This time last season, junior college transfer running back Devontae Booker was a relative unknown. However, after a 1,500 yard season, Booker is ranked as the top running back in the Pac-12 by Athlon. With the speed, power, and hands that Booker showed last season, it is hard to argue with ranking him atop the list. He finished second in the Pac-12 in rushing last season behind UCLA's Paul Perkins, but Booker wasn't named the starter until after a breakout performance against Washington State in the fourth game of the season. Booker will be the focal point of a Utah offense that returns seven starters.
Booker topped the list beating out Perkins and Oregon's Royce Freeman. A strong case could be made for either of those backs, but Booker got the slight edge. I think Booker as the top running back is the correct choice (though I am sure UCLA fans think it is Perkins and Oregon fans believe it is Freeman). He has great hands and runs with tremendous speed and power. He could have racked up tons of yards had he started against Idaho State and Fresno State and likely would have been the leading rusher in the Pac-12.
Here is what Athlon said about Booker.
In Booker's first season in Salt Lake City, the California native emerged as the Pac-12's top running back. In 13 games, Booker rushed for 1,512 yards and 10 scores and caught 43 passes for 306 yards. Booker led the Pac-12 by averaging 22.5 rushing attempts per game and recorded seven 100-yard efforts. His best performance came in a 29-23 overtime win over Oregon State with 229 yards on 32 carries. Defenses often stacked the box against Booker with an inconsistent passing game, yet the junior college product managed to average 116.3 rushing yards per game in 2014. See Athlon's full list here.
What do you think of Athlon's ranking of Booker and the Pac-12 running backs?