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OCVarsity Rankings: O.C.'s top 10 running backs
With the start of the high school season quickly approaching, the Register has put together its lists of the top 10 players in the county at each position.
These lists are based on the observations of the Register’s reporters, the input of football coaches around the county and the amount of interest shown by college scouts.
Here is a look at the top running backs going into the season:
1. Dominik Austin, Orange Lutheran, Sr.
With LJ Northington and Markell Quinn no longer on campus, one of the best rushing teams in the county graduated 212 carries, 1,515 yards and 16 touchdowns from a season ago. Coming off a 1,000-yard season of his own, Austin should build off his impressive 2015 numbers being the primary beneficiary of those available touches. Despite only having one game of 20-plus rushing attempts, Austin put together four 100-yard efforts last season and scored 12 touchdowns against what was nationally regarded as one of the toughest schedules in the country. His usage and production should spike this season.
2. Connor McBride, Woodbridge, Sr.
McBride ran through arm tackles like he ran through pregame paper banners last fall. At 6-foot-2, 225 pounds, it takes a good lick to bring him down, and if he gets his momentum going in the second level of the defense, forget about it. McBride finished top-5 in Orange County with 1,939 yards, was second in carries (267) and sixth in rushing touchdowns (20). He eclipsed the 100-yard mark in nine of 11 games, including the final eight outings of the season, McBride averaged 28 carries for 213 yards per game. He is the definition of a workhorse running back.
3. Cole Kinder, Newport Harbor, Sr.
Kinder was consistent last season, averaging 20-plus carries and 131 yards per outing. He finished among the county’s top-10 rushing leaders. Newport Harbor handed the ball off to their offensive centerpiece 30-plus times in wins over El Rancho, Huntington Beach and Marina, and he reeled off 311, 132 and 284 yards. The Sailors figure to continue pounding the rock with their standout running back who is a blend of size (6-2, 205 pounds) and speed (4.4 seconds in the 40),
4. Brandon Reaves, San Clemente, Sr.
Reaves is the ultimate weapon, a lightning-quick athlete who can line up in the backfield as a runner or spread out wide as a receiver. The senior averaged better than 8 yards a carry last fall, rushing for 644 yards and 10 touchdowns on just 79 totes. He also caught 43 passes for 639 yards and 11 scores. Alongside dual-threat quarterback Jack Sears, San Clemente will boast one of the most dynamic backfields in Orange County.
5. Colin Schooler, Mission Viejo, Sr.
Who says smashmouth football is a thing of the past? In Mission Viejo’s final three games of 2015 – the West Valley Division final, the CIF I-AA Regional championship and CIF I-AA State championship – the Diablos handed the ball to Schooler 33, 38 and 31 times. Mission’s bulldozing back ran for 538 of his 995 yards in that three-week span, proving he is equally as valuable an offensive threat as he is defensively. Schooler finished with 16 rushing touchdowns and was a sneaky good receiver out of the backfield (15 catches for 278 yards). Maybe most important of all, accumulating that many touches in the biggest of situations shows the type of trust the coaching staff has in Schooler. He probably won’t rack up many carries early in the season, but you can bet when it comes down to crunch time in November and December, the ball will be in Schooler’s hands.
6. Jaydin Moses, Corona del Mar, Sr.
The Sea Kings were as balanced an offensive unit as there was last season: running the ball 357 times versus 344 pass attempts. Moses and Cal-bound quarterback Chase Garbers proved to be lethal running the zone read. With defenses unable to stack the box, the Sea Kings averaged 41 points over its final seven games of 2015. With defenses spread out and constantly guessing, Moses carried the ball 127 times for 1,008 yards, just shy of 8 yards per clip. Expect more of the same this fall as CdM has the talent to be one of the top scoring offenses in the county.
7. Trey Green, Santa Margarita, Sr.
A first-year starting quarterback’s best friend is a capable running back. With Richard Wagner taking over under center, Santa Margarita would be wise to get Green more touches than he received in 2015. The senior came out of the gate strong last fall, averaging 110 yards rushing in Santa Margarita’s 3-0 start. The Eagles went 2-5 down the stretch, and because they were constantly playing catch up, Green averaged only 11 carries over the final seven weeks of the season. Green could benefit from improved offensive line play.
8. Raphael Jones, Mater Dei, Sr.
Yes, Mater Dei will sling the ball around the field more this season than it has in the last few years, but the Monarchs are sure to keep defenses honest with the running game too. Mater Dei has to replace first-team All-County back Brandon LaMarche, who rushed for 1,616 yards and 21 touchdowns, and the bulk of that work will go to Jones. The senior takes over as the Monarchs primary ball carrier and will have the fortune of playing on an offense that returns three starters on the line and has an embarrassment of riches at receiver. There should be some big running lanes for Jones.
9. Jorge Briseno, Santa Ana, Sr.
Despite missing six games due to a knee injury in 2015, the Saints do-it-all halfback put up eye-popping numbers in five contests. Briseno still ranked in the county’s top 10 in yards (1,383) and touchdowns (25) last fall, and his 13.7 yards per carry was tied for best in the area. College recruiters were beginning to show interest in him just as his season came to an end in October when he tore his ACL. Expected to be at 100 percent by the time the season gets underway, Briseno will be playing with a chip on his shoulder, which should be a scary thought for opposing defenses.
10. Jordan Leonard, Brethren Christian, Sr.
Nobody in the county surpassed Leonard’s numbers 2015. He finished tops in the county in rushing yards (2,637), touchdowns (39) and yards per carry (13.7). Leonard eclipsed the 200-yard plateau eight times, and in the two games he failed to reach triple digits, he had six carries (93 yards) against Riverside Prep and two carries (89 yards) against Sherman Indian in the first round of the postseason. A 3,000-yard season was not out of the question for Leonard last year. He racked up 119 yards in the first quarter of the semifinals against Grace Brethren, but he was taken out of the game with an injury and the Warriors wound up losing after building a 27-point lead. Had he been healthy and Brethren Christian made it to the CIF-SS finals, could he have gained the necessary 363 yards? Who knows. Let’s see how he bounces back this fall.
OTHERS TO WATCH
Joseph Camarillo, Garden Grove, Sr.; Jack Carmichael, Edison, Jr.; Zac Crowe, Laguna Hills, Sr.; Geovanni Estrada, Saddleback, Sr.; Devin Gill, Villa Park, Jr.; R.J. Gonzalez, Los Alamitos, Sr.; Chris Hernandez, Santa Ana Valley, Sr.; Cooper Malerstein, Marina, Sr.; Michael Martinson, Brea Olinda, Sr.; Steven Muise, Servite, Sr.; Francisco Pineda, Katella, Sr.; Graeden Sharpe, Tesoro, Sr.; Derek Soto, Tustin, Sr.; John Stamos, Villa Park, Sr.; Dante Swayne, Foothill, Sr.; George Sykes, Fountain Valley, Sr.; Sam Winder, University, Sr.; Mason Winter, Yorba Linda, Sr.
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OCVARSITY PRESEASON RANKINGS