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College Football's Top 30 Running Back Units for 2022

Bijan Robinson, Texas Longhorns Football

With the 2022 college football season less than two weeks away, it's time to hand out preseason hardware and honor the best running back units for the upcoming year. While every college football team would prefer to have an established, superstar No. 1 running back, a committee of options has proven to be just as effective, especially to save wear and tear on the starter. However, for this exercise, a committee of backs versus one clear-cut starter doesn't make for an easy ranking. Behind Bijan Robinson, Texas takes the top spot in the running back unit rankings for 2022, followed by Ohio State and Alabama in the top three. Appalachian State returns the deepest backfield at the Group of 5 level this fall.

How did we come up with these rankings? Several factors were considered. Depth, overall talent, production, level of competition and projected output in 2022 all factored into the rankings for the backfield. These rankings reflect projection for 2022, not solely what teams have accomplished in 2021. Additionally, we tried to weigh having one standout player without much depth, as opposed to teams with multiple proven options.

2022 Unit Rankings: RB I WR I OL I DL I LB I DB

College Football's Top 30 Running Back Units for 2022

1. Texas
Bijan Robinson headlines the backfield once again for coach Steve Sarkisian after rushing for 1,127 yards and 11 touchdowns on just 195 attempts last year. Robinson produced 100-yard performances in six out of Texas’ first seven games and chipped in 26 catches for 295 yards and four scores in 10 contests. The junior is the No. 1 running back in college football for 2022. He’s supported by ample depth, including Roschon Johnson (569 yards in ’21), Keilan Robinson (322), Jonathon Brooks (143), and incoming freshman Jaydon Blue.

Related: Ranking All 131 College Football Teams for 2022

2. Ohio State
Whether it’s through the air with C.J. Stroud and a deep collection of receivers or on the ground with TreVeyon Henderson, the Buckeyes will be a nightmare for opposing defenses to stop in 2022. Henderson won the starting job as a true freshman last season, rushing for 1,255 yards and 15 touchdowns on just 184 carries. In addition to his six rushes of 40-plus yards, Henderson contributed 27 receptions for 312 yards and four scores. Miyan Williams (7.1 yards per carry) flashed as the No. 2 option with 507 yards and three scores. Evan Pryor – a member of the 2021 recruiting class with Henderson – ran for 98 yards and a touchdown on 21 attempts last year. Pryor was slated to work as the No. 3 back but suffered a season-ending injury in fall practice. Freshman Dallan Hayden could be the team’s No. 3 back with Pryor out for the season.

3. Alabama
Talent is never a concern in Tuscaloosa. Despite losing Brian Robinson (1,343 yards) to the NFL, the Crimson Tide will simply reload with the next wave of stars. Trey Sanders (314 yards) is back, but Georgia Tech transfer Jahmyr Gibbs (2,773 all-purpose yards in the last two years) is expected to be the team’s No. 1 back. Gibbs was explosive (8.6 yards per touch) in just over 300 touches with the Yellow Jackets and is another big-time addition to an already high-powered offense. Sanders, Jase McClellan and Roydell Williams return as experienced options for coordinator Bill O’Brien, but incoming freshmen Emmanuel Henderson and Jamarion Miller will push for snaps.

4. Wisconsin
Braelon Allen emerged as Wisconsin’s next star running back as a true freshman last fall, running for 1,268 yards and 12 touchdowns over 186 attempts. Allen recorded just 12 carries over the Badgers’ first four games but posted at least 104 yards in eight of the team’s final nine contests. Clemson transfer Chez Mellusi opened ’21 as the starter and ran for 815 yards and five scores before suffering a season-ending injury on Nov. 6 against Rutgers. Isaac Guerendo is likely to work as the team’s No. 3 back.

Related: Ranking All 131 Quarterbacks for 2022

5. Georgia
Zamir White and James Cook departed Athens after combining for 18 rushing scores and 1,584 yards last season. However, as usual at Georgia when it comes to running backs, the cupboard isn’t bare. Kenny McIntosh (330 yards), Kendall Milton (264), and Daijun Edwards (215) are set to step into the top roles in the backfield. Also, four-star prospect Branson Robinson has generated plenty of buzz this offseason and could work his way into a role. Both McIntosh and Milton ranked as four-star prospects coming out of high school and are ready for a bigger role in the Bulldogs’ offense.

6. Utah
The emergence of Tavion Thomas and quarterback Cameron Rising after Utah’s loss to San Diego State were two of the driving forces behind Utah’s surge to the Pac-12 title last fall. After recording just 21 carries over the team’s first four games, Thomas ran for 974 yards and 19 touchdowns over his next nine appearances. The Ohio native pounded UCLA for 160 yards and four touchdowns and posted four scores again in Utah’s 52-7 blowout over Stanford. Micah Bernard (523 yards) is back to compete for a backup role behind Thomas. However, true freshman Jaylon Glover is a name to watch.

7. Michigan
The Wolverines will miss the power running of Hassan Haskins (1,327 yards), but the Big Ten’s No. 1 rushing attack shouldn’t slip in production. Blake Corum nearly rushed for 1,000 yards (952) despite missing two games due to injury and just 15 carries over his final four appearances. Donovan Edwards – the No. 4 running back recruit in the ’21 signing class – is primed for a bigger role after rushing for 174 yards and three touchdowns, catching 20 passes for 265 yards, and throwing a 75-yard touchdown pass as a freshman. Linebacker Kalel Mullings could see some work as the No. 3 option.

Related: College Football's Top Impact Transfer QBs for 2022

8. Minnesota
Assuming Mohamed Ibrahim is back to 100 percent after an Achilles tear suffered in last year’s season opener, this might be too low for Minnesota on this list. Ibrahim ran for more than 1,000 yards in the shortened ’20 season, which was his second such campaign after posting 1,160 as a freshman in ’18. Bryce Williams (186 yards) and Trey Potts (552) are back to provide depth behind Ibrahim.

9. Auburn
Considering the question marks surrounding Auburn’s quarterbacks and passing game this fall, the ground game should be the focal point of coach Bryan Harsin’s offense. Tank Bigsby ran for 834 yards and five touchdowns in an impressive debut in 2020 and took a step forward last fall by adding 1,099 yards and 10 scores on 223 attempts. Jarquez Hunter did a nice job of spelling Bigsby last season, recording 593 yards and three touchdowns over 89 carries. Jordon Ingram, Sean Jackson and incoming freshman Damari Alston are slated to battle for the No. 3 role.

10. Texas A&M
Technically, Devon Achane may have already had his breakout season (ran for 910 yards and nine scores last year). But if the college football world wasn’t familiar with him yet, they will be after ’22. Achane should easily eclipse 1,000 yards as Texas A&M’s No. 1 back after Isaiah Spiller departed for the NFL. The junior won’t have to handle all of the carries, however. Amari Daniels, LJ Johnson, Earnest Crownover and incoming freshman Le’Veon Moss provide a deep stable of options to provide support.

11. Syracuse
Sean Tucker ranked fourth in rushing yards a game (124.7) last season and accumulated 1,496 yards and 12 scores over 12 appearances. He’s the focal point of the Syracuse offense once again. New Mexico State transfer Juwaun Price or freshman LeQuint Allen will spell Tucker as needed.

Related: College Football's Most Improved Teams for 2022

12. Kentucky
The Wildcats have plenty of options here, but the uncertainty surrounding the status of Chris Rodriguez Jr. knocks them down a bit in our rankings. If Rodriguez plays all season, then No. 11 is too low. Kavosiey Smoke (416 yards in ’21), JuTahn McClain (165), and Sam Houston transfer Ramon Jefferson are slated to battle for the backup roles or the chance to take over as No. 1 should Rodriguez miss a chunk of action.

13. Appalachian State
Nate Noel and Camerun Peoples are back after combining for 2,052 rushing yards and 18 touchdowns last fall. Anderson Castle, Daetrich Harrington and Wake Forest transfer Ahmani Marshall provide depth.

14. USC
Transfers Travis Dye (Oregon) and Austin Jones (Stanford) provide more ball-carrying options for new coach Lincoln Riley’s offense. Also, touted freshman Raleek Brown is already poised to make an impact in his first season on campus.

15. Clemson
A full season from Will Shipley (739 yards) should make a big difference for Clemson's offense this fall. Also, there's quality depth with Kobe Pace and Phil Mafah. The backfield is the strength of the Tigers' 2022 offense.

16. Air Force
17. Kansas State
18. UCLA
19. Central Michigan
20. Arkansas
21. Ole Miss
22. UAB
23. Illinois
24. Miami
25. UCF
26. Penn State
27. Army
28. Oklahoma
29. Michigan State
30. Kent State

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