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Redskins Giving Running Backs Prospects a Look

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Mike Shanahan's track record for discovering unheralded running backs and turning them into productive pros is unmatched.

Of course, Terrell Davis was his most famous running back. The former 2,000-yard rusher – and 2010 Redskins training camp coaching intern – was a sixth-round draft pick by the Shanahan-coached Denver Broncos in 1995.

Shanahan, alongside assistant head coach-running backs Bobby Turner, has also coached 1,000-yard rushers Clinton Portis, Tatum Bell, Reuben Droughns, Mike Anderson and Olandis Gary. Add in 2010 1,000-yard rusher Peyton Hillis, who was a 2008 seventh-round draft pick by Shanahan.

They may be a product of his one-cut, zone blocking scheme, but there's no denying they all established themselves as top-flight NFL backs.

Now in Washington, Shanahan would appear to be in the market for a new franchise running back.

On Feb. 28, the Redskins released Portis, the team's franchise back since 2004 after he was acquired by the Broncos. Portis compiled 9,923 rushing yards in nine seasons with the Redskins and Broncos.

Can Shanahan find another diamond in the rough this offseason?

"We've always been pretty lucky evaluating running backs through the years, in the style that we look for," Shanahan said. "Usually watching film, a running back stands out right away. Sometimes you find one in the fourth or sixth round. Sometimes you see a guy you like and he goes second or third round.

"So you've got to look at all your options and do what's right for your football team."

Last season, the Redskins began a youth movement at running back led by Ryan Torain, who led the offense with 742 yards and four touchdowns.

Undrafted rookie Keiland Williams was a season-long surprise, serving primarily as a third-down back. Young backs James Davis and Andre Brown got a look late in the season.

Still, the Redskins finished 30th in the league in rushing yards last season.

That's not a standard for a Mike Shanahan offense.

Among 2011 draft prospects, Alabama's Mark Ingram is widely regarded as the top running back available. Some compare his running style to Emmitt Smith.

Ingram won the Heisman Trophy in 2009 leading the Crimson Tide to the National Championship. In three years with the Crimson Tide, he rushed for 3,261 rushing yards, a 5.7 yards-per-carry average and 42 touchdowns. He also logged 60 catches for 683 yards and four touchdowns.

At the NFL Scouting Combine last month, Shanahan said he has looked at game film of Ingram.

"He's obviously very talented," Shanahan said. "I've only watched a couple games, but you can see why he was the Heisman Trophy winner in 2009."

Beyond Ingram, there are notable names. Here are some other prospects in the draft to keep an eye on:

-- KENDALL HUNTER, OKLAHOM STATE

Short and compact, Hunter (5-8 and 197 pounds) has been compared to Baltimore's Ray Rice, started three years for the Cowboys and his 4,099 rushing yards was fourth-best in school history (trailing the likes of Barry Sanders and Thurman Thomas). He rushed for 1,500 yards in 2008 and 2010; in between was an injury plagued season.

-- DEMARCO MURRAY, OKLAHOMA

Murray, 6-1 and 207 pounds, was a three-year starter for the Sooners. He logged 3,685 rushing yards and 50 touchdowns and finished as Oklahoma's all-time leader in touchdowns, all-purpose yards and receiving yards by a running back. He was hampered by hamstring and ankle injuries throughout his college career, though.

-- JACQUIZZ RODGERS, OREGON STATE

Rodgers, listed at 5-7 and 191 pounds, was very productive the last thee years for Oregon State. He rushed for 1,000 yards all three years, including a career-best 1,440 yards and 21 touchdowns in 2009. He also caught 146 passes out of the backfield, including a career-best 78 in 2009.

-- DA'REL SCOTT, MARYLAND

Scott showcased breakaway speed in rushing for 2,401 yards and 17 touchdowns in four seasons at Maryland. As a senior, Scott, 5-11 and 200 pounds, split carries in the Terrapins backfield. His career 5.6 yards-per-carry average ranks fourth all-time in Maryland history.

-- DANIEL THOMAS, KANSAS STATE

Thomas, a big back at 6-2 and 228 pounds, started the last two years for Kansas State, rushing for 1,000 yards both years and compiling 30 touchdowns. He is a classic downhill runner who lacks speed but is tough to bring down.

-- RYAN WILLIAMS, VIRGINIA TECH

Williams had a banner 2009 season, rushing for 1,655 yards and 21 touchdowns for the Hokies and showing great vision and acceleration as a runner. Last year he was slowed by a hamstring injury and totaled just 447 yards and nine touchdowns, but capped off his college career with 117 rushing yards in the Chick-fil-A Bowl.

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