Posted by Bryan Fischer
Aledo (Texas) running back Jonathan Gray is the top running back in the nation according to CBSSports/MaxPreps Recruiting Analyst Tom Lemming but there's a lot of football to be played between now and Signing Day. Here's five other running backs - in alphabetical order - who you need to keep an eye out for this year. Each of them has a chance to move Gray off the top spot and become the top back for the class of 2012.
Greg Garmon (McDowell High, Erie, Pa.)
Weight: 200 pounds
Offers from: Cincinnati, UConn, Florida State, Illinois, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, North Carolina, Penn State, Pitt, Purdue, Rutgers, Syracuse, Vanderbilt and West Virginia.
What's to like: Garmon put everyone on notice that he would be one of the names to watch at the U.S. Army All-American Combine earlier this year when he ran a 4.4 40-yard dash (electronically timed). A fluid athlete, he could lineup at a number of positions such as slot receiver or as a returner. Being a threat in the passing game is just one of the reasons why several schools are really recruiting him heavily.
Needs to work on: Like most backs out of high school, Garmon has the speed to out run defenders and uses it to bounce outside a lot. He'll need to learn when to cut it up inside when necessary and develop a better between the tackles game to really succeed at the next level.
Matt Jones (Armwood High, Seffner, Fla.)
Weight: 225 pounds
Committed to Florida
What's to like: The first thing that sticks out is Jones' size and the fact that he's your prototypical "big back" that many pro-style offensive coordinators are looking for. It's not just size that Jones brings to the table though, as he does have some serious speed to go with it. Despite facing some good Florida competition, Jones slices through defenders with ease. He's also very dangerous on screen plays.
Needs to work on: Unlike some running backs whose offense is built around them, Jones is mainly in a spread offense at Armwood. That means he might have to get used to a more downhill attack if he keeps his commitment to Florida. Jones could stand to add a few pounds and fill out his frame to withstand the punishment he'll take at the next level as well.
Keith Marshall (Millbrook High, Raleigh, N.C.)
Weight: 185 pounds
Offers from Alabama, Auburn, Clemson, Duke, Florida, Florida State, Georgia, Georgia Tech, Maryland, Michigan, North Carolina, N.C. State, Notre Dame, Penn State, South Carolina, USF, USC, Virginia Tech
What's to like: It must be tough to be a defender in North Carolina opposite of Marshall because the running back is simply elusive. With speed to run past everyone and the quickness to make them miss if they do get close, Marshall is yet another good back to hail from the East Coast. His running style is upright and he stays pretty balanced which is something some players don't often do.
Needs to work on: Marshall isn't the biggest back so durability will be somewhat of a concern if he doesn't add a few pounds of muscle for running inside.
Barry Sanders Jr. (Heritage High, Oklahoma City, Okla.)
Weight: 180 pounds
Offers from Alabama, Oklahoma State, Notre Dame and UCLA.
What's to like: Although the junior Sanders might not like getting comparisons to his old man, it's hard not to make one with the former Oklahoma State and Detroit Lions star as Sanders is shifty and keeps a low center of gravity. Though he isn't the fastest back out there, he does have enough speed to out run most of the competition. Sanders also has good hands and is a threat in the passing game out of the backfield also.
Needs to work on: Overall game is pretty good but his smaller size is a bit of a concern. He tends to run around defenders rather than through them.
Jonathan Williams (Allen High, Allen, Texas)
Weight: 205 pounds Offers from Arkansas, Iowa, Missouri, Rice, Vanderbilt, Virginia, West Virginia.
What's to like: Williams isn't afraid to lower his shoulder and run through a defender to get into the end zone. At the same time he also isn't afraid to bust a run to the outside and out run everybody. He does a good job of staying upright when running and has the ability to cut either way at a moment's notice. He also keeps his legs moving when in a pile which is something some players don't do.
Needs to work on: It would be good for Williams to experiment in the slot because he has the makings of an all-purpose back. He's solid when catching the ball on a screen but some versatility in the passing game would be good to see.