Ranking the SEC’s running backs for 2013

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Previous Rankings:

The cupboard is slammed full of big-time running backs. The SEC is known for its defense, but get ready for some offense in 2013.

These 10 backs are ready to deliver a memorable and remarkable year. I ranked them based on how I think they’ll perform in 2013.

The kings

1. Todd Gurley, Georgia (SO)
2. TJ Yeldon, Alabama (SO)

Todd Gurley detonated the SEC last season. He was figured to be an insurance policy next to the premier back, Keith Marshall. But little did anyone know the high school track star would grip his man hands around the SEC’s horns and ride it all the way into January. He rushed for 1,385 yards and 17 touchdowns, hoisting a crazy 222 carries. No sophomore slump for Mr. Gurley…There’s seemingly no drop off from No. 1 to 2 with TJ Yeldon. He’s probably got a higher ceiling than Gurley career-wise. The former early enrollee took advantage of a vacant backup slot to Eddie Lacy and rushed for 1,108 yards and 12 touchdowns. Yeldon will be the focal point of the Tide offense in 2013, unlike Gurley, which feeds more off the passing game of Aaron Murray.

Related: Todd Gurley vs. TJ Yeldon breakdown

Super sophomores

3. Keith Marshall, Georgia (SO)
4. Matt Jones, Florida (SO)
5. Mike Davis, South Carolina (SO)

I project Keith Marshall to be the most improved back in the SEC. He should get more touches, and therefore, it will only increase his rushing yards. The duo of Marshall and Gurley is better than any backfield in the country. Marshall is the lightning to Gurley’s thunder, and Georgia is set up to have an electrifying offense in 2013…Matt Jones may not be widely known, but you’ll get a chance to see this cat this season as Florida’s featured back. Very rarely do you hear coaches, especially Will Muschamp, touting players, but the Florida staff thinks Jones is on the cusp of something special. He rushed for 275 yards and three touchdowns last season, and his O-line should be much improved…Mike Davis is much like Jones. He received playing time last season as a freshman and rushed for 275 yards in a backup role. Now, he’s clearly the leader in the Carolina backfield and primed for a breakout season. I like this kid’s game a lot.

Impact players

6. LaDarius Perkins, Mississippi State (SR)
7. Brandon Williams, Texas A&M (SO)
8. Tre Mason, Auburn (JR)
9. Kenny Hilliard, LSU (JR)
10. Jeff Scott, Ole Miss (SR)

LaDarius Perkins needs to be more involved in the MSU running game. He’s a 1,000-yard returning rusher who was, at times, underused. He leads the SEC in career active rushing yardage, and he’s one of the most versatile players in the SEC…You probably don’t know Brandon Williams outside of College Station. He transferred from OU to TAMU and sat out last season. But this kid is uber-talented and a former five-star out of high school. The Aggies’ four-headed backfield is nasty, and I like Williams to have the best year…Tre Mason was the offense’s only bright spot last season in Auburn, eclipsing the 1,000-yard mark and scoring eight touchdowns. He’ll get more opportunities in space in Gus Malzahn’s offense this season, too…With Jeremy Hill’s future in doubt, it’s Kenny Hilliard time. He’s coming off of a 464-yard performance in 2012 and primed for a big year with more touches. Hilliard has scored 15 touchdowns in two seasons…Jeff Scott is one of the top versatile offensive players. You can play him at running back or in the slot, and with Hugh Freeze’s system, it sets Scott up for big plays. He’s rushed for 1,804 yards and scored 16 touchdowns in three seasons.

Returning from injury:
Alfred Blue, LSU
Henry Josey, Missouri
Brandon Wilds, South Carolina

Steady Performers:
Jonathan George, Kentucky
Marlin Lane, Tennessee
Ben Malena, Texas A&M
Rajion Neal, Tennessee
Raymond Sanders, Kentucky
Wesley Tate, Vanderbilt

Breakout Candidates:
Cameron Artis-Payne, Auburn
Tra Carson, Texas A&M
Alex Collins, Arkansas
Mark Dodson, Ole Miss
Derrick Henry, Alabama
Alden Hill, Tennessee
Brian Kimbrow, Vanderbilt
I’Tavius Mathers, Ole Miss
Kelvin Taylor, Florida
Brandon Williams, Texas A&M
Jonathan Williams, Arkansas
Trey Williams, Texas A&M

Photo Credit: Kevin Liles-USA TODAY Sports

COMMENTS

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  • How many backs in the SEC got 1000 yards last year?, Missouri’s Lawrence did, and Henry Josey was about 15% better 20 months ago. Now he’s a junior. Murphy also showed a yards per carry average that suggest he can get over 1000 yards if he gets the ball. I don’t know how Russell Hansborough jumped over the top of them but he showed it in the spring game.

  • If Manziel sits this year, the “Williams bros.”, are going to take the top off of defenses. A&M will look a little bit less like a Houston offense and more like an Oregon offense on steroids. They have a much better offensive line than Oregon. They also have huge, physical, and aggressive receivers that block down field. Their “big” receiver formation supposedly includes Mike Evans (6’5″ 230 lbs.), Ricky Seals-Jones (6’6″ 240 lbs.), JaQuay Williams (6’3″ 210), and Cam Clear (6’6″ 270 lbs.).