Sadly, college football lost Dalvin Cook, Leonard Fournette, Christian McCaffrey, Wayne Gallman, Elijah Hood and Samaje Perine, but we do have some good ones returning. I think these are the best.
1. Saquon Barkley – Penn State: The Nittany Lion’s Barkley has it all. He’s strong, at 5-11, 225, fast, shifty, powerful, and whatever else a top Running Back needs. If you are afraid to take him on high and go for his legs, he will hurdle you. His performance in the Rose Bowl against USC was incredible, especially his 79 yard Touchdown run. Barkley
2. Derrius Guice – LSU: Guice just runs angry. He’s got an attitude when he hits the line of II
scrimmage and if you take him down, you will have a fight on your hands. This kid has a lot of heart and determination and he is a lot of fun to watch. If you are for the other team, you won’t breath easy until he is on the ground. He is 5-11, 215, but he runs like he is 245. He also has good speed if he breaks into the open. Leonard Fournette has been the man at LSU for the past 3 years, but he was injured part of this year, and with Guice in the lineup there was little to no drop off.
3. Royce Freeman – Oregon: Neither the Ducks, or Royce Freeman, had a good season in 2016. Not only did Freeman struggle with injury last season, but the Ducks started 4 freshmen in the Offensive Line and a true freshman at Quarterback. As a true freshman in 2014, Freeman came in shocked the nation by running for 1,365 yards and 13 Touchdowns. In 2015, Freeman was once again hard to contain as he ran for 1,836 yards and 17 scores. Last year, he only ran for 945 yards, but going into his senior season, Freeman has 4,146 yards rushing. Freeman is 5-11, 230 with very good speed especially for a guy his size. Freeman
4. Nick Chubb – Georgia: The 2015 season began with Leonard Fournette of LSU saying that Nick Chubb was better than him. For proof, Fournette said look at the film. Fournette was the highest rated Running Back in the spectacular Running Back recruiting class of 2014 and Chubb was not even the highest rated back in his own school’s recruiting class, that was Sony Michel. But, Chubb out rushed all of them with 1,547 yards as a true freshman. Roles were reversed in 2015 when Chubb messed up his knee against Tennessee and only finished his sophomore season with 747 rushing yards. After a Chubb
grueling off season of rehab, Chubb was back in 2016 and he ran for 1,130 yards while splitting time with Michel. Surprisingly, Chubb and Michel both elected to return for their senior seasons at Georgia.
5. Bo Scarbrough – Alabama: Playing well in the playoffs, Scarbrough brought back memories of Derrick Henry with his size, running ability and the hair out the back of his helmet. Scarbrough isn’t quite as big as Henry, but he is still 6-2, 230 with good speed. He ran for 180 yards against Washington in the first playoff game and then for 93 yards against Clemson. On the season, Scarbrough ran for 812 yards and 11 Touchdowns after a very slow start. Scarbrough could be the Crimson Tide’s go to Running Back in 2017. Tide Backs
6. Rawleigh Williams III – Arkansas: Williams was severely injured against Auburn in 2015, but he came back strong this past season. I like his running style as he ran for 1,360 yards and 12 Touchdowns. His best game in 2016 came against Mississippi State when he ran for 205 yards and 4 Touchdowns. The 5-10, 225 Williams has good speed and quickness, but also a nice blend of power.
7. Mark Walton – Miami: At 5-9, 205, Walton is one of the smaller backs on this list. But, he’s still a talent. He came to Miami when the Hurricanes had Joseph Yearby and Walton did not back down. As a freshman in 2015, Yearby ran for 1,002 yards while Walton had 461 yards as a backup. New coach, Mark Richt, arrived and Walton took over the starting job. In 2016, Walton ran for 1,117 yards and Yearby ran for 608 and then declared for the NFL Draft. Walton now has the job all to himself with 2017 looming. Walton is also one of the better receivers out of the backfield.
8. Myles Gaskin – Washington: Forget about what the nation saw of Gaskin against Alabama, he is pure speed, speed, speed. Gaskin is one of the quicker Running Backs in the country. Coming in with star Quarterback Jake Browning in 2015, Gaskin promptly used his raw speed to run for 1,302 yards and 14 Touchdowns. Gaskin split a lot of carries with highly improved big back Lavon Coleman this past season, but he still ran for 1,373 yards while Coleman ran for 852 yards. Gaskin is only 5-10, 195 while Coleman is 5-11, 230. Look for them both to improve this next season as the Husky Offensive Line matures.
9. Ralph Webb – Vanderbilt: Webb is tough and fast. Returning for his senior season in 2017, Webb looks to go over the 1,000 yard barrier for the third season in a row. As a freshman, Webb ran for 907 yards. In his three seasons at Vanderbilt, Webb has 3,342 career yards rushing and he should finish up with no less than 4,500 if he stays healthy. He is only 5-10, 205, but is a tough inside runner with some speed if he breaks into the clear.
10. Kamryn Pettway – Auburn: One of my personal favorites, Pettway was only a Fullback in the Pettway
Spring when they gave him a shot at carrying the ball. He is 6-0, 240 and can really run for his size. Pettway had zero carries against Clemson in game one, then he missed 3 games, 2 of which were against bad competition. He was shut down almost completely against Alabama and yet he still gained 1,224 yards on the season. He had several really good games like 169 yards rushing against Mississippi State, 192 rushing yards against Arkansas, and 173 yards rushing against Vanderbilt. But, his best game was against the Rebels of Ole Miss when he ran for 236 yards. If Pettway gets the job as the main ball carrier this season, look for more of the same because he’s a beast with good speed. He is a man to be feared.
11. Ronald Jones II – USC: A speedy back out of McKinney, Texas, Jones came in as a true freshman and ran for 987 yards, just missing that desirable 1,000 yard mark. During his sophomore year of 2016, Jones added 10 pounds of muscle and is now 6-1, 195. But, his game is still about speed and shiftiness and this season he ran for 1,082 yards while splitting carries with senior Justin Davis and sophomore Aca’Cedric Ware. Jones torched the Cal Bears, who aren’t known for defense, for 223 yards.
12. Sony Michel – Georgia: One of the highest rated Running Backs in the great recruiting class of 2014, Michel did not live up to the hype, at first. As a true freshman, Michel ran for 410 yards. However, Todd Gurley was on campus and Nick Chubb was also a freshman. With Gurley a 1st round draft pick of the Rams, and Chubb going down with a serious injury against Tennessee, Michel stepped up and ran for 1,161 yards. This past season, Michel had beefed up from around 205 pounds to about 225 and he is ripped. With Chubb back in 2016, Michel shared playing time with him and had 840 yards rushing to Chubb’s 1,130 yards. Both Chubb and Michel could play in the NFL after
13. LJ Scott – Michigan State: I might have Scott rated too highly, but he is a bruiser of a back. He is 6-1, 230 and he beat out other good backs Gerald Holmes and Madre London. It was a terrible season in 2016 for the Michigan State Spartans, but Running Back was not one of their problems. Scott took over the starting job as a true freshman for the Big 10 champion Spartans in 2015 and he ran for 699 yards and 11 Touchdowns. This past season on a 3-9 team, Scott just missed 1,000 yards by 6. If Michigan State can eliminate the issues with other positions, Scott should have a really big season in 2017 which is what I am mostly counting on with this ranking.
14. Mike Weber – Ohio State: While Ezekiel Elliott was running wild for Ohio State in 2015, Weber redshirted after signing with the Buckeyes out of Detroit, Michigan. Supposedly, Weber came in kind of out of shape and the strength and conditioning staff reshaped him into the 5-10, 215 Running Back he is today. Weber earned the starting job and in his first year, he ran for 1,096 yards and 9 Touchdowns. Curtis Samuels was the Buckeye’s big play guy and he ran for 771 yards and 8 more Touchdowns, but he declared for the NFL Draft. Weber will probably get more carries with new Offensive Coordinator Kevin Wilson who was fired by Indiana.
15. Rashaad Penny – San Diego State: Splitting time in the backfield with the new NCAA career rushing leader, Donnel Pumphrey, Penny rushed for 1,018 yards. While Pumphrey is small and speedy, Penny is 5-11, 220 with plenty of power. Pumphrey was a senior last season, and now Penny has the backfield all to himself. Pumphrey was a star for the Aztecs, but Rashaad Penny is no slouch and he has one more year to prove himself.
16. Jacques Patrick – Florida State: Still somewhat unproven with Dalvin Cook terrorizing opponents over the past few years, Patrick is a totally different type of back. Patrick is 6-2, 235 and going into his junior year he only has 664 yards rushing in his career. But, when he has gotten game action, he is very quick for his size and very good in short yardage situations. The problem that Patrick may have is that Florida State is bringing in one of the top Running Backs in the country in this recruiting class, Cam Akers. If Patrick can hang onto the job, he could have a big season in 2017 and he will still have a good shot at the NFL.
17. Justin Jackson – Northwestern: Jackson is the under appreciated member of the 2014 Running
Back recruiting class. In 3 seasons, he has rushed for 4,129 yards and he decided to return for his last year. Jackson i snot particularly big, or fast, and is generally not that impressive. But, he keeps making plays game after game. he is very consistent and will be one of the all time leaders in career rushing yardage.
18. Rodney Smith – Minnesota: Schools like Minnesota get their linemen from their areas, mostly, but they go south to get their Running Backs and Wide Receivers. Rodney Smith is from Jonesboro, Georgia and came in last season as a freshman and ran for 670 yards. This season, Smith ran for 1,158 yards and 16 Touchdowns. Smith runs hard and is not overly big at 5-11, 205 but he runs like a much bigger back. When he breaks through the line of scrimmage, Smith is hard to tackle. He is fast and elusive. The Gophers also use Running Back Shannon Brooks and he ran for 660 yards last season. With new coach PJ Fleck coming in, I would expect more of the same. At Western Michigan, Fleck liked to use multiple backs.
19. Ryan Nall – Oregon State: Don’t scoff at this pick unless you have seen the Wrecking Nall play. Nall’s story is he was recruited as a Tight End and the Beaver’s coaching staff discovered he was a good short yardage back. Then, he broke some long runs and outran some much smaller Defensive Backs. Nall actually dropped a few pounds down to 235 and he is really fast for a former Tight End. He broke a 90 yard run and nobody could catch him. If Nall can stay healthy, and the coaches feed him the ball more often he could be a top Running Back. He is big, strong and he has some natural running abilities and vision. He deserves some respect. Nall II III IV
20. Phillip Lindsay – Colorado: I like this Running Back because he has the heart of a lion. Lindsay is 5-8, 190 and after two average seasons, just like the Buffalo program Lindsay just broke loose. The Buffaloes, after many bad seasons in a row, won the South Division of the Pac 12 and played Washington for the Pac 12 championship. Lindsay ran for 1,252 yards and 16 Touchdowns. Lindsay is just a tough kid thaat will fight anyone for an extra yard. As a person that remembers the old great Buffalo teams I of the Big 8, I am elated to see them returned to greatness. Colorado
Tavian Feaster – Clemson
Jeremy Smith – Louisville
Terence Williams – Baylor
Abdul Adams – OU
Justice Hill – Oklahoma State
Kyle Hicks – TCU
Chris Warren III – Texas
Justin Crawford – West Virginia
Akrum Wadley – Iowa
Ty Johnson – Maryland
Chris Evans – Michigan
Kingston Davis – Michigan
Shannon Brooks – Minnesota
Devine Ozigbo – Nebraska
Demario McCall – Ohio State
Markell Jones – Purdue
Bradrick Shaw – Wisconsin
Josh Adams – Notre Dame
James Gilbert – Ball State
Alonzo Smith – Miami Ohio
D’Angelo Brewer – Tulsa
Devin Singletary – FAU
Jarred Craft – La Tech
Ito Smith – Southern Miss
James Butler – Nevada
Bryce Love – Stanford
Lavon Coleman – Washington
Damien Harris – Alabama
Devwah Whaley – Arkansas
Kerryon Johnson – Auburn
Jordan Scarlett – Florida
Lamical Perine – Florida
Mark Thompson – Florida
Benjamin Snell Jr – Kentucky
Darrel Williams – LSU
Nick Brossette – LSU
Aeris Williams – Miss State:
Damarea Crockett – Missouri:
Rico Dowdle – South Carolina
John Kelly – Tennessee:
Trayveon Williams – Texas A%M:
Jalin Moore – Appalachian State
Jordan Chunn – Troy