Superlative Breakdown: Running Back

We continue our look at superlatives by position for the 2013 class by taking a glance at the running back position. Running backs can be productive in a variety of ways and there is a lot of versatility in the position in terms of prototypical body type, variances of speed and more. With that, here’s a look at the best per characteristic for this class.

Florida five-star running back commit Kelvin Taylor has outstanding vision.

Vision

Often undervalued, but never without, vision is a characteristic top running backs must have. In the 2013 class, Florida commitment Kelvin Taylor (Belle Glade, Fla./Glades Day) stands above the rest as he has shown since taking handoffs as an eighth grader on varsity. The 5-foot-10, 216-pounder not only sees the hole develop quick, and faster than most, but reacts with his feet and body accordingly. It’s not only the designed hole Taylor quickly sees, but also the backside cut back lane that forms at times, as well as the vision bursting to the second level that enables Taylor to maximize runs without having ideal big play speed.

Also considered – Alabama commitment Tyren Jones (Marietta, Ga./Walton), Oklahoma commitment Keith Ford (Cypress, Texas/Cypress Ranch), TCU commitment Kyle Hicks (Arlington, Texas/Martin), Derrick Green (Richmond, Va./Hermitage) and Ke’aun Kinner (Little Elm, Texas).

Feet in the hole

Almost as important as vision are feet in the hole. With the feet in the hole and the ability to work vertically and laterally, vision at times is rendered less meaningful. This is an area in which Oklahoma commitment Oklahoma commitment Keith Ford (Cypress, Texas/Cypress Ranch) excels. The 5-foot-11, 203-pounder has very quick feet in the hole with the ability to jump cut, skip cut, get small while working vertically, make multiple moves in the hole without wasted motion and reacts to everything quickly moving around him with sound, confident and productive movement.

Also considered – Green, Alex Collins (Fort Lauderdale, Fla./South Plantation), Taylor, Virginia commitment Taquan Mizell (Virginia Beach, Va./Bayside), Jones, Hicks and Ohio State commitment Ezekiel Elliott (Saint Louis, Mo./John Burroughs).

Balance

Taylor takes another key characteristic – balance. Not only is the son of Fred Taylor always balanced when taking on contact, but he also excels in this key area when making cuts and running in the open field. Seemingly never out of balance and without body control with ideal lean, Taylor uses balance to be a true run maximizer on every carry.

The nation's top running back prospect, Alex Collins, has elite burst and accleration. Miami, Florida, Florida State, Arkansas and Tennessee are in the mix to land the five-star prospect.

Also considered – Jones, Elliott, Wisconsin commitment Corey Clement (Glassboro, NJ), Notre Dame commitment Tarean Folston (Cocoa, Fla.) and Hicks.

Burst and acceleration

The characterisitc’s noticed by most at the position are a very important part of the equation – burst and acceleration. In the 2013 class, the top ranked running back Alex Collins (Plantation, Fla./South Plantation) has in spades. The 5-foot-11, 204-pounder seemingly has a number of gears with each violent step full of burst and acceleration. That includes being a fast starter when taking a handoff to first plant and cut to burst to the second level, to each move in traffic and in the open field. Because of Collins violent running style, every foot planted in the ground and cut made looks even more bursting to go with his big play ability that shows his ability to accelerate past speedy South Florida defenders. Whether is be short space burst and instant acceleration or creasing a defense with long speed, Collins has as much or more of the characteristic, and is as impressive showing it as any back in the last couple of classes.

Also considered – Florida State commitment Ryan Green (St. Petersburg, Fla./Catholic), Oregon commitment Thomas Tyner (Beaverton, Or./Aloha), Jones, Alvin Kamara (Norcross, Ga.), Ole Miss commitment Kailo Moore (Rosedale, Ms./West Bolivar), Oregon commit Dontre Wilson (DeSoto, Texas), North Carolina commitment T.J. Logan (Greensboro, N.C/.Northern Guilford)

Power and lean

Power and lean is another key characteristic when looking at the running back position. Because the big plays shown on highlight shows rarely feature these key parts of the equation, they are often times under valued. In the 2013 class, Wisconsin commitment Corey Clement (Glassboro, N.J.) is full of compact power and lean along with the ability to create speed and power through the hips. Clement can often times be seen running though arm tackles with powerful legs and hips, and dropping the hat and taking on would be tacklers with solid hits and a fall forward finish to runs.

Also considered – Taylor, Ford, Green, Georgia commitment A.J. Turman (Orlando, Fla./Boone), Michigan commit DeVeon Smith (Warren, Oh./Howland)

Big play ability

This is the characteristic that is shown and talked about most with running backs. Whether it’s in the running game or passing game, nothing gets a crowd more excited than a running back ripping off a long touchdown run or catch and run. In this years class, there are several big play backs, Collins gets the nod here due to his ability to make the big play in the running and passing game with a combination of violent style, exceptional feet in short space, the moves in space and tight quarters, the straight line speed and the ability to multiple defenders miss and still have an extra gear when need be. Simply put, the 5-foot-11, 204-pound Collins is a big play waiting to happen.

Also considered – Tyner, Ryan Green, Kamara, Moore, Wilson, Mizzell and Logan.

Hands and route running

As important as taking a handoff and maximizing runs is at the position, the ability to catch the ball both out of the backfield and lined up in the slot can be just as important dependent on scheme. In the 2013 class, USC commitment Ty Isaac (Joliet, Ill./Catholic) has an exceptional pair of hands and the versatility to line up all over the field. His ability to catch a simple swing pass thrown low or behind him in a comfortable manner and without breaking stride sets him apart, as does his ability to line up in the slot and run routes and finish plays like a flex tight end in today’s game. In traffic, Isaac has consistently shown hands as good as any prospect in the 2013 class, regardless of position.

Also considered – Ryan Green, Ford, Kamara and Mizzell.

Body type

Opinions vary when talking about the best running back body type with height being the number one topic. We believe the compact and powerful body type of a back between 5-foot-9 and 5-foot-11 is ideal, and there are certainly a few that fit the bill in 2013. Leading the way is Alabama commit Altee Tenpenny (North Little Rock, Ark./North Little Rock West) and his 5-foot-10.5, 212-pound frame featuring tree trunk legs, skinny ankles, arms not too long to not comfortably pocket the football and the frame to carry a compact and perfectly proportioned 220-225-pounds.

Also considered – Taylor, Clement, Hicks, Folston, Collins and Notre Dame commit Greg Bryant (Delray Beach, Fla./American Heritage).

Gerry Hamilton is the lead National Recruiting Analyst for 247Sports. Follow him on Twitter @GerryH247Sports.

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