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August 25, 2009

Bradford in good company in OU backfield

Today, we unveil the first of our national unit rankings. We'll unveil one per day and end next Tuesday with overall coaching staffs.

The No. 1 team in the backfield rankings should come as no surprise to anyone who pays attention to college football, but there may be a team or two that catches you a little off-guard.

Here are the offensive backfield rankings. Next up: receiving corps.


1. Oklahoma
The Sooners have the reigning Heisman winner at quarterback in Sam Bradford and two 1,000-yard rushers in DeMarco Murray and Chris Brown.

2. Oklahoma State
QB Zac Robinson has thrown for 48 touchdowns and run for another 17 in the past two seasons, and RB Kendall Hunter is coming off a 1,555-yard, 22-TD season. Backup TB Keith Toston ran for 686 yards and nine touchdowns last season.

3. Penn State
QB Daryll Clark emerged as a playmaker last season, running for 10 TDs and passing for 2,592 yards and 19 touchdowns. RB Evan Royster ran for 1,256 yards and 12 scores in 2008, and there is good depth at running back, too.

4. Florida
Tim Tebow has a chance to go down as one of the greatest quarterbacks in history; he has thrown for 62 touchdowns (against just 10 interceptions) and run for 35 TDs in the past two seasons. While there is no true feature back, sophomores Jeffery Demps and Chris Rainey combined for 1,257 yards and 11 touchdowns last season.

5. Ole Miss
Jevan Snead, who began his career at Texas, is the best SEC quarterback not named "Tebow." And there is a three-headed tailback led by sophomore Brandon Bolden.

6. Georgia Tech
QB Josh Nesbitt has a ways to go as a passer, but he is a great fit as the decision-maker in the triple-option offense. He ran for 693 yards and seven touchdowns last season. RB Jonathan Dwyer is coming off a 1,395-yard, 12-touchdown season, and RB Roddy Jones ran for 690 yards and four scores.

7. California
Jahvid Best is the best running back in the nation. Backup Shane Vereen probably could start for 75 percent of the schools in the country. There is a lot of pressure on QB Kevin Riley to step up his game.

8. Oregon
QB Jeremiah Masoli played well down the stretch last season. He needs to develop into a better passer this season. RB LeGarrette Blount ran for 1,002 yards and 17 touchdowns last season, when he shared time. This season, he will be the starter and likely average four or five more carries per game.

9. BYU
QB Max Hall has thrown for 7,805 yards and 61 touchdowns the past two seasons. RB Harvey Unga is a threat as a runner (1,132 yards, 11 TDs) and a receiver (42 receptions, 309 yards, four scores), as he proved last season.

10. Nevada
QB Colin Kaepernick has run for 1,723 yards and 23 touchdowns and thrown for 5,024 yards and 41 scores the past two seasons. RB Vai Taua ran for 1,521 yards and 15 touchdowns in 2008, one season after RB Luke Lippincott ran for 1,420 yards and 15 scores. Lippincott, who missed all but two games last season, will back up Taua this season.

Others to watch: Fresno State (some big-time runners, but who's the quarterback?); Houston (QB Case Keenum could lead the nation in total offense); LSU (QB Jordan Jefferson's play is key); Ohio State (Can the Buckeyes adequately replace Chris Wells?); Oregon State (RB Jacquizz Rodgers makes the Beavers go); Southern Miss (RB Damion Fletcher is going for his fourth consecutive 1,000-yard season); Texas (lack of a feature back hurts); USC (The Trojans have a stable of backs, but the quarterback situation could become an issue).

(Rankings by Rivals.com staffers Olin Buchanan, Tom Dienhart, David Fox, Mike Huguenin and Steve Megargee.)

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