A crowd at running back

Talent runs deep at the position, so much so that you can't pick just 10.

20080925_inq_srick25-b
Lansdale Catholic's John Howell, here making an interception of a pass intended for Downingtown East's Mike Thurm, was moved from quarterback to running back on offense. Last week against Oxford, he had 138 rushing yards and three TDs.

We continue our Top 10 football tour with the best running backs in Southeastern Pennsylvania.

It's not an easy chore, as the area is flooded with quick-footed and elusive ballcarriers. There is also a fair share of rugged, blast-through-the-interior types.

Since compiling this list was difficult, we cranked it up to 11.

1. Kasseim Everett, Roman Catholic, senior, 5-foot-10, 180 pounds. Everett has been sensational through three games, with eight touchdowns (six rushing) and an average of nine yards per carry. Besides being explosive, he is dangerous as a receiver and also pass protects well. The Delaware recruit is a complete player.

2. Corey Brown, Cardinal O'Hara, junior, 6-1, 190. Brown, clocked at 4.4 seconds in the 40-yard dash, has become more than just a speedster. After adding 20 to 25 pounds in the off-season, he is harder to tackle than before. His height and hands make playing wide receiver at the next level a possibility.

3. John Howell, Lansdale Catholic, senior, 5-8, 175. Howell was switched from quarterback to running back, his natural position, in the second quarter of Saturday's 26-0 shutout of Oxford. He responded with 138 rushing yards and three scores.

"John is a good quarterback," Crusaders coach Jim Algeo said. "But when it comes to our team running the ball, we weren't doing the same things we were doing last year when John was back there at tailback. That's why we made the move."

Last season, Howell rushed for 2,123 yards and scored 33 touchdowns. His college wish list is topped by Navy.

4. Rob Hollomon, West Catholic, senior, 5-8, 160. Despite his slight build, Hollomon's speed, vision and terrific open-field moves make him a terror for opposing defenses. The Burrs use him on the edges and employ the bigger Raymond Maples inside.

Hollomon and Maples, a duo that has combined for 766 rushing yards in four games (two blowouts), both have received interest from Northwestern and Richmond, among others.

5. Neil Willis, Malvern Prep, senior, 5-10, 175. With his speed and strength, Willis is an inside-outside threat. He's a classic slasher with strong cutback ability. Through three games, he has rushed for 274 yards and five TDs. There have been no college offers yet, but James Madison and Richmond have expressed interest.

6. Bernard Pierce, Glen Mills, senior, 6-1, 210. Pierce has played a big role in the Bulls' 3-1 start. He slashes well, can run over would-be tacklers and is a receiving threat. Pierce, who ran for 1,359 yards last season, was being looked at by Temple, Buffalo, James Madison and West Virginia.

7. Tim Keyser, Garnet Valley, senior, 5-11, 175. Keyser does a little bit of everything for the Jaguars. He's not very big but has great instincts and is rugged. With blocking help from backfield mate Jared Bonacquisti, he has carried 32 times for 309 yards. Added to that are his 13 receptions for 194 yards.

8. Devon Passman, Central Bucks East, senior, 5-8, 180. Passman is quick and elusive. Last season, he rushed for 1,054 yards and 13 TDs. He doubles as a linebacker.

9. Ibraheim Campbell, Chestnut Hill Academy, junior, 5-11, 185. Campbell replaced his graduated brother, Rashad, as the Blue Devils' go-to ballcarrier. He's fast, runs hard and doesn't shy away from contact.

10. Raymond Maples, West Catholic, senior, 6-1, 195. Contrasting Hollomon, Maples is West's downhill, power-type runner. Like Hollomon, he can be explosive.

11. Tyler Smith, North Penn, senior, 5-8, 170. Smith has a knack for making the big play and finding the end zone. With deceptive speed, he scorched St. Joseph's Prep for a 96-yard TD run in the Knights' 14-7 victory on Sept. 12.

Six others to watch: Terance FitzSimmons, Haverford School, senior, 6-1, 180; Chris Green, Upper Darby, senior, 5-10, 180; Nate Johnson, Frankford, senior, 5-10, 185; Tony Latronica, Quakertown, junior, 5-8, 180; Josh Mastromatto, Upper Dublin, senior, 5-6, 160; Mike Yeager, St. Joseph's Prep, senior, 5-10, 170.


Contact staff writer Rick O'Brien at 610-313-8019

or robrien@phillynews.com.