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Ranking the Pac-12's Projected Starting RB's for 2023

Bucky Irving looks to be the next great Oregon Running Back

Photo by Tom Hauck/Getty Images

Article by WestCoastCFB

1. Bucky Irving (Oregon)

Bucky Irving is fast, physical and tough to take down. As a freshman at Minnesota, Irving burst on the scene with 772 total yards and 4 touchdowns. Following that success, he made a surprise move to Eugene to earn more touches and the transfer paid off. Irving made the PFF All-Pac-12 1st Team after a season with 1,357 yards.

2. Damien Martinez (OSU)

Damien Martinez arrived in Corvallis as an unheralded recruit with his only other P5 offers coming from Kansas and Georgia Tech. That didn't stop the Texas native from instantly becoming one of the best backs in the Pac-12 as a Freshman.

For the first six games, Martinez had just 41 carries. Then it appears, OSU finally realized what they had and let Martinez get to work as he went for over 100 yards in the next 6 games of the season. Expect big things with another season under his belt and a chance to be the starter from week one.

3. Carson Steele (UCLA)

With the departure of Zach Charbonnet to the NFL, Steele has big shoes to fill to keep the UCLA offense humming. Chip Kelly tapped the Ball State transfer as his next star runner after he compiled 1,772 yards and 15 touchdowns in 2022.

4. Jaydn Ott (Cal)

Jaydn Ott comes in at 4th on the list but he is a bit of a wildcard. His performance against Colorado substantially padded his stats when he totaled 274 yards on the ground. However, he never went over 100 rushing yards in any other Pac-12 contests. He will need show he can consistently do damage against strong defenses to live up to his early hype.

5. Michael Wiley (Arizona)

I'm not sure many Pac-12 fans paid attention to Wiley last Fall but he was quietly dominant. The 207 pound Senior had 1,120 yards in 2022 and saved his best for last with 214 yards on the ground against Arizona State.

6. Ja'Quinden Jackson (Utah)

Ja'Quinden Jackson thought his future was at quarterback when he transferred from Texas to Salt Lake City but it turns out he's an even better running back. With elite size at 6-2 229, Jackson is difficult to bring down in the open field and saved his most impactful performance for the Pac-12 championship when he ripped off 105 yards on 13 carries against USC. Jackson has the talent to be 1st Team All-Pac-12.

7. Austin Jones (USC)

Pac-12 fans should be familiar with Jones after three seasons at Stanford before transferring to USC. The Houston, Texas native is one of the hardest players to rank on this list due to his weekly inconsistency. To put it in perspective, Jones had under 50 rushing yards in 9 of his team's 14 games. But then there was the potential for key performances such as his 154 yards against Notre Dame. Assuming he can secure the starting role, Jones should get plenty of carries to prove he can be a consistent threat.

8. Nakia Watson (WSU)

Similar to Michael Wiley, Nakia Watson quietly put together a solid season with over 1,000 yards. A reliable pass catcher, Watson stressed defenses as a release valve for Cam Ward when he was under pressure and also was a force in short yardage situations at 229 pounds.

9. Alton McCaskill (Colorado)

Deion Sanders completely revamped his roster in the transfer portal and that included the running back position where he brought in McCaskill from Houston and Kavosiey Smoke. McCaskill was stellar in 2021 when he ripped off 1,074 yards and 18 touchdowns. Unfortunately, he suffered an ACL tear in 2022 but looks to bounce back to form with the Buffs.

10. E.J. Smith (Stanford)

E.J. Smith brings a big name as the son of NFL Legend Emmitt Smith. He started two games in 2022 and had strong performances with 118 rushing yards against Colgate and 88 against USC.

11. Cam Skattebo (ASU)

Kenny Dillingham deserves a ton of credit for seeing the potential in the Big Sky Offensive Player of the Year. If Skattebo's performance translates to the P5 level, watch out. In 2022, Skattebo racked up 1,382 rushing yards and 371 receiving yards.

12. Cameron Davis (UW)

Washington seems to have a bunch of solid players at running back but no true impact starter. Davis was mainly used by Washington last season to rest Wayne Taulapapa and as a goal line back. His best performance came against ASU when he had 77 rushing yards and 3 touchdowns.

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