By Jordan Burton (@thejordanburton)
Who are some of the top running backs to watch heading into this season? Find our top eight below. We have watch lists for quarterbacks, receivers, defensive players and linemen. A player who plays multiple positions may be on another list.
This list also appears in the O-Zone Fall Preview Magazine featuring more names. The magazine is available at all area Casey’s General Stores. CLICK HERE FOR A FULL LIST OF ADVERTISER LOCATIONS WHERE THE MAGAZINE IS AVAILABLE.
*This list is in alphabetical order.
Sheen Butler-Lawson, Waynesville, Junior
This is the best running back you probably haven’t heard of. As a sophomore, he rushed for 1,087 yards and 11 touchdowns. He also racked up 216 receiving yards. Butler-Lawson might be my favorite back to watch. He starts and stops at an extremely high level and has game-breaking speed. His best attribute might be the physicality that he runs with; he runs with bad intentions and finishes unlike most backs at his age. Expect him to get plenty of touches in 2018.
Stephen Copeland, Ava, Senior
Copeland is one of those kids who just needs touches in any way possible. He’s a rare breed, one of those guys who scored a touchdown rushing, receiving, defensively and on special teams. He rushed for 1,106 yards and 13 touchdowns on just 104 carries. And that wasn’t as Ava’s primary back. Copeland should have a big senior campaign. If his 114-yard performance on just 12 touches (2 TDs) against Lamar is any indication of what’s on deck, watch out.
Isaiah Davis, Joplin, Junior
You may not know the name yet, but you will soon. After starting the season on defense, Davis slid over to running back for Joplin’s final three games and the results were impressive – 376 yards on 65 carries with a pair of 100-yard games. Davis is a power back with great feet; he chews up yardage after first contact. Joplin’s passing game should lead to soft boxes.
Blake Delacruz, Parkview, Senior
Delacruz is one of the most complete backs you’ll see. He’s not a traditional bruiser because of his size, but he runs with a ton of power and has about every open field move a back will at the high school level. He rushed for 2,136 yards and 16 touchdowns last season and has rushed for at least 100 yards in 12 straight games, seven of those were 200-yard performances. A new offense won’t hurt his production.
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Durand Henderson, Webb City, Senior
John Roderique would struggle to hand-make a better back for the split-back veer than Henderson. A classic one-cut-and-go back, Henderson runs with power and has breakaway speed once he hits the secondary. He rushed for 1,703 yards and 23 touchdowns as a junior, 687 of those yards came in Webb City’s final four games. He hit Carl Junction for 299 yards and Ladue for 201 in the Class 4 state championship game.
Brayden Lidgard, West Plains, Junior
CHRISTIAN MCCAFFREY. That’s it. Lidgard is a threat to house it any time he gets a touch, and he gets a lot of touches. He rushed for 2,242 yards and 35 touchdowns and caught 35 balls for 369 more yards. He runs hard and rarely goes down on first contact. And when he hits the open field, he’s gone. The over/under for yards from scrimmage should be 3,000.
Trey Sagehorn, Pierce City, Junior
He’s another kid who is just a pure football player. He rushed for 1,120 yards and 17 touchdowns on just 110 carries. His patience and vision, coupled with his ability to get downhill in a hurry, make him difficult to deal with. He should receive even more carries this season, which will be bad news for everyone else in the Southwest Conference.
Ethan Sandoval, Ozark, Senior
It’s fitting that he wears No. 24 because he often runs with a Marshawn Lynch-like level of violence. Dive backs rarely get “pretty” yards and Sandoval is no exception, but there’s a certain amount of beauty to the car collisions that are his carries. He’s straight north and south and he runs through arm tackles and finishes runs with stiff arms. He rushed for 1,041 yards and eight touchdowns on 205 carries as a junior.