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Tuesday, February 11, 2014
Top position classes: RBs

By Gerry Hamilton

With national signing day in the books, RecruitingNation is looking at the top position classes. For the full series, click here.

Nationally (and SEC)
Tennessee went into the 2014 class with a gigantic future need at running back, and coach Butch Jones and staff delivered for Volunteers fans in a big way. The Vols' running back haul includes not only ESPN 300 backs Jalen Hurd (Hendersonville, Tenn./Beech) and Derrell Scott (Havelock, N.C./Havelock) but also four-star Treyvon Paulk (Alpharetta, Ga./Milton). With different body types, styles and strengths, Tennessee added talent and depth for years to come as well as many different skill sets within the position. Hurd is tall, lean and chock-full of speed, athleticism and versatility, and Scott is a slasher with excellent ball skills out of the backfield. Paulk is a compact, downhill back with leg drive and power.

The Volunteers had the nation's best RB class; here's which schools had the best in each of the remaining power conferences:

Much of the talk around the Clemson recruiting class centered on quarterback Deshaun Watson (Gainesville, Ga./Gainesville) and a trio of ESPN 300 receivers, but the running back position was a need, and the Tigers scored big. The running back haul includes ESPN 300 No. 223 Jae’lon Oglesby (Central, S.C./D.W. Daniel), No. 252 Adam Choice (Thomasville, Ga./Thomas County High) and four-star C.J. Fuller (Easley, S.C./Easley). In Oglesby, Clemson is getting a back with the initial explosive ability to burst to the second level. He needs time to add lower-body strength, but Choice can be the compact and quick back with between-the-tackles ability.

Big 12
To say the Oklahoma Sooners made the most of the impressive Sugar Bowl victory over Alabama on the recruiting trail would be an understatement, and that includes the very important running back position. One of those big-time prospects who jumped on board after the momentum-grabbing victory was No. 53 Joe Mixon (Oakley, Calif./Freedom). The 6-foot-1, 209-pound back, in the mold of former Sooners star DeMarco Murray, is equally adept out of the backfield as he is taking a handoff, and has the ability to team with sophomore-to-be Keith Ford to form a formidable duo in future years. A second back in the class is ESPN 300 prospect Samaje Perine (Pflugerville, Texas/Hendrickson). Perine is the power back in the class to go with the skill and versatility of Mixon.

Big Ten
When talking about Northwestern football, running backs aren’t often the first position mentioned. In the 2014 class, however, Pat Fitzgerald and staff signed a talented group of future backs in four-stars Justin Jackson (Carol Stream, Ill./Glenbard North) and Solomon Vault (Gaithersburg, Md./Gaithersburg), along with high three-star Auston Anderson (Plano, Texas/West). While none of the three possesses the load-back body type, the trio features a lot of quickness, speed and versatility, which includes the punt- and kickoff-return game.

The Oregon Ducks signed some very talented backs in recent history, dating all the way back to Jonathan Stewart. In the 2014 class, the Ducks signed two of the best in the country in ESPN 300 No. 84 Royce Freeman (Imperial, Calif./Imperial) and No. 170 Tony James (Gainesville, Fla./Gainesville). The duo will bring completely different skill sets to Eugene, Ore., with Freeman being the big back with excellent feet and lateral ability for his size. James is in the mold of recent Oregon running backs with explosive speed and the ability to play in space at a high level.