Brugler: Trio of Big 12 junior RBs intrigue

Oklahoma's Rodney Anderson is's top-rated junior running back.Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

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Many of the top running backs in college football are true sophomores who figure to populate the 2020 NFL Draft.

Wisconsin's Jonathan Taylor, Ohio State's J.K. Dobbins, Boston College's AJ Dillon, Florida State's Cam Akers, Georgia's D'Andre Swift and Clemson's Travis Etienne are among those in line for monster 2018 seasons who will help shape the races for conference titles and playoff spots. Also watch for Alabama's Najee Harris and USC's Stephen Carr (if healthy).

But NFL teams will have to wait for them. In the meantime, the 2019 running back class might not be as sexy.

The leading seniors are Stanford's big-play back Bryce Love (who finished second in the Heisman Trophy voting last season), Alabama's Damien Harris (trying to become the first running back in program history with three consecutive 1,000-yard rushing seasons) and Washington's Myles Gaskin (needing only 52 yards to break the school career rushing record).

"I'm not sure any of the three are first-round picks," senior analyst Dane Brugler said on the Saturday 2 Sunday podcast. "But I think all of them could be Day Two players as long as they stay healthy and continue to be productive."

Peeking ahead to potential early entries for the 2019 draft, Brugler said he was intrigued by a trio of juniors from the Big 12, starting with Oklahoma's Rodney Anderson.

"We've talked about enough about Baker Mayfield; he was the MVP of that offense, no question," Brugler said.

"But Rodney Anderson, what he did down the stretch. ... He was outstanding against Georgia, an SEC-caliber defense with a lot of future pros. He beat up Big 12 competition, obviously. He's a bigger guy. He's 6-1, 220 pounds, but he's quick, can catch the ball out of the backfield. I'm eager to see Anderson moving forward."

Anderson, after only 22 carries in the first six games of last season, finished with 1,161 rushing yards and 13 touchdowns on the ground. He went for more than 100 yards in six of Oklahoma's final eight games, including 201 against Georgia in an overtime loss in a College Football Playoff semifinal. Anderson also caught five touchdown passes.

(Oklahoma also has another one of those true sophomores to watch: Trey Sermon).

Brugler also mentioned Iowa State's David Montgomery and Oklahoma State's Justice Hill.

Montgomery is a strong, shifty back who rushed for 1,146 yards and 11 touchdowns last season. He also caught 36 passes.

"He's an all-everything guy with what he can do out of the backfield as a receiver and a runner," Brugler said.

Hill carried 268 times for 1,467 yards and 15 touchdowns in Oklahoma State's prolific offense that featured third-round quarterback Mason Rudolph and second-round wide receiver James Washington.

"I thought (Hill) was the most talented member of Oklahoma State's offense last year," Brugler said. "Really being one of the only returnees for that offense, we'll see if that production declines or of he will be able to sustain what he has been doing in that system."