I know I have written about the 2014 recruiting class several times, but this is just about the Running Backs from that class and in particular the top 10.
This was an amazing group of recruits.
1. Leonard Fournette – LSU; New Orleans, Louisiana St Augustine High 6-1, 225: Top Running Back recruit and top overall recruit in the class of 2014. Fournette has more than lived up to the hype and to his potential. In two seasons at LSU, he has run for 2,987 yards and 32 Touchdowns. When he declares for the NFL after this season, he may be near 5,000 in rushing yards and over 50 rushing Touchdowns. How’s that for production? If not for the NFL and it’s big bucks, Fournette would
probably smash career rushing records.
2. Sony Michel – Georgia; Plantation, Florida American Heritage High 5-11, 195: Michel had injury problems as a true freshman and circumstances found him backing up Nick Chubb. When Chubb was lost this past season, it was Michel that got another chance and he made the most of it. Michel ran for 410 yards as a true freshman behind Todd Gurley and Nick Chubb. But, this past season, Michel ran for 1,161 yards. Michel is ripped to the max and package of solid muscle. He is not as big as Nick Chubb, but he has his own special talents. It will be interesting to watch how the competition between Michel and a returning Chubb plays out under new Georgia coach Kirby Smart.
3. Dalvin Cook – Florida State; Miami, Florida Central High 5-11, 195: One of the most explosive players in the country, if not the very most explosive. Cook battled injury problems most of last season and he still ran for1,691 yards and 19 Touchdowns. That was after running for 1,008 yards and 8 Touchdowns as a true freshman in 2014. Cook is back for more and the intriguing fact about that is the Seminoles return every starter on offense and especially the Offensive Line. He is poised to have a really big season in 2016 if he can remain healthy. Cook even had an outstanding 194 yards rushing against the mighty Clemson Tigers.
4. Joseph Yearby – Miami; Miami, Florida Central High 5-9, 190: Place this tidbit in your little folder of hard to believe facts. Joseph Yearby and Dalvin Cook played in the same high school backfield in Miami. That area and city are just loaded with top recruits year after year. In 2014, Yearby backed up Duke Johnson and he ran for 509 yards while Johnson was running for 1,652. This past season, Yearby shared time with talented freshman Mark Walton, but he was barely able to conquer the 1,000 yard marker by 2 yards. Like Florida State, Miami has everybody back up front
which should mean good things for Miami Running Backs in 2016. Yearby is quick and shifty, but he’s not quite as explosive as one time teammate Dalvin Cook.
5. Racean Thomas – Auburn; Oxford, Alabama 5-11, 200: I suppose even the most incredible list has to have one let down and that would be Roc Thomas. The former state of Alabama Mr Football just never got it going at Auburn. He did run for 214 yards as a true freshman and then 261 yards this past season. Thomas asked to be released from his scholarship and he transferred to Jacksonville State. Auburn already struggled against Jacksonville State, so they had better hope they don’t play each other again.
6. Joe Mixon – Oklahoma; Oakley, California 6-1, 210: When Mixon first arrived at Oklahoma, he knocked out a woman and he was suspended. I wonder how Bob Stoops or any Sooner backers would have felt if that woman had been their daughter, or sister, or a friend? They basically used that as a redshirt year for Mixon and he was back in 2015. Of course, by now, Samaje Perine had gained control of the position after running for over 1,700 yards as a true freshman. Mixon ran for 753 yards and 7 Touchdowns while averaging 6.66 yards per carry, of course. I like Oklahoma, but I don’t feel they should have allowed him back on the team. That’s just my opinion and I would love to hear yours. Mixon did demonstrate in 2015 the qualities that made him such a desirable recruit. Character
issues aside, Mixon can play.
7. Nick Chubb – Georgia: Cedartown, Georgia 5-11, 220: The great Todd Gurley was suspended for several games during 2014 which opened a door for Nick Chubb and he did not disappoint. As a true freshman, the powerful and speedy Chubb ran for 1,547 yards and 14 Touchdowns. Even Herschel Walker took notice of Chubb and Leonard Fournette publicly stated that Chubb was the better back between the two. Chubb was sailing along with well over 700 yards rushing in the Bulldog’s first 5 games. On his first carry in the Tennessee game, a freak accident along the sideline cost the talented sophomore his sophomore season. Chubb worked out with the team in the Spring, but he did not participate in full contact work. They believe he will be back and at regular speed in the Fall.
8. Jalen Hurd – Tennessee; Hendersonville, Tennessee 6-4, 225: Hurd is a huge Running Back at 6-4, 240 kind of along the lines of Derrick Henry. As a freshman, Hurd started right away and he ran for 899 yards, but he also caught 35 passes for 221 yards. I will always say that Hurd could be a good Tight End if he flops at Running Back at the next level. He has that kind of size. As a sophomore, Hurd ran for 1,288 yards. and 12 Touchdowns. If the Vols Offensive Line matched Alabama’s, I could see Hurd running for around 2,000 yards as a junior. Hurd supposedly can run a 4.4 40 at that size, which is pretty impressive, if true.
9. Elijah Hood – North Carolina; Charlotte, North Carolina 6-0, 220: The physically impressive Hood was one of my picks as a freshman All American in 2014 only to see him run for a very humbling 259 yards at less than 4 yards per carry.
But, just like the rest of the Tar Heels football program, Hood had a breakout season in 2015 and he Trubisky Besides solid Quarterback play, Hood will have 4 out of 5 Offensive Linemen returning next season. Expect more big things out of Elijah Hood.
used that 220 pound body and great quickness and speed to run for 1,463 yards and 17 Touchdowns. North Carolina returns most everybody on it’s offense other than it’s Quarterback and it’s top Offensive Guard. But, watch for Mitch Trubisky. I loved Marquise Williams, but I think Trubisky is going to be better.
10. Royce Freeman – Oregon; Imperial, California 6-0, 225: Everybody thought that Royce Freeman came out of nowhere in 2014 to become the Duck’s leading rusher, but he was highly rated all along. As a true freshman, Freeman ran for 1,365 yards and 18 Touchdowns. He backed that up as a sophomore and smoked defenses for 1,836 yards and 17 Touchdowns. Over two seasons, he has 3,201 yards rushing and 35 Touchdowns. Very impressive. Freeman is the perfect blend of speed and power at 230 pounds and he can punish or run past a defense. He would be the talk of the West Coast if not for a certain guy at Stanford that has been seen tearing up defenses.
Christian McCaffrey – Stanford; Castle Rock, Colorado 6-0, 200: After easing along for 300 yards as a true freshman, McCaffrey just broke loose in 2015. He ran for an unbelievable 2,019 yards. But, McCaffrey did it all. He caught 45 passes for another 645 yards and he returned punts and kicks as well. He had 1 Touchdown on Punt returns and another on Kick returns. He broke Barry Sanders decades old all purpose yardage record while finishing 2nd in the Heisman race. Some Heisman McCaffrey
voters didn’t even see McCaffrey play until the Rose Bowl game and then they also became believers. McCaffrey is not a big back, but he runs with power and great speed and he’s very patient in setting up his blockers. He also has great vision and can cut on a dime. More about family:
17. Samaje Perine – Oklahoma; Pflugerville, Texas Henderson High 6-0, 215: Top Oklahoma Running Back recruit Joe Mixon was suspended in 2014, but the Sooners just used that as a redshirt year for him. In the meantime, Samaje Perine rose to the occasion. This blog said all along that Perine would be better than Mixon. As a freshman, Perine out rushed all the other heralded guys gaining 1,713 yards and 21 Touchdowns. Oklahoma gained the eligibility of Baker Mayfield in 2015 and changed their offense up, not using Perine as frequently as they did in 2014. He still gained 1,349 yards and 16 Touchdowns.
21. Nick Wilson – Arizona; Fresno, California Central East High 6-0, 190: Former sprinter Wilson was also recruited by schools for track. Wilson actually had more yards rushing as a freshman than Royce Freeman with 1,375 yards. He had some injury problems as a sophomore and he only rushed for 725 yards. But, Wilson got to those 725 yards in a hurry because he still possesses sprinter’s
25. Jonathon Hillimon – Boston College; Jersey City, New Jersey Saint Peter’s Prep: 6-1, 200: New Jersey native Hillimon ran for 860 yards as a true freshman for the Eagles of Boston College. But, during his sophomore season, he was only able to play in 4 games and he only ran for 198 yards. Hillimon injured his foot in 2015 and that’s always a tough injury to return from.
26. Marlon Mack – South Florida; Sarasota, Florida Booker High 5-11, 190: As a freshman, Mack ran for 1,041 yards after a really strong start to the season. During his second year, Mack turned it up again and ran for 1,381 yards. Mack helped his South Florida Bulls out to an 8-5 finish in spite of playing a pretty tough schedule.
31. Justin Jackson – Northwestern; Carol Stream, Illinois Glenbard North High 5-11, 175: When discussing top Running Backs from the 2014 recruiting class, few bring up the name Justin Jackson of Northwestern. But, Jackson has almost quietly put together 2 really impressive seasons when running for 1,187 as a freshman and then 1,418 as a sophomore. Jackson isn’t particularly big, or fast, but he is very productive game after game.
43. Demario Richard – Arizona State; Palmdale, California 5-9, 197: DJ Foster ran for over 1,000 yards in 2014, but they moved Foster to Wide Receiver to make room for Demario Richard. After running for 478 yards as a true freshman, the suddenly starter at Running Back ran for 1,104 yards as a sophomore. Packing on the muscle, Richard also worked himself up to the 220 pound range and he’s a solid power runner. Arizona State also likes the big backs with Richard and back up Kalen
Ballage who is 6-3, 230.
58. Vic Enwere – California; Sugarland, Texas Fort Bend Austin High 6-1, 215: Cal coach Sonny Dykes would rather throw the ball, but if he wanted to run it, Enwere is a beast. At 6-1, 235, or so, Enwere has plenty of power and surprising speed. I wrote more about Enwere here: Enwere
74. D’Onta Foreman – Texas; Texas City, Texas 6-1, 220: Foreman came in at about 215 pounds, but by his sophomore year, Foreman was over 240 and he runs pretty well with 2 really long runs on the season. He finished as Texas’ leading rusher with 681 rushing yards at over 7 yards per carry. The Longhorns are going to an uptempo offense which should reward Foreman and the other big back that they have, Chris Warren III. These guys can pound the middle and both have shocking speed for their size.
77. Darrel Williams – LSU; Marrero, Louisiana John Ehret High 5-11, 205: I have to admire a guy that knows the top recruit in the country has already committed and he continues with his plans of playing at his dream school. It’s also an acknowledgement of the quality of an offense that has so many productive Running Backs. Williams ran for 302 yards as a true freshman and 296 yards as a sophomore. At most any other school in America, Williams is probably a starter. The LSU Tigers have back up Running Backs playing in the NFL and Darrel Williams will be another.
98. Qadree Ollison – Pittsburgh; Buffalo, New York Canisius High 6-1, 230: Ollison redshirted as a freshman and probably wondered why he signed with the Panthers because James Conner was tearing it up in 2014. But, Conner was injured in the first game of the season and Ollison came in and he ran for 207 yards in his first game. Iowa did hold him to 17 yards on 4 carries, but he bounced back the following game and ran for 122 yards against Virginia Tech. Ollison finished the 2015 season with 1,121 yards and 11 Touchdowns. In the 2016 season, he may have to share time with James Conner.