Just as I did for the QBs, here is a ranked list of the best running backs in the Sky.  Gone are Lex Hilliard (UM) and Josh Barnett (ISU), two of the better running backs the Sky has had for a few years.

1.  Trevyn Smith, Weber State – All Smith has done is rush for 2443 yards and 15 TDs in his first two years at Weber.  Oh, and did I mention his is going to be a junior this fall?  Two more years of the reigning Big Sky rushing yardage leader.  Now that Weber might actually have a passing game to compliment Smith, the Wildcat’s offense could be a nightmare for teams to defend next year.  Smith is shifty, has good speed, and rarely goes down on the first hit.  The classic “no one wanted him out of high school, turned into a star” story.

2.  Alex Henderson, Northern Arizona – After a breakout freshman season in 2006, Henderson slipped a bit in his sophomore campaign, falling shy of the 1,000 yard mark.  This is due to sharing time with Lionel Scott, who combined with Henderson, make the Lumberjack backfield one of the best in the league, if not the best.  They combined for over 1,500 yards last year.  I still believe Henderson is the better of the two backs, and looks poised to regain that 1,000 yard rushing mark in 2008.

3.  Demetrius Crawford, Montana State – The Cats have had a string of good newcomers in the backfield in the last few years, but none of them count sustain their success the following season (Evin Groves, 2005, Aaron Mason 2006), due mainly to injuries.  Can Demetrius become the Cats first 1,000 yard rusher since Ryan Johnson in 2002?  At 5’9 185, he is a small back, but might fit in perfectly with the spread offense Coach Ash will be instilling next fall.

4.  Dale Morris, Eastern Washington – Had a great second half of the season, rushing for 513 yards and 8 TDs in the final six games, and rushed for 130 yard and 4 scores in the first round game against McNeese State.  Of course when you have one of the most potent passing attacks in the county, it tends to open the running game up a little bit.  He is a hard-nosed runner, and is hard to tackle at 5’9 205.

5.  Bryan Hilliard, Sacramento State – Just when you think its safe, another Hilliard enters the backfield in the Sky.  This time, however, he is a Hornet.  Hilliard had a solid freshman campaign, rushing for 826 yards and 7 TDs, and had over 30 carries in each of the last two games of the season, where he rushed for 168 yard and 243 in the season finale against ISU.  I’ve yet to see him really play (he only had 2 carries against MSU), so he may be deserving of a higher ranking.  Coach Sperbeck has this team heading in the right direction.

6.  Thomas Brooks-Fletcher, Montana – TBF as he is known, has had an up and down career at UM so far.  He has had some injuries, and played behind All-American Lex Hilliard for a year.  He had a career high 479 yards in 2006, with 2 scores.  He is a solid runner, with a good combination of speed and power.  With the Griz having one of the biggest OL in the Sky this coming season, he could have a breakout year in his junior campaign.  But he has some big shoes to fill.

7.  David Woods, Northern Colorado – Not really a home-run threat (long of 20), but a solid back who can get the yards needed.  Had 715 yards and 5 touchdowns.  Of course the only game he did not play in, was at Montana State, and ironically it was the only game the Bears won.

8.  Ken Cornist, Idaho State – He may deserve to be higher on the list, but has never returned to his freshman form (783 yards and 14 TDs) , due mainly to being behind Josh Barnett.  I’m not exactly sure what the Bengals are doing at RB next season, as they have a LOT of running backs on the roster.  Cornist is a talented runner, and we will see if he can have a good senior season.

9.  ??, Portland State – The leading rusher from last year was a fullback who had just over 500 yards, and he graduated.  I honestly have no idea who the running back is for the pass happy Vikings, as their athletic site is horrid and I can’t even find a roster on it.  Their second leading rusher was a converted LB who had to play due to injuries.  Vikings fans… help?

I will admit I haven’t been keeping up with transfers as much as I have in the past, so I may have missed some high-profile guys who are coming in and are slated to start at their respective school.