SEC fans can really beat their chests over the Running Backs in college football for 2015 because they really are dominating in the SEC.
- Derrick Henry – Alabama (6-3, 240) Yulee, Florida. Jr: Henry is the guy that finally broke the all time high school football rushing record held for nearly 60 years by Kenneth Hall of Sugarland, Texas. He has split time at Alabama with T.J. Yeldon and Kenyan Drake, but Drake had a serious leg injury in 2014 and was lost for the year. Henry rushed for 990 yards and 11 Touchdowns while his sidekick Yeldon ran for 979 yards and also 11 Touchdowns.
Henry is a huge Running Back and taller than most which can often be a handicap, but he is fast and strong and hard to bring down. Bama was too busy throwing the ball to Amari Cooper to dish it out to the Backs coming out of the backfield, but Henry is still a good receiver. He only caught 5 passes in 2014, but they were good for 133 yards and 2 more Touchdowns at an average of 26.60 yards per catch. If, by any chance, Henry should wash out in the NFL as a Running Back, he has the size and the speed to make a devastating Tight End. But, take my word on this, barring something unforeseen happening in 2015, Henry will have a huge junior season and then make his declaration for the NFL Draft and be a very high pick.
- Ezekiel Elliott – Ohio State (6-0, 225) Saint Louis, Missouri. Jr: Elliott was an unknown as the 2014 season got started because Ohio State had Carlos Hyde in 2013. Elliott started off slowly along with the rest of his Buckeye teammates, but came on strong at the end of the year. He rushed for 696 yards and 8 Touchdowns in his last 3 yards including an 85 yard Touchdown run against Alabama where nobody from a very fast defense could catch him. People from the Southeast always underestimate the rest of us. Elliott ran for 1,878 yards total on the 2014 season and 18 Touchdowns. He is big, strong and very fast and I would not have a problem at all with switching Derrick Henry and Ezekiel Elliott out making Elliott the top Running Back on this list. Elliott just exploded onto the scene.
- Nick Chubb – Georgia (5-10, 230) Cedartown, Georgia. Soph: Chubb backed up the nation’s top Running back early in the season until Todd Gurley was suspended before the sixth game of the season. Georgia never missed a beat with Chubb taking over the starting Running Back position. Chubb rushed for 143 yards in his first game as a starter against Missouri. Against Arkansas, Chubb just ran wild going over 200 yards as the Bulldogs cruised. Gurley would come back from suspension against Auburn but after rushing for over 100 yards Gurley was injured and lost for the season. No problem with Chubb on the job. He finished his true freshman season with 1,547 yards and 14 Touchdowns. Chubb was a sprinter in high school and if he broke open in 2014, he normally took it the distance. He has the strength at 230 pounds to run inside and obviously the speed to take it all the way. Big time player.
- Leonard Fournette – LSU (6-1, 230) New Orleans, Louisiana. Soph. The undisputed number 1 prospect in America in the class of 2014. With all the hype, Fournette was expected to contend for the Heisman Trophy as a true freshman. That didn’t happen because he got off to a slow start. Against Wisconsin in game one, Fournette managed to rush for 18 yards on 8 carries and that was pretty much it for Heisman talk. But, he came on strong and had 5 100 yard games and ended with 146 yards rushing against Texas A%M and 143 yards against Notre Dame. On the season, Fournette ran for 1,034 yards and 10 Touchdowns. From game one, the Tigers coaching staff had Fournette returning kicks and he had 26 returns averaging 26.04 per return. Fournette is the ideal LSU Running Back under Head Coach Les Miles. He is a solidly built 230 pound Back that can run as shown by his ability to return Kicks. Look for Fournette to crush 1,000 yards in 2015 and 2016 and then move on to the NFL in style.
- Jonathon Williams/Alex Collins – Arkansas: Williams is 6-0, 225 and a senior from Allen, Texas. Collins is 5-11, 215 and a junior from Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Both are great Running Backs and I decided to make them 5A and 5B. Williams is 6-0, 225 and he ran for 1,190 yards in 2014 and he scored 12 Touchdowns. He scored 2 more Touchdowns off of receptions. Collins is 5-11, 215 and he added 1,100 yards and also 12 Touchdowns. Surprisingly, Arkansas only ranked 26th in rushing with Georgia Southern leading the entire country by a large margin. The Razorbacks only ranked 5th in rushing in their own conference. Both Williams and Collins are big powerful Running Backs with excellent speed and quickness and they play behind one of the better Offensive Lines in the country. Williams did slightly better against SEC competition than did Collins. Most of their yardage did come against the little sisters of the weak opponents including Texas Tech. Collins ran for 212 yards against Texas Tech and Williams ran for 145.
- Samaje Perine – Oklahoma (5-11, 245) Pflugerville, Texas. Soph: Another true freshman super star of the 2014 class. Perine came in and surprised most everybody this season by rushing for 1,713 yards and 21 Touchdowns. A large portion of his yardage came against weak Kansas when he broke a week old record set by Melvin Gordon of Wisconsin by running for 427 yards and 5 Touchdowns. Perine also rushed for over 200 yards against West Virginia and the already mentioned Texas Tech Red Raiders. The Sooners top recruit from the 2014 class was actually Joe Mixon from Oakley, California but he was in trouble from day one and suspended from the team. Perine was also a 4 star recruit and was all too happy to step up and take the job. Perine is the perfect size for a power back. He’s got good balance and has a little speed when he breaks into the open field. Most teams would have booted Mixon from the team forever, but Oklahoma took him back and it will be interesting in 2015 to see if he cuts into any of Perine’s playing time. I expect that OU will start walk-on Baker Mayfield next season at Quarterback. The offense could have been better with improvement at the Quarterback position but they lost too many Offensive Linemen off of last year’s squad.
- James Conner – Pittsburgh (6-2, 250) Erie, Pennsylvania. Jr: Speaking of talented power backs, Conner had a really solid sophomore season for the Pittsburgh Panthers, unless you would like to call rushing for 1,765 yards and 26 Touchdowns far above and beyond solid. Nobody will ever call Conner a speed back, but he does run with great power and breaks tackles. There was talk of playing Conner at Defensive End also last year, but he is far too valuable on offense. Pitt lost it’s coach to the Wisconsin Badgers and hired former Michigan State Defensive Coordinator Pat Narduzzi to replace him. Narduzzi is an outstanding Defensive Coordinator but so were Gene Chizek and Will Muschamp. Pitt returns a solid nucleus on offense and could be a lot better this season due to experience alone. They return not only Conner, but Quarterback Chad Voytik and outstanding Wide Receiver Tyler Boyd and a good Offensive Line. Conner should have another big year, but will he decide to leave early. Conner is a tough, hard nosed runner that is fun to watch if you love the power running game as I do.
- Corey Clement – Wisconsin (5-11, 220) Glassboro, New Jersey. Jr: If you think there’s going to be a huge drop off with the loss of Melvin Gordon at the Running Back position for the Wisconsin Badgers, you may not have been watching college football lately. Biggest plus for the Badgers is that they hired former Wisconsin Offensive Coordinator Paul Chryst away from Pittsburgh. Everyone saw what Chryst did at Pittsburgh last season and the type of offense he runs is obviously the Wisconsin model started back in the day of outstanding Badger coach Barry Alvarez. Clement is much in the same mold as Melvin Gordon with excellent size, speed and all of the other intangibles that great backs tend to possess. Clement ran for 949 yards as Gordon’s back up with 9 Touchdowns and he averaged 6.46 yards per carry. Clement is a really good receiver out of the backfield with 14 catches and 2 Touchdowns. Go back and watch the tape of the Auburn game where Clements ran for 105 yards at 7 yards per carry.
- Royce Freeman – Oregon (6-0, 230) Imperial, California. Soph: Freeman was another truly outstanding true freshman in 2014 and he rushed for 1,365 yards and 18 Touchdowns. He caught 16 passes for 158 yards and another Touchdown. Freeman also completed 1 out of 1 passes for 26 yards and yet another Touchdown. Freeman was a highly recruited Running Back coming out of high school ranked as a 4 star recruit and the 10th best at his position in the country. Five of the Running Backs rated ahead of him are also on this list because it was really an outstanding class of players in 2014. Freeman is a bigger back at 230 pounds and he runs the 40 in less than 4.6 which makes him a powerful weapon for the Ducks. He may have to take up the slack next season since the Ducks lost Marcus Mariota to the NFL
- Jalen Hurd – Tennessee (6-3, 225) Hendersonville, Tennnessee. Soph: Another of many outstanding freshmen is Jalen Hurd of Tennessee. Hurd is an Eddie George kind of big, powerful Running Back that powered his way to 899 rushing yards as a true freshman. Tennessee is in rebuilding mode and brought in one of the top recruiting classes in the country with Hurd being one of their better talents. The Vols Offensive Line lost every starter from the 2013 season and had a lot of youth which means they struggled. Hurd was also great as a receiver out of the backfield with 35 receptions for 221 yards and 2 Touchdowns. Hurd is also seemingly similar to Derrick Henry of Alabama in size and speed, but not quite as powerful.
- Dalvin Cook – Florida State (6-0, 200) Miami, Florida. Soph: Cook was the 3rd rated Running Back coming out of high school in 2014 and then proved his ranking was legit last season for Florida State. Karlos Williams and Mario Pender were supposed to be the star Running Backs for the Seminoles going into the season. Cook is a bolt of lightening and looks like he is shot out of a cannon when he takes off with the ball. He had 170 carries for 1008 yards and 8 Touchdowns. Cook didn’t play at all in the opening game, and got off to a slow start. Most of his production happened later in the season. Karlos Williams has used up his eligibility and Cook and Mario Pender will be the top remaining backs and should be very productive in 2015.
- Joseph Yearby – Miami (5-9, 192) Miami, Florida. Soph: High school teammate of Dalvin Cook, Yearby is every bit as talented. Yearby backed up Duke Johnson last season and is pretty similar to Johnson in size and speed. In limited opportunities, Yearby ran for 509 yards and a Touchdown. The Hurricanes have a lot of young talent including Quarterback Brad Kaaya. Dalvin Cook was the #3 rated Running back and Joseph Yearby was rated as the #4 Running Back and these guys were in the same backfield in high school. Expect Yearby to have the same type of stats that Duke Johnson put up the last few years.
- D.J. Foster – Arizona State (5-11, 205) Scottsdale, Arizona. Sr: Foster rushed for 1,081 yards on 194 carries and he scored 9 Touchdowns. The thing that sets Foster apart from other top Running Backs would be his 62 receptions for 688 yards and 3 more Touchdowns. However, Foster got most of his rushing yardage at the beginning of his season and did little against better opponents like USC, UCLA, Washington, Stanford and Arizona. Part of that could have been on hte Offensive Line and he did have good games against those teams as a receiver. Foster is neither big or particular fast, but he is elusive and shifty. Foster has over 2,000 career rushing yards and over 160 career receptions and is a productive player for the Sun Devils.
- Paul Perkins – UCLA (5-11, 200) Queen Creek, Arizona. Jr: Perkins had a big break out season in 2014. He ran for 1,575 yards on 6.27 yards per carry and 9 Touchdowns. He also caught 26 passes for 201 yards and 2 Touchdowns. Perkins really specializes in picking up blitzes and overall blocking. The nephew of old time Dallas Cowboys Running Back Don Perkins, Paul Perkins has decent breakaway speed and good hands. With the loss of Quarterback Brett Hundley to the NFL, Perkins will need to have an even bigger season in 2015 to help take up the slack. Also, the UCLA Bruins have had problems with their Offensive Line for a while and this next season they have the talent and the experience to have a really solid line up front to open some holes for Perkins and his fellow running mates.
- Nick Wilson – Arizona (5-11, 200) Sacramento, California. Soph: Wilson was recruited by the Arizona track team as a sprinter so you know he can fly. Wilson took advantage of injury and was an instant spark to the Wildcat offense. Wilson missed the game against USC because of injury, but in the other games he ran for 1,375 yards and 16 Touchdowns. Like the other top backs, Wilson is a good receiver out of the backfield with 12 receptions and another Touchdown. But, Wildcat Quarterback Anu Solomon had too many good Wide Receivers to throw to his backs.
Roc Thomas – Auburn
Devontae Booker – Utah
Jon Hilliman – Boston College
Christian McCaffrey – Stanford
Shadrach Thornton – North Carolina State