1. LSU: Without a doubt, the LSU Tigers have the best conglomeration of Running Backs of any team in the nation. This is a school that puts back up Running Backs in the NFL almost yearly. Of course, the accolades begin with All American Leonard Fournette. I’ve written several posts about my guy Fournette on this blog, but I also wrote one about the returning Tiger Running Backs here: LSU
Fournette ran for 1,953 yards and was the front runner for the Heisman all season until they played Alabama and he was held to 31 yards rushing. The nation turned on him at that point which is simply mind blowing. Adrian Peterson is the best Running Back in the NFL and Seattle held him to 18 yards rushing. Does that make him less of a star? Alabama is built to stop teams like LSU, that run the ball well and don’t pass that often. It happens. Fournette is still one of the very best players in the entire
country and an obvious All American.
Derrius Grice was a true freshman last season and could have started at a lot of schools, but he chose to stay home and play for the Tigers. He ran for 436 yards last season while averaging 8.55 yards per carry. Pretty amazing, and this guy is a fighter with the ball in his hands. He will not be tackled easily by anybody.
Darrel Williams is a 6-0, 235 and came in the same recruiting class as Fournette which took some courage. He’s a good Running Back in his own right with around 600 yards rushing in 2 seasons with a lot of talent surrounding him.
They also have Nick Brossette who at 6-0, 220 is another big back that can beat up opponents. Then, there’s Lanard Fournette the younger brother of Leonard who will be a true freshman this season.
2. Georgia: With Todd Gurley and then Nick Chubb, there hasn’t been a lot of schools with better Running Backs than the Bulldogs of late. When Chubb went down last season, they had Sony Michel to step up and take over.
Nick Chubb was considered by many as the top Running Back in the SEC but he was lost for the season against Tennessee early in the game. He rushed for 747 yards in the first 5 games before going down. As a true freshman, Chubb ran for 1,547 yards in almost Herschel like fashion. Chubb should be back at full speed in 2016, or so we all hope.
Sony Michel was actually a higher rated recruit than Chubb in 2014. Last season, when Chubb was out of action, Michel ran for 1,161 yards and 8 Touchdowns. This season, the Bulldogs should have both Chubb and Michel ready to go.
Brendan Douglas is a capable back up that can get the tough yards. He actually played more as a
true freshman and that was his best season.
The Bulldogs signed Eijah Holyfield, obviously the son of Evander, in this past recruiting class. He was rated as one of the better Running Backs in the country.
They added a late recruit to their last class in Brian Herrien of Douglasville, Georgia. Georgia has some great Running Backs this year, but Chubb and Michel will no doubt leave after this season and that will leave them with 2 backs for next season. It’s definitely going to be a high priority for the Georgia coaches.
3. Florida State: With all of the talk of Leonard Fournette and Derrick Henry last year, and then Christian McCaffrey, Dalvin Cook was almost the forgotten man. He battled through injuries and still ran for incredible numbers. As a sophomore, Cook ran for 1,691 yards and 19 Touchdowns after running for 1,008 yards as a true freshman. Some people think that Cook is the best Running Back in the country because of his outstanding speed and ability to take it the distance on any given play.
Exciting news for Seminole fans was the arrival of true freshman Jacques Patrick last season. Patrick is 6-2, 235 with good speed to go with his obvious power. Last year, he ran for 314 yards and 5 Touchdowns. Cook was out in the Syracuse game, and Patrick started in his place and ran for 162 yards and 3 Touchdowns.
The Noles depth took a blow not long ago when Mario Pender was booted from the team. But, the Seminole coaches moved Ryan Green from Defensive Back to Running Back in the Spring and he
was really impressive. Green is a 5-11, 200 speedster from St Petersburg, Florida.
Johnathan Vickers is a good player, but hasn’t played that much as of yet. Last season, the 6-1, 225 Vickers ran for 111 yards and a score.
4 star Running Back Amir Rasul from Coral Gables, Florida will be available in the Fall and has some serious speed.
4. Tennessee: The Volunteers return two outstanding Running Backs led by Jalen Hurd. But, Alvin Kamara is available in relief. I wrote about this combination here: Tenn-RBs
Hurd is a giant back much like Derrick Henry, but he is mostly compared to former Heisman winner from Ohio State Eddie George. He is about 6-4, 240 with supposed 4.4 speed in the 40. Hurd ran for 1,288 yards and 12 Touchdowns during his sophomore season. He has a chance this season to become the all time leading rusher at Tennessee.
Kamara is their change of pace guy, but he is also 215 pounds, so he’s no pushover. The former Alabama back ran for 698 yards and 7 Touchdowns last season.
Sophomores John Kelly and Joe Young ran for over 200 yards between them last season. Vincent Perry redshirted last year and with the latest class they added Florida burner Carlin Fils-Aime.
5. Oklahoma: With all of the super talents at Running Back in the 2014 recruiting class, Samaje Perine was kind of overlooked. Don’t make me look into my blog and find the exact location where I stated that Perine would be better than the Sooners more highly touted Running Back Joe Mixon. After punching a young lady in his early time in Norman, Mixon was suspended which really opened the door for Perine, which he gratefully accepted. As a true freshman, Perine ran for 1,713 yards as a true freshman including a new NCAA single game rushing record with 427 yards against Kansas. Oklahoma went to a more passing offense in 2015, and Perine’s stats went down. But, by the end of the season they were running the ball more and Perine ran for 1,349 yards and 16 Touchdowns.
Perine is over 230 pounds and a load.
Mixon was permitted back on the team and was granted a redshirt season in 2014. He ran for 753 yards and 7 Touchdowns last season.
Their other experienced Running Back, Alex Ross, elected to transfer. But, they return Daniel Brooks and Rodney Anderson.
In their most recent recruiting class, the Sooners signed Abdul Adams from Durham, North Carolina.
6. Pittsburgh: The Panthers have gone through a lot of coaches in recent years and very little success. But, I really think they found a good one with Pat Narduzzi, the former Defensive Coordinator at Michigan State. They had a great running game when he arrived with James Conner. As a sophomore in 2014, 6-2, 240 Conner ran for 1,765 yards and 26 Touchdowns. He was injured in the first game of the season in 2015 and 6-2, 230 Qadree Ollison stepped up and ran for 1,121 yards and 11 Touchdowns.
Conner was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma last December, but he is expected to play in 2016.
Darrin Hall was a 5-11, 215 freshman last season that ran for 257 yards and Chris James ran for 253 yards.
With Pat Narduzzi’s first really full year of recruiting, he brought in 4 star Running Back George Hill from Ohio. The Panthers also signed Kaezon Pugh and Chawntez Moss, both 3 star prospects.
Look for the Pitt Panthers to have a solid running game last year. Pittsburgh is a great city and I would love to see this school’s football team resurrected like the days of Tony Dorsett and Dan Marino. They are playing Penn State on September 10th for the first time since the 2000 season which is exciting.
7. Miami: Joseph Yearby backed up Duke Johnson as a true freshman. Johnson was gone after that season and Yearby took over the job, but the Hurricanes signed Mark Walton who came in and looked great just as Yearby did the year before. Yearby ran for 1,002 yards as a sophomore and Gus Edwards. The big 6-2, 230 Edwards is an interesting prospect and he missed all of 2015. Edwards looked awesome in the Spring and Mark Richt should put him to good use.
Walton for 461 yards as a true freshman. Adding even more interest and talent is
The first recruiting class of the new coaching staff included 4 star Running Back Travis Homer who was regarded as a top 10 national product at his position.
Mark Walton was suspended in the Spring after making a boneheaded mistake. Hopefully, he will learn from his mistake and be back on the team in the Fall.
8. Michigan: The Wolverines don’t have that one incredible guy, but they have a lot of good ones and the true freshmen may be the super star that they need there. Numbers wise, they return a lot of bodies.
De’Veon Smith led the Wolverines in rushing last season. The 5-11, 230 Smith from Warren, Ohio is back for his senior season after running for 758 yards last year.
Drake Johnson is their change of pace guy and returns for another season as well. He’s 6-1, 210, with good speed and quickness to the edge. Ty Isaac is another experienced Running Back. He’s another one of those huge backs at 6-3, 240. Isaac signed with USC out of high school before transferring to Michigan and he is running out of time to be the star that everyone pegged him to be coming out of high school.
The Wolverines signed Karan Higdon in their 2015 recruiting class.
This past season, the Wolverines signed one of the very best Running Backs in the country in Kareem Walker from New Jersey. They also signed Chris Evans from Indianapolis and Kingston Davis from Prattville, Alabama. Davis was only rated a 3 star, but the 6-0, 225 looked really good in the Spring and he may become a good one for the Wolverines.
9. Penn State: One of the more exciting true freshmen last season was Saquon Barkley of Penn State. He was injured and missed some playing time and he still ran for 1,076 yards. Barkley may be the next big thing being 5-11, 225 with supposedly sub 4.4 40 yard dash speed. He may be the best
Running Back in the Big 10 since Ezekiel Elliott left for the NFL.
Akeel Lynch was his back up last season and he ran for 282 yards. Nick Scott, Mark Allen and Johnathan Thomas were all freshmen last season and they ran for about 250 yards between them.
All of them may take a back seat to true freshman Miles Sanders who was the 3rd rated Running Back in the nation. Sanders is a sensational looking talent with speed to burn. I think he may turn out to be the best Running Back in the country, but if not the best he is very, very talented. He is apparently not afraid of competition and Barkley’s presence at State College didn’t discourage him from signing.
10. Alabama: I am still a bit amused by those writing off Bama last year and saying the dynasty was over in dramatic fashion. Excuse me a minute, it’s hard to type while laughing.
Alabama is still Alabama and they are loaded at every position across the board.
Gone is Heisman winner Derrick Henry, but don’t feel sorry for the Tide. I wrote about their 2016 Running Back situation here: Bama RB
Bo Scarbrough is a former 5 star recruit who has a lot of the same attributes and abilities as Henry. He is a big back at 6-2, 240 with excellent speed.
However, don’t just hand the job to Scarbrough. Damien Harris looked outstanding in the Alabama Spring Game and he has been quietly waiting for his chance. He was the 3rd string Quarterback last year behind Henry and Kenyan Drake.
They also have Derrick Gore and Xavian Marks. The 2016 recruiting class had the top Running Back recruit in the country in B.J. Emmons. There was talk he may not qualify academically, but I would bet that he is enrolled at Alabama.
11. Wisconsin: Since the Badgers hired Alvarez who was the Defensive Coordinator at Notre Dame,
they have had one of the best running games in football year after year.
The 5-11, 220 Corey Clement was supposed to have his official arrival party last season, but he was injured for much of the year. Backing up NCAA leading rusher Melvin Gordon last year, he ran for 949 yards and he was set to take over this past year. He should be back and healthy in 2016.
Dare Ogunbowale returns after leading the Badgers in rushing last season with 819 yards rushing. Taiwan Deal was a freshman last season and the 6-1, 220 Deal ran for 503 yards. Caleb Kinlaw was another freshman last season that played a limited amount.
Alec Ingold is a former Quarterback that was used last season when Wisconsin wanted to go with a big back. The 6-2, 230 Ingold ran for 131 yards and 6 Touchdowns.
In the 2016 recruiting class, the Badgers signed 3 star Sam Brodner from Illinois. He is only rated a 3 star which may be right, but he can really run in the snow from his available videos.
This will be a good situation to watch next season. Clement is the real deal if he stays healthy.
12. Michigan State: The Spartans lost their really good back last year, Jeremy Langford, and they used 3 before maybe settling on just one. But, it’s not over with yet and they have another body to the mix to make things more congested.
LJ Scott was a true freshman in 2015 and eventually emerged as the starter. On the season, Scott ran for 699 yards and 11 Touchdowns. He’s a big back at 6-0, 235 and runs with power.
Gerald Holmes and Madre London are also talented backs and are not out of the picture. Holmes ran for 540 yards and London for 500.
Another back that was in the picture before getting into trouble is Delton Williams. He was back in the Spring and playing mostly Fullback. But, he could play Running Back again and was a talent behind Jeremy Langford a couple of years ago.
13. UCLA: The Bruins lost their most productive back from the last few seasons when Paul Perkins declared for the NFL. But, in spite of the huge loss, the Bruins brought in maybe the top prospect in the country at Running Back in the 2015 recruiting class. Soso Jamabo was considered by some as the best and the 6-3, 210 true freshman did not disappoint when running for 403 yards while backing up Perkins.
But, Nate Starks is also a talented Running Back and he ran for 320 yards and 5 Touchdowns last season. Bolo Olorunfunmi is also a talented player and at 6-0, 220 he can run with power which he used last season to run for 200 yards.
In their most current recruiting class, UCLA brought in Damian Alloway, Brandon Stephens and Jalen Starks. Alloway is a 4 star recruit, but he is a smaller, quicker back. Stephens and Starks are both 3 stars, but Starks is a monstrous sized Running Back at 6-0, 240.
14. Minnesota: I like the Gophers’ trio of Running Backs going into next season and they are all really young. Shannon Brooks, from Atlanta, was a freshman last season and led the Gophers in
rushing with 709 yards and 7 Touchdowns. He is 6-0, 210 and runs really hard and also he has good breakaway speed. He is a player to watch for 2016.
But, not far behind is another freshman, Rodney Smith who is another Georgia native. Smith ran for 670 yards and 2 Touchdowns last season.
The other freshman is a redshirt who had a phenomenal high school career in Fargo, North Dakota. There’s not a lot of talent coming out of that state, but James Johannesson might be that rare guy. He looked really good in the Spring Game and ran with great power and intensity. If he plays that way in the Fall, keep an eye on him. He is about 6-1, 220 and I blogged about him previously here: Fargo
Berkley Edwards, Jonathan Femi-Cole and Rodrick Williams are also back. Femi-Cole is a big Canadian that redshirted last year.
A big surprise could be Junior College transfer Kobe McCrary who is originally from Chipley, Florida by way of Butler Community College. He is 6-0, 230.
15. USC: Considering the big picture, nobody has had more great Running Backs than the Trojans. 5 Heisman winning Running Backs starting with Mike Garrett back in the 1960s and going to OJ Simpson, Charles White, Marcus Allen and Reggie Bush.
Last season, true freshman speedster from Texas, Ronald Jones II ran for more yardage than any of them in their freshman seasons. Jones ran for 987 yards and 8 Touchdowns to lead the Trojans in
Justin Davis is also back after running for 902 yards in 2015.
The Trojans also return a lot of young guys like Aca’Cedric Ware, Dominic Davis, Stefan Smith and James Toland IV.
In the 2016 recruiting class, the Trojans signed 4 star Hawaiian Vavae Malepeai.
16. Texas: The Longhorns still have a ways to go, but they could be in for a bit of a resurgence this year. It all starts up front and the Horns have some young Offensive Linemen that look to improve this season.
Football coaches offered Running Back D’Onta Foreman scholarships just hoping to land his brother, Wide Receiver Armanti Foreman. So far, it appears that coaches should have been going after D’Onta instead, but of course the Longhorns have had Offensive problems since Quarterback Colt McCoy graduated. Foreman ran for 681 yards and 5 Touchdowns last season and at 6-0, 245 he had several really long runs where he showed a little more speed than expected.
True freshman Chris Warren III is the son of the former NFL great of the same name. Warren came on strong as the season progressed and he wound up with 470 yards rushing and 4 Touchdowns. Like Foreman, he is a load at 6-2, 255.
Kirk Johnson also has a famous father. His dad is Johnnie Johnson that was a two time All American at Texas and an All Pro in the NFL as a Safety. Kirk Johnson did not receive much playing time as a true freshman and probably should have redshirted.
Roderick Bernard moved from Wide Receiver to Running Back and adds some speed to the position. He is smaller at 5-9, 175 but speed and quickness is a nice change from big and powerful at times during a game.
Tristian Houston redshirted last season after coming in last season as a 4 star recruit. He has beefed up to 215 and he could fight for playing time next season.
In their most recent recruiting class, the Longhorns signed 4 star Kyle Porter who was ranked as one of the top 15 backs in the nation.