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February 27, 2011

Roundtable: Who will jump to stardom?

At the College Football Roundtable each week, we ask each member of the college football coverage staff for his opinion about a topic in the sport.

TODAY'S QUESTION: The Academy Awards will be handed out tonight. In that vein, which "supporting actor" from last season makes the jump to stardom this season?

Olin Buchanan's answer:
After two seasons as Mark Ingram's understudy, I look for Alabama running back Trent Richardson to emerge as a major star. Richardson is powerful and explosive and will be running behind a good offensive line. He has rushed for 1,451 yards in two seasons as a backup, and I'd expect him to exceed that total in 2011. I would not be at all surprised if he becomes Alabama's second Heisman recipient in three years.

Tom Dienhart's answer:
I expect Alabama running back Trent Richardson to become a star on perhaps the best team in the nation in 2011. The junior-to-be has played second fiddle to Mark Ingram the past two seasons. But Ingram left early for the NFL. Now, the bulk of the carries in the Crimson Tide's backfield figure to go to Richardson, who ran for 751 yards in 2009 and 700 last season. And Alabama likely will need to lean heavily on Richardson as it breaks in a new starting quarterback. Expect a big season from Richardson, who is primed and ready to move into a leading role.

David Fox's answer:
Oklahoma State's Joseph Randle looks primed for a breakout season after supporting veteran Kendall Hunter last season. Randle rushed for 452 yards, but what really stood out were his 37 catches, fourth-most for Oklahoma State. Dana Holgorsen was an inventive coordinator, but Todd Monken might have some ideas on how to use Randle now that Randle is the feature back. Monken spent five seasons with the Jacksonville Jaguars as wide receiver and quarterback coach. While he didn't directly coach Maurice Jones-Drew, Monken knows how dangerous a dual-threat running back can be. Mike Gundy's Oklahoma State teams have had little trouble replacing offensive skill-position players, and Randle appears to be the next star in line.

Mike Huguenin's answer:
I think Alabama junior running back Trent Richardson is going to make the leap to stardom and leading-man status. He has rushed for 1,451 yards and 14 TDs in his career; those are legit goals for this season. First, Alabama's defense should be excellent, meaning the offense should revert to 2008 and '09 mode, when QBs John Parker Wilson and Greg McElroy were asked to be game managers and not necessarily playmakers. When the quarterback is a game manager, the running back is ultra-important. Second, Alabama returns four offensive line starters, meaning there will be no concerns about that unit this fall. Third, there is no proven go-to receiver on the roster. In turn, that lessens the importance on the passing attack and -- as with the quarterback-as-game manager theory -- increases the importance of the feature back. Remember that Mark Ingram's, Richardson's predecessor, won the Heisman in 2009 when McElroy was serving as a game manager. I'm not saying that Richardson is going to win the Heisman, but he will be in the discussion.

Steve Megargee's answer:
Although Auburn running back Michael Dyer rushed for more than 1,000 yards and was the runner on the most memorable play of the BCS championship game, he was overshadowed for much of his freshman season. That's understandable, since teammate Cam Newton clearly was the main attraction in college football last season. Has any player in recent memory dominated center stage for an entire season the way Newton did in 2010? Now that Newton has headed to the NFL, Dyer should get much more attention. He figures to make the most of it. Consider that Dyer had more than 16 carries in a game just four times last season. In each of those games, he rushed for at least 100 yards. His biggest performances came in some of Auburn's biggest games. He reached the century mark against South Carolina and LSU, and he ran for 143 yards in the BCS championship game. Dyer had four 100-yard games and five touchdown runs last season. Don't be surprised if he doubles those totals in 2011.

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