Ranking the SEC's Running Backs for 2015

Georgia's Nick Chubb takes the No. 1 spot.

The SEC could be the nation’s best conference for running backs in 2015. Georgia’s Nick Chubb should be a first-team All-American, while LSU’s Leonard Fournette and Alabama’s Derrick Henry should be in the mix for second or third-team honors.

 

And the depth in the conference extends past the top three names with the nation’s top running back duo in Arkansas’ Jonathan Williams and Alex Collins, while Missouri’s Russell Hansbrough is an underrated player after topping 1,000 yards in 2014.

 

To help compile the rankings, there was some projection involved for 2015. This was not a ranking of running backs only based on accomplishments so far or pro potential. All factors - pure talent, supporting cast, 2015 projection and scheme changes (just to name a few) - were considered and projected to rank the running backs in the SEC for 2015.

 

Ranking the SEC’s Running Backs for 2015

 

1. Nick Chubb, Georgia

2015 Year of Eligibility: Sophomore

 

Georgia’s rushing attack never missed a beat despite losing Todd Gurley to a suspension and torn ACL in 2014. Chubb emerged as one of the nation’s top running backs over the second half of last season, finishing the 2014 campaign with 1,547 yards and 14 scores. The five-star recruit in the 2014 signing class averaged 165.4 rushing yards over the final eight games.

 

Related: Ranking the SEC's College Towns for 2015

 

2. Leonard Fournette, LSU

2015 Year of Eligibility: Sophomore

 

Fournette ranked as the No. 1 player in the 2014 247Sports Composite and showcased his talent by finishing the year with 1,034 yards and 10 scores. Both of those totals led all LSU rushers, while his 5.5 yards per carry average ranked fifth among SEC backs with at least 180 carries. Fournette recorded only 187 carries last year, so there’s an opportunity to increase his workload by at least 50 attempts in 2015.

 

3. Derrick Henry, Alabama

2015 Year of Eligibility: Junior

 

With T.J. Yeldon off to the NFL, Henry is ready for his chance to be the No. 1 back in Tuscaloosa. The Florida native led Alabama with 990 rushing yards on 172 attempts last season and tied with Yeldon with 11 rushing scores. Expect Henry to eclipse 200 carries and reach 1,000 yards in his junior campaign. At 6-foot-3 and 242 pounds, Henry is one of the most physically gifted runners in the nation.

 

Related: Alabama's Nick Saban is the SEC's No. 1 Coach for 2015

 

4. Jonathan Williams, Arkansas

2015 Year of Eligibility: Senior

 

Williams and teammate Alex Collins are essentially 4a and 4b here. Williams led the Razorbacks with 1,190 yards last season and edged Collins in yards per carry (5.6 to 5.4). The senior also rushed for more yards in SEC games than Collins (575 to 520) and finished the 2014 season by recording 105 yards on 23 attempts against Texas in the Texas Bowl.

Related: Arkansas Razorbacks 2015 Schedule Analysis

 

5. Alex Collins, Arkansas

2015 Year of Eligibility: Junior

 

As we mentioned above, it’s essentially a coin flip between Williams and Collins for the No. 4 spot. Collins led Arkansas with 1,026 yards in 2013 but finished 90 yards behind Williams (1,190 to 1,100) in 2014. The Florida native recorded only one 100-yard effort in SEC games last season and scored in eight out of Arkansas’ 13 contests in 2014.

 

6. Russell Hansbrough, Missouri

2015 Year of Eligibility: Senior

 

Hansbrough was one of only seven running backs in the SEC to reach 1,000 yards last year and might be the conference’s most underrated rusher. In 14 games, Hansbrough rushed for 1,084 yards and 10 scores last season and recorded four 100-yard efforts. He also finished the year on a high note, rushing for 114 yards on 15 attempts against Minnesota in the Citrus Bowl.

 

7. Jalen Hurd, Tennessee

2015 Year of Eligibility: Sophomore

 

Hurd ranked as the No. 40 recruit in the 2014 247Sports Composite and led the Tennessee rushing attack with 899 yards in his true freshman season. The Tennessee native was also a valuable pass catcher out of the backfield by grabbing 35 receptions for 221 yards and two scores. Hurd is expected to remain the No. 1 back for the Volunteers, but after the offense generated only 11 rushing plays of 20 yards or more last season, expect to see junior college recruit (and former Alabama running back) Alvin Kamara heavily involved in 2015.

 

8. Boom Williams, Kentucky

2015 Year of Eligibility: Sophomore

 

Looking for the SEC’s next breakout star at running back? Take a look at Kentucky’s Boom Williams. The Georgia native is due for a bigger role in the backfield after leading the Wildcats with 486 rushing yards and five scores on just 74 carries in 2014. Williams had only two games of more than 10 carries, including the season finale against Louisville (18 carries for 126 yards). He also averaged 10.5 yards per play last year and emerged as an all-purpose threat with game-changing ability on kickoffs and as a receiver.

 

9. Ralph Webb, Vanderbilt

2015 Year of Eligibility: Sophomore

 

Vanderbilt’s offense struggled mightily last season, averaging only 12.8 points per game in SEC contests. But Webb was a bright spot for coach Derek Mason, leading the Commodores with 907 rushing yards. Webb also led the team with four rushing scores and added 10 receptions. Vanderbilt’s offense still has a lot of question marks entering 2015, but Mason and new coordinator Andy Ludwig can rely on Webb for a 1,000-yard season.

 

10. Jovon Robinson, Auburn

2015 Year of Eligibility: Junior

 

Robinson isn’t guaranteed to be the starter with Peyton Barber and Roc Thomas also pushing for snaps, but the junior college transfer was a huge pickup for coach Gus Malzahn on the recruiting trail. Robinson ranked as the No. 1 junior college product by 247Sports and was the 2013 NJCAA national player in the year after rushing for 2,387 yards and 34 touchdowns. He was also a four-star recruit coming out of high school, so talent certainly isn’t an issue for Robinson. And with a standout offensive line in place, Robinson could have a huge season – if he’s able to approach 200 carries.

 

Related: Auburn's Jeremy Johnson Ranks as the SEC's No. 2 QB for 2015

 

Other SEC Running Backs to Watch in 2015

 

Peyton Barber/Roc Thomas, Auburn

Jovon Robinson is expected to start, but Barber and Thomas will see their share of opportunities.

 

Tra Carson, Texas A&M

The Aggies ranked 13th in the SEC in rushing attempts last season, so opportunities are limited for the backs. Carson led the team with 581 rushing yards in 2014, and the 235-pound senior will headline the Texas A&M rushing attack once again.

 

Kenyan Drake, Alabama

Drake was off to a fast start in 2014 (271 total yards in five games) but suffered a season-ending leg injury against Florida. If he’s at full strength in 2015, Drake could be a top 10 running back in the SEC this year.

 

Alvin Kamara, Tennessee

Former Alabama running back is back in the SEC after a stint at Hutchinson Community College. Jalen Hurd is still Tennessee’s starter, but Kamara is going to see plenty of opportunities.

 

Keith Marshall/Sony Michel, Georgia

Injuries have limited Marshall to just eight games over the last two seasons. But if he’s healthy, he should team with Sony Michel to provide depth to spell starter Nick Chubb.

 

Ashton Shumpert/Aeris Williams, Mississippi State

Josh Robinson departs after rushing for 1,203 yards in 2014, but Mississippi State is still in good shape at running back. Shumpert rushed for 232 yards over the final five games last season, while Williams ranked as the No. 254 recruit in the 2014 247Sports Composite.

 

Kelvin Taylor, Florida

With Matt Jones leaving for the NFL, Taylor is set to assume the top spot in Florida’s backfield. As a sophomore in 2014, Taylor rushed for 565 yards and six scores. How high Taylor climbs on this list will largely depend on an offensive line that is a major question mark in 2015.

 

Jaylen Walton, Ole Miss

The Rebels need more production from their rushing attack after averaging only 143.4 rushing yards in SEC contests last year. Walton led the team with 586 yards in 2014 but will be pushed for snaps by Akeem Judd.

 

David Williams, South Carolina

Brandon Wilds is expected to begin the starter, but Williams is a name to remember after averaging 5.7 yards per carry on 45 attempts last year.

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