

Aaron Green, Nebraska- ran for 105 yards as a freshman at Nebraska before transfer to TCU. In 2013, he had 232 yards rushing for the Horned Frogs.

Mike Blakely, Florida- transferred to Auburn and then to Hutchinson Community College where he ran for 340 yards in 2013 in 9 games. ESPN currently has him on their JUCO watch list.

Rodney Coe, Iowa- Coe never made it to Iowa as he failed to academically qualify. Instead he went to Iowa Western Community College. At JUCO, he moved to DE and signed with Iowa State. He had 22 solo tackles and 5 tackles for loss for the Cyclones in 2013.

Brendon Bigelow, Cal- In three years at Cal, Bigelow has 877 rushing yards and 5 TD. In 2013, he was more of a factor in the passing game with 34 receptions.

Herschel Sims, Oklahoma State- ran for 242 yards for the Cowboys in 2011 before transferring to Lamar and running for 388 yards in 2012. He again transferred in 2013, this time to Abilene Christian. He will have two years of eligibility remaining starting in 2014.

Justice Hayes, Michigan- Has ran for just 89 total yards so far at Michigan. In November of 2013, Michigan started to transition him to the WR position.

Marlin Lane, Tennessee- Lane has had a solid career so far at Tennessee as he has ran for a total of 1,472 yards in three seasons at a clip of 5.0 ypc. He should head into the 2014 season as the Vols #1 back.

About Kevin Causey

Dry humorist, craft beer enthusiast, occasionally unbiased SEC fan, UGA alumni, contributor for The Comeback.