CollegeFootballNews.com Preview 2017: Top 20 Running Backs
Who are the best running backs coming into the college football season? Here are the projected 20 top guys
Preview 2017: Top 20 Running Backs
Who are the best running backs coming into the 2017 college football season? This is a projection of the top COLLEGE players, and not necessarily the best pro prospects. Talent, of course, matters, but this is about looking ahead at who will be the top 20 this year.
20. Jordan Chunn, Sr. Troy
One of the nation’s most productive all-around backs, the 6-1, 231-pounder came up with 1,288 yards and 16 scores last season to go along with 30 catches for 228 yards. While he might not be a home run hitter, he’s a tough back for a high-powered offense.
19. Jalin Moore, Jr. Appalachian State
Last year he had to split time with fellow 1,000-yard back Marcus Cox, but now the backfield is his. Ultra-quick, he might not be used much as a receiver, but he averaged close to six yards per carry with over 1,400 yards with ten scores.
18. Justin Crawford, Sr. West Virginia
Granted, the star of the offense – at least early on – will be QB Will Grier, but Crawford is too good to not be the team’s featured playmaker. A bit of a feast-or-famine back, he hit Oklahoma for 331 yards and Baylor for 209, but only finished the year with 1,184 yards and four scores.
17. James Gilbert, Jr. Ball State
The diminutive 5-8, 194-pound MAC star was on the radar for big things late last year before getting slowed down in a few shootouts. Even so, eh ran for 1,332 yards and 12 scores, coming up with more than 100 yards in six of the final eight games.
16. Sony Michel, Sr. Georgia
While he could’ve turned pro and been an interesting mid-round draft pick, now he’ll be part of a deadly 1-2 rushing punch with Nick Chubb. He split time last year, running for 840 yards and four scores while catching 22 passes, and once again, there will be a big role for him.
15. Terence Williams, Jr. Baylor
Will the Bear offense work more around the running game? Williams can provide the pop and the power, coming up with 1,048 yards and 11 scores. Expect a 1,500-yard campaign as the featured back.
14. Ito Smith, Sr. Southern Miss
Ultra-productive in all phases, he’s not going to bring much power, but he’s slippery as both a runner and a receiver, catching 43 balls with two scores, while averaging 5.5 yards per carry on 1,459 yards with 17 touchdowns.
13. D’Angelo Brewer, Sr. Tulsa
James Flanders led the team with 1,629 yards and 18 scores, but now he’s gone and Brewer will rise up and take over the stats. Even splitting time, the 5-9, 185-pound Brewer still ran for 1,435 yards and seven touchdowns – he’s about to be a statistical superstar.
12. Larry Rose III, Sr. NMSU
He’s back. The lightning-fast 5-11, 184-pounder ran for 1,651 yards and 14 scores two years ago, but wasn’t quite right last year seeing time in just nine games running for 865 yards and four touchdowns, but still catching 25 passes. Now he appears to be ready again for a huge season.
11. L.J. Scott, Jr. Michigan State
One of the few positives last season, the 230-pound battering ram just missed hitting the 1,000-yard mark with six scores – he didn’t get the ball enough. Even so, he rolled over the second half of the season, and now he’ll get far more than 184 carries.
10. Phillip Lindsay, Sr. Colorado
The Buffs might lose a slew of key starters on the defensive side, but the offense will work just fine with the running game taking center stage. Lindsay might only be 58 and 190 pounds, but he can handle the workload with close to 300 touches, running for 1,252 yards and 16 scores and with 53 catches for 493 yards.
9. Mark Walton, Jr. Miami
Mark Richt-coached running backs tend to blow up big – and Walton will have no problems with that. A compact, quick 5-9, 205-pounder, Walton ran for 1,117 yards and 14 scores and caught 27 passes for 240 yards and a touchdown.
8. Myles Gaskin, Jr. Washington
Lost a bit in all the fireworks from Jake Browning, John Ross and the passing game – and the greatness of the UW D – was a fantastic year from the 5-10, 195-pound Gaskin, who followed up a 1,302-yard season with 1,373 yards and ten scores to go along with 19 grabs.
7. Mike Weber, Soph. Ohio State
While he might not be another Ezekiel Elliott quite yet, Weber came up with a terrific true freshman season running for 1,096 yards and nine scores, averaging over six yards per carry. He can run with power, speed, and he can catch – now he’ll be more of a workhorse.
6. Bo Scarbrough, Jr. Alabama
Yeah, this is too low if and when he’s 100% healthy. The 6-2, 228-pounder burst on the national scene in the College Football Playoff by taking over the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl in the win over Washington and with a great game against Clemson before getting hurt. However, he never ran the ball more than 19 times on the season.
5. Nick Chubb, Sr. Georgia
Back from a scary injury, he looked just fine running for 1,130 yards and eight scores. He might not have had quite the same extra gear he showed off hitting home run after home run before his injury, but he’ll once again be one of the nation’s most dangerous backs.
4. Kamryn Pettway, Jr. Auburn
Like some of the other top SEC backs, there’s a massive prove-it factor when it comes to staying healthy. But when he was right last year, the 240-pounder was devastating over a mid-season four-game stretch. If he can stay healthy, he’s a 2,000-yard threat.
3. Saquon Barkley, Jr. Penn State
Can he do it for a full year? Banged up, he still ripped off close to 1,500 yards and 18 touchdowns to go along with 28 catches for 402 yards and four touchdowns. The pros are more than ready for the combination of 223-pound size, great hands, and deadly speed. However, now he has to stay healthy and be more consistent.
2. Royce Freeman, Sr. Oregon
After a year off, get ready for a massive final season for Freeman in the Willie Taggart offense. Devastating as a sophomore, the 230-pounder ran for 1,836 yards with 17 scores to go along with a big campaign as a receiver. Banged up early, he wasn’t quite right early, last season, but he finished up roaring for a bad team with three straight 100-yard games. Expect a push for 2,000 yards and the Doak Walker.
1. Derrius Guice, Jr. LSU
Guice showed what all the fuss was about. He might not have been the recruit or the prospect Leonard Fournette was, but Guice was still a big-time get – even if the Baton Rouge native didn’t have to go far. With Fournette hurting, Guice took over with a 1,387-yard season with 15 scores, ripping apart Arkansas for 252 yards and Texas A&M for 285 along the way.
Now with Fournette off to Jacksonville, it’s Guice’s turn to be the No. 1 featured star for an offense that needs an even bigger season out of him.