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Texas A&M Football

Top to bottom: Ranking the 2020 Southeastern Conference running backs

May 8, 2020
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Almost every Southeastern Conference football program can claim at least one legendary running back.

Some might have a running back that attains iconic status this year. But who?

Will it be players who have already proved their value? Will it be a heralded newcomer that quickly lives up to their vast potential?

Will it be players that thrive in a new offense? Or those that thrive despite a new offense?

Those questions will be answered when the season starts. Until then, here is a projection the SEC’s top featured running backs in 2020:

1. Najee Harris, Alabama: Powerful and punishing, Harris rushed for 1,224 yards and 13 touchdowns last season. Most of that yardage and 12 touchdowns came in the second half of the season. Without the passing threat of Tua Tagovailoa, Harris figures to have an even more significant role in the Alabama offense.

2. Rakeem Boyd, Arkansas: Boyd is so good that, in 2019, he rushed for 1,133 yards with little help from an anemic offense. Also, his coach apparently didn’t understand how good Boyd was. Case in point: Boyd rushed for 185 yards on just eight — yes, EIGHT — carries in a 45-19 loss to Western Kentucky. A new coach and new quarterback could make Boyd more productive.

Bryan Lynn-USA TODAY Sports
Kylin Hill ran for 1,350 yards last year for the Bulldogs, but his role could change in Mike Leach’s offense.

3. Kylin Hill, Mississippi State: His decision to return for his senior season was a shock because running backs aren’t typically featured in coach Mike Leach’s system. Leach would be wise to utilize Hill often, though. Last season, he rushed for 1,350 yards and had 40 carries that went for 10 yards or more.

4. Jerrion Ealy, Ole Miss: It took a while for Ealy to get into Ole Miss’ running back rotation, but when he did, he proved to be a big-play threat. Ealy rushed for 722 yards as a freshman. More than half that production came in the Rebels’ final five games. That included games against Texas A&M, Auburn, LSU and Mississippi State. He averaged almost 7 yards per carry.

5. Larry Rountree, Missouri: As a sophomore in 2018, Rountree rushed for more than 1,200 yards. His totals declined to 829 in 2019. He needs more help, but Rountree has rushed for at least 700 yards in three consecutive seasons.

6. Isaiah Spiller, Texas A&M: As a true freshman, Spiller struggled early in SEC play. However, he closed strong and nearly reached 1,000 rushing yards. He figures to improve as a sophomore, and he better as dynamic fellow sophomore Ainias Smith makes the move to running back and will pose a challenge.

7. Zamir White, Georgia: The former five-star recruit rushed for 408 yards as a redshirt freshman in 2019, while playing behind D’Andre Swift and Brian Herrien. He figures to step into the starting lineup. Georgia has had at least one 1,000-yard rusher in each of the last six seasons. Don’t bet against White extending the streak to seven.

8. John Emery, LSU: Playing behind Clyde Edwards-Helaire, Emery accumulated just 188 rushing yards last season as a freshman. He’s a speedster with a five-star pedigree, so he figures to step in as the Tigers’ next featured back. That is if he can withstand a challenge from Tyrion Davis-Price.

9. Tank Bigsby, Auburn: Auburn typically has a strong running game. That isn’t likely to change even with the surprising announcement that JaTarvious Whitlow was transferring. The Tigers should be just fine with Bigsby, a heralded recruit who rushed for 1,636 yards and 27 touchdowns as a high school senior last year.

10. Eric Gray, Tennessee: The Volunteers likely will have Gray and Ty Chandler share the rushing load. But Gray — a sophomore in 2020 — finished his freshman year strong with 332 rushing yards and four touchdowns in final two games.

Justin Schoenemann
It is possible that North Shore’s Zach Evans could bolster Florida’s rushing attack should the five-star pick the Gators.

11. Dameon Pierce, Florida: A star recruit out of Georgia last year, Pierce rushed for 305 yards as an understudy to La’Mical Perine in 2019. He slated to take over the starting job, but that could change if Lorenzo Lingard — a transfer from Miami — gets a one-time transfer waiver to play immediately. There’s also the chance that five-star prospect Zach Evans‍ surfaces in Gainesville.

12. Asim Rose, Kentucky: A senior, Rose is looking to build on the best season of his career. He rushed for 826 yards in 2019 while sharing the load with Kavosiey Smoke and Christopher Rodriguez. He’ll still split carries, but figures to get the most work.

13. Keyon Brooks, Vanderbilt: Believe it or not, Vanderbilt has a strong recent history at running back. Zac Stacy had consecutive 1,000-yard seasons in 2011 and 2012. Ralph Webb did it in 2015 and 2016, and Ke’Shawn Vaughn accomplished the feat in both 2018 and 2019. Maybe Brooks will be next. He has a lot to prove, though. He did rush for 252 yards as a true freshman last year, including 70 yards against Tennessee.

14. Kevin Harris, South Carolina: The Gamecocks’ lost three rushers from 2019 that had completed their eligibility. Harris — a sophomore in 2020 — is back after rushing for 179 yards in his first season in Columbia. Almost all of those (147) were against Charleston Southern. He’ll have to beat out Deshaun Fenwick, who rushed for 111 yards last season, or perhaps incoming freshman MarShawn Lloyd, a four-star prospect.

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Top to bottom: Ranking the 2020 Southeastern Conference running backs

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