Sunday, July 15, 2012

The sleeper list: RB's (part 2)

Right where I live, in my own backyard, I can honestly tell you that the running game does matter for many Central Valley teams.

In fact, squads like Bullard, San Joaquin Memorial, Clovis, Clovis North, Wasco, and even Central Section Division-I champion Bakersfield all thrived on the running attack when making a deep run in the playoffs.

This might possibly be the deepest list of running backs I can think for any region. Here's a closer look at some 2013 running backs right here in the Central Valley worth getting a look, beginning with this region:

Fresno County

Photo courtesy of Central Valley Football

He's got to be one of the more under-appreciated running backs in this area. All this guy did last year was accumulate 2,002 yards through the ground, score 22 touchdowns, and help lead run-heavy Sunnyside to a seven win season.

There are rumblings down in the Southeastern part of Clovis that the last regime the Wildcats had wasn't too excited about recruiting. Could that have played a role for Wingfield (photo) not getting his name out there? Or is it because not too many people are quick to get a 5-foot-6 running back?

Yes, his size can be a drawback. However, Demetrius Warren over at Bullard had a size issue at barely 5-foot-7. He ran over just about everyone for the Knights last season and helped make a D-I title run for Bullard. With Wingfield showing similar traits in terms of size, elusiveness, a burst to the outside and even power, the Sunnyside star running back could become this year's Demetrius Warren for the Central Valley and Fresno County region.



Much like Wingfield, Conner happens to be another city of Clovis star running back with perhaps a size issue.

However, in games I attended when watching the Cougars play, Conner was clearly Clovis High's horse for a deep running attack.

Conner, a 5-foot-7  speed demon, ran the fly sweep with mastery for Clovis thanks to his blazing speed to get outside and turn the corner. If it weren't for leg injuries during the year, Conner would have gone well over 1,000 yards.

Conner doesn't appear to be a complete back, since most of his runs were to the outside. It was mainly massive 5-foot-10, 225 pound truck Dakota Gordon who pounded it inside for the 10-2 Cougars. With Gordon now graduated, its Conner's show at Lamonica Stadium. An even bigger and healthier senior year could catapult him to new heights.


Ballin is an all-purpose back beginning to get noticed. Its also not just through his play in the city of Fresno though.

Ballin was named the running back Most Valuable Player at the National Underclassmen Camp in Los Angeles for his performance over the summer.  The 5-foot-9, 160 pound back showed his receiving skills and return ability at various camps he's attended.

His size may prevent him from carrying the rock full-time at the next level. He also runs a 4.6 40-yard dash time, so that speed isn't going to always make him the fastest on the field. Yet, with his receiving ability and even the route running he displayed out of the backfield during the NUC camp, Ballin just may convince someone to try him at wide receiver, or even still keep him in the backfield.

As of right now, Utah has shown medium interest in Ballin's services.


The former Buchanan High standout will play for the three-time valley champion Vikings for his senior year. And, with touchdown machine Trevor Price now graduated and moving on to play wide receiver at Cal Lutheran, East could become the next go-to touchdown maker for Kingsburg.

In his last season with the Bears, the versatile 5-foot-10, 185 pound East totaled 2,178 yards from scrimmage and 10 touchdowns. He also scored eight of those touchdowns through running the ball, so that is probably why East is listed as a running back.

With his 4.42 40-yard dash speed though, East is fast and explosive enough to be utilized in a variety of ways for the Vikings. I won't be surprised if head coach Dave Steele, who's produced the likes of Tyler Bray (Tennessee) and Garrett Steele (Cal Poly) for the Division-I college football level lines up East at wide receiver, or gets him returning kicks and punts. East is also in great shape on the recruiting trail, with four offers total, including two from the Ivy Leagues.

Along with his breakaway speed, I also like the vision East displays when he has the ball. He knows when to cut inside or when to bounce and go towards the hashmarks. His speed and his vision are two very deadly traits that defenses will have to deal with.

East's playmaking ability just may be another reason why Kingsburg could go for four straight valley championships, even at the much higher Division-II level in the Central Section. Increased numbers could see even more offers for East.



Grimes has shown spurts of what he's capable of doing for the Grizzlies.

Except this time, with an untested quarterback replacing three-year varsity starter Mike Baker, as well as an all-new pistol offense approach coming in under head coach Justin Garza, Grimes could finally be due for a breakout year as a senior.

Grimes, a three-year varsity letterman, already has 142 carries for 949 yards and 14 touchdowns for a normally pass-happy Grizzly offense.

The 6-foot, 180 pound Grimes had his breakout party back in 2010, when he replaced an injured Brendon Bigelow and carried the ball just eight times, but scored four touchdowns and an eye-popping 224 yards. He does fit the mold of a Brendon Bigelow, who's now at Cal, since Grimes has some open field speed and shiftiness to his game.

Grimes will likely share the load with junior Nick Wilson in the backfield. But do know this, Central will probably run the ball more, so that could mean Grimes' first 1,000 yard season and maybe becoming the next Grizzly to get noticed on the scholarship front.

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