This is the second in a series of posts evaluating the SEC offensive skill positions. In part I, we took a look at the SEC’s best quarterbacks.
It has been a few years since the SEC was this loaded at the running back position. A young collection stars last year, all of the backs on this list show the flair for the dynamic, game-changing play. The Crimson Tide unit is the best in the nation.
1. T.J. Yeldon, Alabama, Junior (1,235 RuYds, 14TDs in 2013) – Yeldon topped our list a year ago, and did nothing but impress. Improving both his total yards and TDs, the Alabama star showed that perfect blend of power and elusiveness. Great vision. With the loss of senior QB A.J. McCarron, the Tide might keep it on the ground even more in 2014.
2. Derrick Henry, Alabama, Sophomore (382 RuYds, 3TDs in 2013) – When given a chance to shine, Henry showed incredible burst, power and speed last season. Averaging 10.9 yards per carry on the season, Henry saved his best performance for the Sugar Bowl when he ripped Oklahoma for 161 TotYds and 2TDs. Will definitely steal carries from Yeldon in 2014.
3. Todd Gurley, Georgia, Junior (989 RuYds, 10TDs in 2013) – Slowed by injuries in 2013, Gurley lacked some of the burst late in the year and played in only 10 games. Still has 2,374 RuYds and 27 TDs in his career and will likely see more touches after the graduation of long-time QB Aaron Murray. A legit Heisman contender in 2014.
4. Mike Davis, South Carolina, Junior (1,183 RuYds, 11TDs in 2013) – We had Davis higher than most last year, and he did not disappoint. Showing tremendous strength and vision, Davis may be the most complete back of the Top 4. Caught 34 passes for another 352 RecYds a year ago.
5. Leonard Fournette, LSU, Freshman (7,619 Career RuYds, 88 TDS at St. Augustine HS, New Orleans) – The #1 ranked player in the class of 2014, Fournette finally arrives at LSU and gives Les Miles the punishing, back he has craved for years. Fournette, who was offered by LSU in the 9th grade, has tremendous power and speed and will be an impact player immediately in the SEC. An absolute bull.
6. Alex Collins, Arkansas, Sophomore (1,026 RuYds, 4TDs in 2013) – Collins was the Hogs best offensive player in 2013. With SEC defenses daring Brandon Allen to throw, Collins saw a myriad of eight and nine man fronts and still topped the 1,000-yard mark. Not a breakway threat, Alex has to show a more disciplined approach to staying in the hole and not bouncing it out too early.
7. Kenyan Drake, Alabama, Junior (694 RuYds, 8TDs in 2013) – Nobody’s giving Drake any love with Yeldon and Henry stealing the limelight. All he did in 2013 was average 7.5 yards per carry and would start for most every other team in the league. Tremendous speed and burst through the hole. One of our favorites…’Love the Drake‘.
8. Kelvin Taylor, Florida, Sophomore (508 RuYds, 4TDs in 2013) – Taylor got better as the season went on last year, and ended up being the bell cow for the Gator offense at the end. Son of former Florida and NFL great Fred Taylor, Kelvin has dropped a bit of weight and improved his speed in the offseason. A scary thought for the league’s defensive coordinators.
9. Jonathan Williams, Arkansas, Junior (900 RuYds, 4TDs in 2013) – Williams proved to be just a solid, steady presence for an Arkansas offense that wasn’t very good a year ago. Knows when to put his head down and make the tough yards between the tackles. Consistant leader for the Hogs.
10. Cameron Artis-Payne, Auburn, Senior (610 RuYds, 6TDs, in 2013) – Toiling behind last year’s stalwart Tre Mason (1,816 RuYds, 23TDs), CAP looks to step into a starting role in 2014. Will share carries with fellow senior Corey Grant and could see a challenge from five star recruit Racean Thomas in the fall. Will likely top 1,000 yard in Gus’ offense.
11. Tra Carson, Texas A&M, Junior (329 RuYds, 7TDs in 2013) – Carson was more of a short yardage vulture last year, but looks to become more of an every-down back in 2014. With Johnny Football gone, and the potential to have a true freshman start at quarterback, the Aggies may look to run it more, giving Carson, Trey Williams and Brandon Williams more chances to shine.
12. Terrence Magee, LSU, Senior (626 RuYds, 8TDs in 2013) – Magee had a nice year in 2013 averaging 7.3 yards per carry. After the graduation of QB Zach Mettenberger, the Tigers will surely keep it on the ground more in 2014. The tandem of Fournette, Magee and fellow senior Kenny Hillard should flourish.
13. Jalen Hurd, Tennessee, Freshman (3,357 RuYds, 43TDs, Junior Year, Beech Senior HS, Henderson, TN) – The second true freshman on our list, Hurd only played one game as a senior, injuring a shoulder. Despite that, he still was rated a 5-star player by all services. His size (6-3, 230) and speed will make him an impact player for the Vols who need playmakers…now. Tremendous talent.
14. Russell Hansbrough, Missouri, Junior (685 RuYds, 4TDs in 2013) – Playing behind Henry Josey last year, Hansbrough is ready to shine in 2014. Averaging 6.0 yard per carry in 2013, Hansbrough showed good speed and surprising power given his small stature (5-9, 190). Will he be able to hold up if his carries double? Will share the load with senior Marcus Murphy.
15. Racean ‘Roc’ Thomas, Auburn, Freshman (Oxford, Alabama HS) – Thomas likely will be the next big thing in Gus Malzahn’s offensive weaponry. Tremendous quickness and elusive in open space, Roc snubbed the Tide and signed with the Tigers. Great vision, and with a team/coach that will know how to use him.
Honorable Mention: Keith Marshall, Georgia; Corey Grant, Auburn; Kenny Hilliard, LSU; Jerron Seymour, Vanderbilt; Marlin Lane, Tennessee; I’Tavius Mathers, Ole Miss; Josh Robinson, Mississippi St.; Mack Brown, Florida; Brandon Wilds, South Carolina; Korliss Marshall, Arkansas; Matt Jones, Florida; Jojo Kemp, Kentucky; Marcus Murphy, Missouri; Trey Williams, Texas A&M; Braylon Heard, Kentucky; Brandon Williams, Texas A&M; David Williams, South Carolina; Brian Kimbrow, Vanderbilt.