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Top 10 rbs in the country

Recruiting Watch

Catching up with the nation's top 10 running backs

Posted: Friday September 17, 2004 4:26PM; Updated: Saturday September 18, 2004 11:52AM

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By Jamie Newberg, TheInsiders.com

If you look up and down TheInsiders.com's National Hot 100, there are running backs galore: eight in the top 50, and 14 overall. This is a very deep group that's just as talented as any in recent years. Let's check in with the top 10 prospects.

<table cellpadding="0" cellspacing="0" border="0" align="right" width="310"> <tbody><tr><td width="10"> </td> <td bgcolor="#e7e7e7"><!-- KEEP -->
Jonathan Stewart
</td> </tr></tbody> </table> 1. Jonathan Stewart, Olympia (Wash.) Timberline. The first thing that jumps out at you with Stewart is his size. Stewart shouldn't be described as a blazer, but he has good speed and quickness for his size (5-foot-11, 4.55 40-yard dash). Perhaps his best attribute is his balance, which is important and often overlooked when evaluating running backs. For a 218-pounder, he has amazing balance, footwork and agility. He runs with great power and can be very punishing. Combine these attributes and you get this year's top-rated running back. He rushed for more than 2,600 yards and 36 touchdowns as a junior. Stewart says he has no leader among Washington, Washington State, Arizona, Arizona State, California, Florida, Oregon and Tennessee.

2. LaMarcus Coker, Antioch (Tenn.). At 5-11 and 195 pounds, Coker is more explosive than Stewart. He is the home-run back that all coaches covet. Coker is much more than just a speed back though. He has excellent vision and balance, which enables him to use his blocks and clear tacklers in traffic. Once he gets a seam, forget about it ... he's gone. Coker rushed for nearly 1,300 yards and 14 scores as a junior. He's committed to Tennessee but plans on visiting Auburn, Alabama, Arkansas and possibly Florida.

3. Antone Smith, Pahokee (Fla.). The nation's fastest running back, Smith ran a 4.4 40 at our MSL Combine at the University of Miami this spring. Smith is often compared to former Hurricanes and current Redskins back Clinton Portis. Smith, at 5-8, 180, has incredible vision and speed, hits the hole hard and can cut on dime. He can make you miss or run right through you. Smith also shows a great work ethic away from the field and is a leader for his team. If he has a drawback it's his size and durability. But he will grow into a 200-pounder at the next level and become much stronger. His upside is incredible. Smith rushed for more than 1,500 yards as a sophomore, and despite being banged up for most of last season, topped 1,000 yards again. He's also a track standout, finishing second in Florida as a sophomore in the 100 and 200 meters. Miami could be the team to beat. He also likes Florida State, Florida, Miami, N.C. State, Georgia and Rutgers.

4. Kevin Grady, East Grand Rapids (Mich.) Grady, 5-10 and 225 pounds, scored a mind-boggling 115 touchdowns in his first three seasons of high school ball. Like Stewart, he possesses great power. He also has surprisingly quick feet, nice hips and good elusiveness for a back his size. Grady is powerful between the tackles, but also has the speed to get around the edge. Once he gets through the initial line of scrimmage, he can punish the secondary. Grady has good vision and can also catch out of the backfield. He'll be a perfect fit in Ann Arbor, as he committed to Michigan a while ago.

5. Marlon Lucky, North Hollywood (Calif.) Luckyis perhaps the most versatile back off this season's crop. He is a great threat to score every time he touches the ball, whether it's running, catching or returning kicks. Lucky has good size (6-0, 195) and speed (4.5) and is excellent in the open field. He does everything well and at times can run with power, elusiveness or a combination of the two. He rushed for close to 1,800 yards and 31 touchdowns as a junior. Right now Nebraska and Southern Cal are his favorites over Florida, Arizona, LSU, Mississippi State and Washington.

6. Rashard Mendenhall, Skokie (Ill.) Niles West. Mendenhall is something special, and some folks in Illinois think he could be the best the state has produced. Mendenhall, 5-11 and 203 pounds, is not the biggest back, but he has great quickness, feet and vision. He also has another gear and is very exciting to watch. The ultra-elusive Mendenhall has committed to Illinois. He rushed for more than 1,800 yards (11.6 per carry) and 19 scores as a junior despite sharing playing time with his older brother Walter (who also signed with Illinois).

7. Maurice Wells, Jacksonville (Fla.) Sandalwood. Speaking of exciting, Maurice Wells is a big-play back (5-9, 180) possessing exceptional speed and quickness. He is dangerous and very tough to bring down in open space. Last season, Wells rushed for more than 3,000 yards and 31 touchdowns, including a 429-yard single-game rushing performance. Georgia Tech, Ohio State and Southern Cal are his current leaders.

8. Darren McFadden, North Little Rock (Ark.) Oak Grove. McFadden does it all. He is a four-sport star -- football, basketball, baseball and track -- and is an intriguing prospect because he could star on either side of the ball. Defensively, he would be an outstanding safety or linebacker prospect. But he may be too good not to get the ball on offense. McFadden is big (6-1, 205) and runs with power. He's a north-south runner who is tough to bring down when his shoulders are square. He shows good balance and breakaway speed. McFadden also can catch the ball out of the backfield. He averaged 10 yards per carry as a junior and rushed for more than 2,000 yards and 17 touchdowns. McFadden has committed to Arkansas.

9. Tony Baker, Jamestown (N.C.) Ragsdale. The Tar Heel State always seems to produce elite running backs, and it will do so again in 2005. At 5-10 and 218 pounds, Baker is a hard runner with power and speed. He's a down hill guy that can move a pile, and is the type of back who gets stronger as a game progresses. Baker also can protect the quarterback and catch the ball out of the backfield. Over the past two seasons, he has rushed for more than 5,400 yards. North Carolina, N.C. State, Tennessee, Virginia and Virginia Tech are his five favorite schools right now.

10. R.J. Jackson, Houston (Texas) Westside. Jackson is another versatile back who can beat you so many ways. He excels on both sides of the ball, showing excellent speed and quickness. He can score from anywhere on the field. Jackson has super vision, balance and feet. In the open field, he is very tough to bring down. Defensively, he plays cornerback, and he displays good coverage skills and he supports the run well. He rushed for more than 1,000 yards on only 106 carries last season and still scored 19 touchdowns. Jackson likes Texas, Oklahoma State, Miami, Florida, LSU, Arizona, Georgia and Houston.

These are TheInsiders.com top 10 running back recruits for the Class of 2005. There are many more that deserve attention such as Jamaal Charles (Port Arthur, Texas), Leon Jackson (Pasco, Wash.), Tony Wright (Fort Valley, Ga.), Jason Gwaltney (North Babylon, N.Y.), Javon Ringer (Dayton, Ohio), Elan Lewis (Hampton, Va.), Antonio Robinson (Winnfield, La.) and more. It's a good year and a deep year for running backs from coast to coast.