1. Melvin Gordon – Wisconsin: Top Running Back in the country. Gordon finished his season with the second most single season rushing yardage total in the history of college football with 2,587. Only Barry Sanders has rushed for more yards in a single season than Melvin Gordon. He is off to the NFL after this season. Gordon may be the first Running Back to go in the first round in a couple of drafts. Enough has been said about Melvin Gordon already, but my favorite story about Gordon is the heat he took from a certain SEC Running Back recently saying the SEC back wishes he could have played against Big 10 competition. Yet, Gordon ran for 251 yards against the Auburn Tigers.
2. Tevin Coleman – Indiana: Coleman was a complete unknown going into this season but he had an outstanding season while rushing for 2,036 yards and 15 Touchdowns. Like Gordon, he has already announced for the NFL. Critics will say that he did it against Big 10 competition, but he put up 228 yards against national champion Ohio State and I didn’t see anyone from the SEC or the Pac 12 doing that in the playoffs.
3. Todd Gurley – Georgia: Gurley probably would have been at the top of the charts if not for a suspension and a knee injury that ruined his season. He’s still an outstanding talent and rushed for 911 yards in a shortened season. If Gurley fully recovers from the knee injury he should still be a high draft pick and have an outstanding NFL career.
4. TJ Yeldon – Alabama: The numbers don’t really show it, but Yeldon is fantastic. Yeldon is 6-2, 220 and has super quick feet, great balance and runs tough. He only ran for 979 yards this season but has run for 3,322 yards over his career in Tuscaloosa. He’s off for the NFL after this season and rightfully so. Yeldon has been sort of the forgotten man of late, but he’s still the same very good Alabama Running Back.
5. Derrick Henry – Alabama: The reason why Yeldon’s yardage slipped a bit his junior year is the talented Mr Henry. Derrick Henry holds the all time high school rushing record and won’t do the same in college but only because of TJ Yeldon already being on campus. Henry is a super talent and a workhorse type of guy at 6-3, 240. He rushed for 990 yards this season and 11 Touchdowns.
Yeldon has announced he is turning pro so there should be more carries for Henry next season. I would love to see this guy used more and I am pretty sure he is unstoppable. When he leaves for the NFL after next season, he should be very highly coveted.
6. Cameron Artis – Payne – Auburn: Payne was a Junior College transfer and only started one season for the Auburn Tigers, but this season he led the SEC in rushing. The 5-11, 210 hard charging Running Back from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania rushed for 1,608 yards and 13 Touchdowns this past season and was incredible at many times.
I expect Artis-Payne to be very popular with NFL teams because he runs so hard. To my eyes, he runs like a 250 pounder with speed. He’s not bad out of the backfield as a receiver.
7. Nick Chubb – Georgia: When the talented Todd Gurley was suspended and then later injured for the year, the super freshman Chubb stepped up and ran for an impressive 1,547 yards and 14 Touchdowns. Chubb is a track guy which is more impressive when you consider that he is 5-10, 230. The guy can fly when he gets in the open field and he will rarely be run down on any level of football.
The future is very bright for true freshman Chubb and he will be on the same level as any Running Back out of Georgia all time other than the great Herschel Walker.
8. Ameer Abdullah – Nebraska: Early in 2014, there was some talk of Abdullah being a strong Heisman Trophy candidate. He was also compared to the great Nebraska Running Backs, or I Backs from back in Nebraska’s prime days. The 5-9, 195 Abdullah is a talent possessing excellent quickness, balance and cutting ability. His senior season in 2014, Abdullah ran for 1,611 yards and 19 Touchdowns. Abdullah is a dangerous receiver out of the backfield as well. Abdullah finished his Nebraska career with 4588 total rushing yards and 39 Touchdowns, but unlike most these days he played 4 years in Lincoln, Nebraska.
9. Ezekiel Elliott – Ohio State: Wow, what an ending this guy had to his season. Running for 696 yards in the Big 10 Championship, and the 2 playoff games finishing with an incredible 85 yard Touchdown run against the Alabama Crimson Tide and a 246 yard performance against the Oregon Ducks.
The 6-0, 225 sophomore out of St Louis may deserve to be higher on this list. I didn’t see a lot of backs that showed more heart and natural ability than Elliott. He saved his best 3 games for when his team needed him most and was a large reason why the Buckeyes are the first ever national champion in the new playoff system. He finished his season with 1,878 yards and 18 Touchdowns but had an extra couple of games than some.
10. Alex Collins – Arkansas: Collins teamed with teammate Jonathan Williams to form one of the nation’s very best Running Back tandems. The 5-11, 215 sophomore Collins is from Fort Lauderdale, Florida and he rushed for 1,100 and 12 Touchdowns. Teammate Jonathan Williams, a 6-0, 225 junior from Allen, Texas ran for 1,190 yards and 12 Touchdowns.
Both of these guys are big backs and both are tremendously explosive. I would be happy with either one and either could have made this list.
11. Devon Johnson – Marshall: The 6-1, 245 Johnson is a junior out of Richlands, Virginia that lit up opponents for 1,767 yards and 17 Touchdowns. Johnson is a obviously a huge back, but he has very good speed for his size as well. Johnson came to Marshall as a Linebacker, but converted to Tight End. When the Marshall Thundering Herd ran out of bodies at Running Back, they moved Johnson there and he responded like a champion.
I have seen nothing about Johnson declaring for the NFL, yet, so maybe he comes back for his senior season and proves nearly 1,800 yards of rushing was not a fluke. The down side is that the Marshall Thundering Herd will be losing star Quarterback Rakeem Cato so there will be more pressure on Devon Johnson.
12. James Conner – Pittsburgh: Not a fast back, but at 250 pounds, he is the ideal power back. He used that size and his great strength to rush for 1,765 yards and an astounding 26 Touchdowns.
Like Devon Johnson, the sophomore out of Erie, Pennsylvania was recruited for another position and made the switch. Conner just did so a lot quicker than Johnson.
Johnson was recruited as a Defensive End, and there was talk of him going both ways last season. But, James Conner is way too important at Running Back for that to happen.
13. Buck Allen – USC: The talented Buck Allen has already declared for the NFL draft. I hope the NFL has him rated higher than I do or he will be a late round draft pick. He’s a great back, but there are so many.
Javorius ‘Buck’ Allen put up some good numbers at Southern Cal. In 2014, Allen ran for 1,489 yards and 11 Touchdowns. The junior out of Tallahassee has been the Trojans go to guy the past 2 seasons and probably the NFL is the smarter move for him. But, it’s hard to imagine the Trojans with all of their top players back in the fold next season.
It’s funny how the Trojans 3 best upperclassmen are from Florida.
14. Duke Johnson – Miami: Duke Johnson is like a lightening bolt. He’s extremely quick and can cut on a dime and change directions instantly. Johnson is 5-9, 205 and has been a very productive Running Back on the college level. Johnson ran for 1,652 yards and 10 Touchdowns. Johnson has 3,524 yards in his career at Miami. Duke Johnson is the all time leading rusher in Miami Hurricane history beating such football legends as Ottis Anderson, Edgerrin James, Clinton Portis, Willis McGahee, Frank Gore, Alonzo Highsmith and many others. That is an impressive stat for Duke Johnson and he could be much higher on this list.
14A. Samaje Perine – Oklahoma: Perine was a true freshman out of Pflugerville, Texas that came in and played right away for the Oklahoma Sooners. His greatest moment was breaking the all time single game rushing record just set by Melvin Gordon. Perine rushed for 427 yards against the Kansas Jawhawks. Perine is a huge Running Back at 5-11, 245 and can run and has great balance. Over the entire season, he rushed for 1,713 yards and 21 Touchdowns.
14B: Josh Robinson – Mississippi State: Robinson is quite a story and one of my favorite Running Backs in the 2014 season. At one point, he was sleeping in his car in high school. He is a junior, but has declared for the NFL draft. The 5-9, 215 Running Back from Franklinton, Louisiana is an incredible back with a good burst, great balance and is extremely tough. The determined runner lit up opponents for 1,203 yards and 11 Touchdowns.
After watching Robinson bust his tail for Mississippi State and many of the outstanding runs he made over the past season there was no way I was leaving him off of this list.
Kareem Hunt – Toledo:
Jay Ajayi – Boise State:
Paul Perkins – UCLA:
Jeremy Langford – Michigan State:
Leonard Fournette – LSU:
Nick Wilson – Arizona:
Royce Freeman – Oregon:
Devontae Booker – Utah:
David Cobb – Minnesota:
Russell Hansbrough – Missouri: