We are officially less than a month away from Oregon State football kickoff in Columbus, Ohio. Building the Dam is continuing our comprehensive coverage of all things Beaver football as we continue our previews of the top players Oregon State will play in 2018.
In today’s article, we will look at the top running backs that Oregon State will have to stop in 2018. Without further ado, let’s get into the group with number 5...
#5 - Patrick Laird - Cal
Laird may not be a household name outside of the Pac-12, but the senior running back for the Golden Bears burst onto the scene in 2017 and established himself as one of the top running backs in the entire conference. As a junior, Laird produced 1,127 yards on 191 carries in addition to 45 receptions for 322 yards. Laird appeared in 11 games last season, but only started eight games for the Bears last season. Unlike other running backs on this list, Laird can get it done on the ground or in the air. This combination adds a whole new series of anxiety attacks for defensive coordinators to deal with.
It is important to note that all five of Laird’s 100 yard games came against FCS teams or Pac-12 defenses that ranked in the bottom half of the conference in terms of rush defense. Cal will never be one the teams to boast a highly dangerous offense, so it is imperative to the Bears that they find a way to give the bell cow back success against more stout defenses. Expect Cal to use Laird early and often in their games this season.
#4 - Stephen Carr - USC
Gone is Ronald Jones II to the NFL, but in waiting is another five-star recruit in Stephen Carr who is ready to take over as the number one back for the USC Trojans. Carr received limited time last year as a true freshman due to Jones II’s role as the primary back. However, Carr still managed to average 5.58 yards per carry on just about seven carries per game (6.5 to be exact) in 10 games last season. What did he do with only seven carries per game? Carr pooled together just 363 yards and three touchdowns. If you project him to a load of about 20 carries per game, which is what Jones II averaged, Carr is estimated to exceed 1,400 yards rushing.
Now, as I just mentioned, a lot of Carr’s hype is based on projections, as the highly touted tailback boasts a ridiculous amount of talent. It’s another thing to live up to the expectations. Carr has the tools to play tremendously for the Trojans, but we have to remember that is still only a true sophomore who missed four games last year due to an ankle injury. If Carr stays healthy, the Trojan’s rushing offense will continue to be lethal as Carr should easily exceed 1,000 yards rushing.
#3 - Myles Gaskin - Washington
At this point, we know the story with Gaskin. In every season with the Huskies, Gaskin has eclipsed 1,300 yards rushing. Gaskin will head into his senior season with over 4,000 yards rushing for U-Dub. He has been the bell cow for the Huskies for years now and will continue to be the main cog in the Washington offense. Last season alone, Gaskin scored 24 total touchdowns. No, that is not a typo; he seriously averaged two touchdowns a game.
It is almost boring to try and talk him up because his numbers are so consistently impressive. Gaskin will once again be one of the elite backs in the Pac-12 this season. Playing for a strong team such as the Huskies will do nothing but boost Gaskin’s performance. The Huskies will boast an elite team with a great offensive line to boot. Look for Gaskin to hit another 1,000 yards this year and cause even more headaches for the rest of the Pac-12.
#2 - J.K. Dobbins - Ohio State
Now before I get into J.K. Dobbins, I should disclose that the Buckeyes featured three running backs that combined for a total of 416 carries and 2,319 rushing yards during the 2017 season. And all of them are returning. So, needless to say, the Buckeyes are loaded at RB. And honestly, any one of the young men in the Ohio State backfield could’ve made this list, and every one of them would have probably landed at the two or three spot. But for the sake of fairness and having a worthwhile article, we are sticking to one running back per team. And that man for Ohio State is J.K. Dobbins.
J.K. Dobbins finished last season with 1,403 yards on 194 attempts and an average yards per carry of 7.23. These numbers led Dobbins to finishing as the 18th-leading rusher in the nation last year. Oh, and did I forget to mention he did all of this as a true freshman? Dobbins will head into this season as a true sophomore and a legitimate contender for the Heisman Trophy for one of the best teams in the nation.
Now, remember that fun game I played earlier in this article where I projected Stephen Carr’s expanded numbers? Let’s play that again just to show how special Dobbins could be.
Last season, Dobbins averaged just under 14 carries a game (13.86 precisely) and put up 1,403 yards. If the Buckeyes want to boost his carries per game to about 20 carries a game, Dobbins would be looking at 280 total carries next season. And if Dobbins still manages to average seven yards per carry, the sophomore Buckeye would finish at 1,960 yards rushing. Yup, that’s really good.
Dobbins will be looked at as one of the elite backs in college football next season, and the numbers back him up. He will pose a terrible headache for the Beaver defense this year as he will only be boosted by an elite Buckeyes team.
#1 - Bryce Love - Stanford
We all knew this was coming.
To say Bryce Love was great last season would be an understatement. He was nothing short of sensational for the Cardinal. On the season, Bryce Love managed to scrounge together a casual 2,118 yards on 263 carries with 19 touchdowns to boot. And the kicker to those lucrative numbers? He accrued most of the yards on one leg. Love actually missed one game last year due to an ankle injury (against Oregon State ironically), so he could have had even more yards last season. In Love’s fantastic 2017 campaign, he won the Doak Walker Award for the nation’s top running back and finished second overall in the Heisman Trophy rankings.
In addition to being a tremendously talented back, Love is as tough as they come, as evidenced by his yardage total on his injured ankle. Fortunately for Stanford, it is expected that Love will begin next season fully healthy and serve as the main dude on a Cardinal offense that loves to run the ball. The Cardinal will once again boast a fantastic team that should be competing for the Pac-12 Championship this season, so Love will have a great team to back him up as well. Stanford’s offensive line is widely touted as one of the strongest positional groups in the Pac-12, and possibly the country. This means that the current Heisman favorite should run for a lot of yards, again.
Love will be one of the top players in all of college football for the 2018 season, and with good reason. Watch for him to eclipse 1,000 yards easily, and most likely push for 2,000 yards rushing again this year. He is an elite back, and will be the best running back Oregon State will face next season.
Best Players Oregon State Will Face in 2018