HP’s Top 33 High School Running Backs from the Class of 2012

Time for more recruiting.

Given that this is a site focused on the Heisman Trophy, we thought it appropriate that we focus on the positions that can actually win the award. And, so, we’ve endeavored to rank the top quarterbacks, running backs and wide receivers from the 2012 class on a scale of 1 to 5. At the end, we’ll rank all 99 prospects regardless of position. Later, we’ll rank the top classes overall and list the fastest players in the country. I’m confident that these evaluations will be the best you’ll get anywhere on the internet.

Earlier this week, we published HP’s top 33 quarterbacks for 2012.  Now, it’s time to reveal the top 33 running backs for this year’s recruiting class. Full list after the jump…

Texas is getting the nation's No. 1 back

Rank Name Size Hometown (High School) College Choice HP Grade Comment
1 Johnathan Gray 5-11, 190 Aledo, TX (Aledo) Texas 5.00 Physical freak who has it all: Speed, size, power, vision, hands...and magic.
2 Russel Shell 6-0, 210 Aliquippa, PA (Hopewell) Pittsburgh 4.92 Excellent every-down back with speed, power and durability.
3 Bri'onte Dunn 6-2, 215 Canton, OH (Glenoak) Ohio State 4.80 The premier power back in this class. Great feet for a big man.
4 Keith Marshall 5-11, 190 Raleigh, NC (Millbrook) Georgia 4.72 Nifty back with breakaway speed and good hands.
5 Mario Pender 6-0, 190 Cape Coral, FL (Island Coast) Florida State 4.65 Physical specimen who has huge upside.
6 T.J. Yeldon 6-1, 210 Daphne, AL (Daphne) Alabama 4.62 Big, athletic back who reminds us of Harvey Williams.
7 Trey Williams 5-8, 180 Houston, TX (Dekaney) Texas A&M 4.60 Squat back with outstanding balance and power...and underrated speed.
8 Brian Kimbrow 5-7, 165 Memphis, TN (East) Vanderbilt 4.55 Little bundle of magic. Can stop and start on a dime.
9 Randy Johnson 5-9, 180 Miami, FL (Norland) Miami (Fla) 4.54 Decisive runner who can take it the distance at any time.
10 Barry Sanders, Jr. 5-10, 190 Oklahoma City, OK (Heritage Hall) Stanford 4.50 Balance, vision and cutback ability is just like you-know-who.
11 Robert Lewis 5-10, 160 Southgate, CA (Southeast) Washington State 4.45 Under-sized uber-talent with nice speed, vision.
12 Wes Brown 6-0, 200 Olney, MD (Our Lady) Maryland 4.45 Well-built back with good hips and forward lean. Can do it all.
13 Todd Gurley 6-0, 205 Tarboro, NC (Tarboro) Georgia 4.40 Great athlete with lots of upside. Ran a 10.71 100m.
14 Jovon Robinson 6-0, 215 Memphis, TN (Wooddale) Auburn 4.35 Big bruiser with good speed for his size.
15 B.J. Catalon 5-8, 190 Houston, TX (Westside) TCU 4.30 Low-to-the ground runner who can take it downtown.
16 Mike Davis 5-10, 200 Stone Mountain, GA (Stephenson) South Carolina 4.25 Good blend of size and speed. Can move the chains.
17 Warren Ball 6-1, 205 Columbus, OH (St. Francis) Ohio State 4.10 Smooth, determined runner with surprising power.
18 Dami Ayoola 5-9, 201 Ft. Lauderdale, FL (St. Thomas) Illinois 4.05 Tough runner with big-play ability.
19 Daniel Brooks 5-9, 179 Rockdale, TX (Calhoun) Oklahoma 4.00 Shifty scatback who should also contribute on returns.
20 Akeel Lynch 6-1, 205 Athol Springs, NY (St. Francis) Penn State 3.97 Consistent every-down back with good hands.
21 Byron Marshall 5-10, 195 San Jose, CA (Valley Christian) Oregon 3.95 Speed merchant who can turn the corner and break pursuit angles.
22 Ryan McDaniel 5-11, 225 Torrance, CA (North) Washington 3.90 Pure power back with good cutback ability and solid speed.
23 Kenyan Drake 6-1, 195 Powder Springs, GA (Hillgrove) Alabama 3.87 Tall, lean, one-cut-and-go running back with good upside.
24 Tarien Owens 5-8, 165 Pasadena, CA (Muir) UCLA 3.85 Elusive water bug who will also shine on punts and kicks.
25 Malin Jones 6-2, 215 Joliet, IL (Catholic Academy) Northwestern 3.80 Well-rounded back with subtle quickness and vision.
26 Dennis Northfleet 5-7, 170 Detroit, MI (MLK) Michigan3.75 Sleeper back who reminds us a lot of Darren Sproles.
27 Morgan Steward 5-11, 185 Kansas City, MO (Staley) Missouri 3.70 Smooth runner who should shine for the Tigers.
28 Davien Payne 5-11, 210 Perris, CA (Citrus Hill) Colorado 3.65 Physical workhorse who is always falling forward.
29 Matt Jones 6-3, 225 Sefner, FL (Armwood) Florida 3.60 Massive prospect who could end up at linebacker.
30 Dionte Buckley 5-8, 190 Indianapolis, IN (Warren Central) Cincinnati 3.55 Strong inside runner who gets a lot of yards after contact.
31 Alex Ross 6-1, 205 Jenks, OK (Jenks) Oklahoma 3.50 Patient runner with good size and decent speed.
32 Torry Clayton 5-8, 194 Homestead, FL (South Dade) West Virginia 3.45 Good balance and quick feet adds up to another dynamic Mountaineer back.
33 Jaylen Walton 5-8, 170 Memphis, TN (Ridgeway) Ole Miss 3.30 All-purpose back who can change direction on a dime.
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About Heismanpundit

Chris Huston, A.K.A. ‘The Heisman Pundit‘, is a Heisman voter and the creator and publisher of Heismanpundit.com, a site dedicated to analysis of the Heisman Trophy and college football. Dubbed “the foremost authority on the Heisman” by Sports Illustrated, HP is regularly quoted or cited during football season in newspapers across the country. He is also a regular contributor on sports talk radio and television.

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4 Responses to HP’s Top 33 High School Running Backs from the Class of 2012

  1. Mark January 28, 2012 at 2:10 pm #


    Great list. My personal favs: Robert Lewis (could be a very intersting player for Leach, if he goes there) and TJ Yeldon (I’m not a great, big fan of Eddie Lacy, so I think Yeldon get a chance at a fair amoutn of PT).

    Not to veer too far from the list, but what do you think about Nelson Agholor at TB? I know a lot of services peg him as a WR or DB, but he played [I may be wrong] TB at Berkley Prep. He’s a really interesting kid, but his compeition…I dunno.

    Great list; much appreciated.



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