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Richard Miller: The Best Back in the 2010 NFL Draft

miller-article1It could be when it is all said and done that Tim Tebow might not be the best Florida native to come out of this year’s NFL Draft. There is a Lake Butler product who is currently ranked by most major publications as the No. 1 running back in the 2010 draft class. Those scratching their heads as to the location of Lake Butler – just think of it as the city nearly smack in the middle of the triangle formed by Jacksonville, Lake City and Gainesville.

But, the Lake Butler running back did not fly under the radar for long. In his junior and senior seasons at Union County High School, he ran for 3,400 yards and 56 rushing touchdowns. For his entire high school career, he accumulated 5,511 yards on the ground with a 10.2 yards per carry average. In Rivals’ Top 100 recruits of 2006, this player was the best all-purpose back and No. 8 overall athlete.

In that 2006 Rivals’ list, the five-star recruit was behind current NFL players Percy Harvin, Andre Smith, Beanie Wells and Matthew Stafford. The Union County back also followed current prospects Gerald McCoy and Sergio Kindle. That is not a shabby collection of players to be grouped in. He even owned a higher rank than Tebow, who was No. 22 in the nation.

If you haven’t pieced together the puzzle, the most talked-about running back for the 2010 NFL Draft is C.J. Spiller. The speedy, 5-foot-11 back has been turning heads ever since his junior year in Lake Butler. Spiller, who had one of the most publicized college selections in 2006, chose Clemson over Florida, Florida State, Miami and Southern California. The sky has always been the limit for the 22-year-old Spiller.

As a freshman and sophomore at Clemson, Spiller had to deal with lead back James Davis, currently on the Cleveland Browns’ roster. In those two seasons, even though Spiller touched the ball 274 times for 1,706 yards and 19 total touchdowns, Davis, who is one year older than Spiller, held the spotlight. In 2006 and 2007, the heavier Davis had 417 attempts on the ground with 2,251 rushing yards and 29 touchdowns. However, Spiller literally kept on trucking.

Even with projections of Spiller as a 2009 first-round pick, he stayed in Clemson, South Carolina, as a Heisman hopeful. In his senior season, Spiller was named ACC Player of the Year while he scored a Clemson-record 21 touchdowns and ran for 1,212 yards.

It comes as no surprise that the shifty running back and special teamer has heard comparisons between himself and former USC Trojan Reggie Bush. Most draft experts are hailing Spiller as this year’s Chris Johnson. The speedy Spiller, who was clocked at the Scouting Combine at less than 4.3 seconds in the 40-yard dash, is projected to receive 20 touches per NFL game. The logic is that someone as explosive as Spiller needs to touch the football as often as possible.

At the Combine, when asked about Bush and their similar style of play, Spiller stated smoothly, “Everybody’s going to compare me to Bush. Like I tell people all the time, ‘Every running back is different.’ I can’t go to an organization and try to be Reggie Bush. It’s just not going to happen. The only thing I can do is just try to go be C.J. Spiller.”

At this point, why would Spiller want to be the NFL version of Bush? After being selected No. 2 overall by the New Orleans Saints in 2006, in four seasons, Bush has started 35 games, rushed for 1,940 yards and 32 total touchdowns. In my opinion, Spiller has the speed and talent to eclipse the 25-year-old Bush.

Currently, the major mock drafts have Spiller as a top-15 pick either being chosen by the San Francisco 49ers or the Seattle Seahawks at No. 13 or 14. It doesn’t matter where he lands because the game-breaking Spiller will become a starting back in the League. And, he does not need to worry about playing like Reggie Bush because just being C.J. Spiller is plenty.

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Richard Miller is a national broadcaster for Jacksonville Jaguars’ home games on Sporting News Radio. This Friday and Sunday, Richard will be covering the first-round NCAA Tournament games in Jacksonville for SNR.

Additionally, he can be heard on ABC 1320 WBOB in Jacksonville at 5:45 p.m. on Wednesdays with The Jacksonville Observer Radio Show. Richard also contributes to Inside the Game every Saturday from 11 a.m. – 1 p.m. on WBOB.

Currently, Richard is writing David Lamm’s biography entitled Lamm at Large: The David Lamm Story, which will be available in 2010.

Follow Richard’s daily blog on The Jacksonville Observer, and you can e-mail him at Richard.Miller@jaxobserver.com.

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