Ranking the SEC’s top 10 running backs for 2013


Player Rankings:

While there was much talk about the SEC quarterbacks in 2013, the running back cupboard isn’t even close to being bare. In fact, it was loaded this past season, and it will be loaded again next season.

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The SEC is known for its downhill, power running offenses, and although offenses may look slightly different with tempo or hurry-up style offenses, explosive offenses are still led by dominant running games and dominant personnel.

Let’s get down to business…

Alone at the top

1. Tre Mason, Auburn (JR)

It’s not about how or where you start; it’s about how you finish. Auburn is the biggest testament to that, and Tre Mason is the perfect example of that. Figured largely to be a top five to seven back in the SEC, Mason was somewhat overlooked headed into the season. He rushed for 1,000 yards in 2012, but he exploded into the SEC’s best back this season. The Heisman finalist rushed for 1,816 yards and 23 TDs, averaging 5.7 yards per carry, and there was no player hotter down the backstretch of the season. He rushed for over 300 in the SEC Championship and nearly rushed for 200 in the national championship. It think he ran home from Pasadena. Mason’s motor never stops.

Super sophomores

2. Jeremy Hill, LSU (SO)
3. Mike Davis, South Carolina (SO)

Although Mason was the SEC’s most prolific finisher, Jeremy Hill could have the most upside in the NFL with respect to every player on this list. Hill’s dominance in the ground game helped the Tigers’ offense blow up and become sickly balanced. He rushed for 1,401 yards and 16 TDs, while averaging a crazy 6.9 yards per carry. Hill also caught 18 passes for 181 yards…Mike Davis was the SEC’s top back midway through the season, and he’s arguably the top back returning in 2014. Davis rushed for 1,183 yards, 11 TDs and averaged 5.8 yards per carry. Davis was the SEC’s only back to rush for two 70-plus yard plays during the season. He’s tough; he’s physical, and he also caught 34 passes for 352 yards. That’s a deadly combination.

Related: LSU getting wiped out again by the NFL Draft

Two horses

4. Henry Josey, Missouri (JR)
5. Todd Gurley, Georgia (SO)

Missouri’s Henry Josey was the lifeblood of the SEC’s second best running game. Josey averaged a gaudy 6.7 yards per carry, rushing for 1,166 yards and 16 TDs. Josey was the SEC’s Comeback Player of the Year after he missed the 2012 season due to a horrific knee injury. Josey’s speed, vision and burst were obvious, and all SEC fans should root for this young man at the next level. What a season!…Todd Gurley is the country’s best running back when healthy, but the problem was he struggled to stay healthy in 2013. Gurley missed – all total – about four games due to an ankle injury. He finished just shy of 1,000 yards with 989 and 10 TDs. Georgia’s bully will be the game plan in 2014, assuming he stays healthy.

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Next tier

6. TJ Yeldon, Alabama (SO)
7. Alex Collins, Arkansas (FR)
8. Rajion Neal, Tennessee (SR)

TJ Yeldon is as talented as any back in the country. I thought – at times – Kenyan Drake was more of a spark pug, and Derrick Henry’s emergence in the Sugar Bowl was awe-striking. Yeldon still rushed for 1,235 yards and 14 TDs, but he had major fumbling issues at critical times throughout the season. Yes, Yeldon has tremendous upside and ability, but he has to hold onto the ball much better…Arkansas’ prolific freshman Alex Collins lived up to the hype. When everyone knew what was coming, Collins still ran it effectively. He received 190 carries this year for 1,026 yards and four TDs. The lack of touchdown numbers had more to do with no passing game…Rajion Neal quietly had a great season for Tennessee, and he was the offense this year. The Vols got very little production from the passing game, and Neal still rushed for 1,124 yards and 12 TDs, averaging over five yards per carry.

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No. 2 option

9. Kenyan Drake, Alabama (SO)
10. Terrance Magee, LSU (JR)

Kenyan Drake was Alabama’s spark plug during 2013. Yes, TJ Yeldon was the featured back, but Drake was a nice changeup. Drake’s absence in the Sugar Bowl gave way to Henry’s emergence, though. Drake rushed for 694 yards and eight TDs, averaging 7.5 yards per carry. He’s faster than Yeldon, but maybe he doesn’t ooze with talent like Yeldon, nor is he the total package like Yeldon…Terrance Magee quietly became LSU’s No. 2 back behind Hill, and Magee was the versatile back Les Miles and Cam Cameron love on their offensive team. Magee rushed for 626 yards and eight TDs, averaging 7.3 yards per carry. It’s hard to justify taking the ball out of Hill’s hands, but Magee proved he’s worthy of carries.

Related: Arkansas’ DC bolts back to the Big Ten

Photo Credit: Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports



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  • 1. T.J. Yeldon
    2. Derrick Henry
    3, Kenyan Drake
    4. Altee Tenpenny
    5. Bo Scarborough
    6. Tyren Jones
    7. Alvin Kamara
    7-9. Everybody else…

  • Meh, I’d still put an unhealthy Gurley over Hill and Josey, but that’s just my biased little opinion.

      • now you’re just being stupid. that burst of speed is unlike anything I’ve ever seen and the most beautiful running I’ve seen since Barry Sanders. sure powerful backs are fun too but watching Hemry run was a thing of beauty. it seemed like he hit the holes before the light

        • remember how you scoffed when I told Josey would outperform Gurley in the preseason. I do. now look out for Hansbrough.! go ahead, scoff some more.

        • Scoff! :)

          I know stats aren’t everything, but consider this: as the article says, Gurley missed about 4 games due to his injury, but Josey still only gained 177 more yards on the ground. Plus, Gurley far surpassed Josey’s receiving yards (400+ for Gurley to <100 for Josey). So, Gurley outgained Josey in total yards despite missing 4 games. Consider that, plus Josey not having much better top end speed (if better at all…Gurley is deceptively fast) and Josey's only advantage is his burst and agility, which I would agree are both better than Gurley's. At the end of the day, it's hard to compare the two because of their different styles, but again this is just opinion: Gurley is, hands down, the better overall back.

          Scoff away yourself.

        • Zou fans must be on some crazy kool-aid…..hahahaha he compared him to barry sanders….

        • Did you really compare Josey top Barry? Holy crap man. Did they make pot legal in Missouri now too?

  • In 2011 Pinkel had this thing in his head that whoever won the starting job was going to get the ball enough to pile up Heisman trophy stats. Lawrence looked like the star, but Josey took his job away early in the year and went on to be THE all-big 12 running back even though his missed a lot of carries early in the year and all of the last 4 games. Lawrence put up some pretty big stats in 2012 behind the blocking of the 2nd and 3rd depth chart offensive linemen, because Pinkel didn’t have Hansborough or big man White ready. In 2013 Pinkel wisely changed his strategy. He gave the ball to Josey, Murphy, and Hansborough, I think White and Steward were still fumbling too much. Point is Josey is faster, more explosive and could have piled up bigger numbers than everybody on this list. So make the list anyway you like it but Josey’s total yards and Murphy’s yard’s per carry combined with total yard speak for themselves.

  • I put Arkansas’ other RB, Jonathon Williams, ahead of Drake or Magee. Williams almost had 1,000 yards too.

    • Yeah, two running backs from the sickest team in the SEC. Sounds like a good plan. I guess Drake’s 7.5 ypc is meaningless in comparison to Williams’ 6.0, Drake carried the ball 92 times to Williams’ 150, yet doubled up his touchdown total as well.

      • Look on just about every other “Best of” SDS post. They all have this guy spouting Arkansas players. It is amazing they didn’t win every SEC game this year…….wait……did they win ANY?

  • Mizzou made Tre Mason the best running back in the SEC in one game… How the hell do you give up over 300 yards to one back.. I hear he is still running. TG2 is the best back in the SEC

  • Jon,
    I’ll be honest- when I first saw these predictions I was gonna go nuke on you. However, after re-stabilizing my blood pressure, I kinda regained my composure…..BUT you don’t find Derrick Henry’s 10.91 avg per carry this past season even noteworthy ? C’mon man……
    That being said, hide and watch what happens in 2014…… and remember- you heard it here first.

    • Thanks for sparing me, Dave. No, I certainly think Henry’s a beast, but he ran for only 380 yards, hardly the sample size of any of the other backs on the list.

  • first of all Josey had to share the ball with 8 receivers two other running backs and to running quarterbacks and still had better stats. and I compared the beauty of the way he runs to that of Barry Sanders. not his ability. and I realize get your education system down there is subpar is best so I understand why it was difficult for you to understand what I was saying.

    • Crap! I totally forgot that Gurley didn’t have to share carries with other RBs, too, and didn’t have to share productivity with a QB who has the most passing yardage in SEC history. I guess you got me on those points.
      Anyway, agree to disagree.

    • Our education system is better than yours? Georgia is a better school than Missouri. And Gurley had more yards, more touchdowns so I honestly don’t know what you could be arguing. How many games did Josey miss?

    • Are you really bashing the Georgia education system while using bad grammar, connotation and incorrect capitalizations? You did capitalize one word, Josey, I mean Sanders, or whatever it was. Mizzou had a great season, adn beat UGA as well, so no arguing that. Do that year in and out, then we will see. We all have zero wins now. Also, Josey is gone, so you need to worry about who you have to puff up this year.

  • it was obviously too cerebral for you

  • Auburn’s running game is certainly more superior than that of Missouri. maybe that’s why they finished 1st and mizzou 2nd in running games. again it takes a developed brain to realize this. I didn’t say Henry was the best running back. I said ” it was a thing of beauty”. sure you can read but too many people cannot understand what they’re reading.

  • and I realize the grammar doesn’t look right but that’s my phones in inferior voice to text translation that should not be considered a knock on my superior high school education.

  • No one giving any love to Mike Davis, who led the league for over 80% of last season, and who will be returning healthy for the 2014 season. Seems reasonable when no one gives any love to South Carolina in general, even though they finished this season 4th in the nation, and for the third year in a row 11-2. See ya when the playoffs begin!

    • You are totally correct! They kept us out of the BCS games, althought as Spurrier pointed out, we beat Missouri, Central Florida and Clemson. So, I agree, See Ya when the 2014 playoffs begin!

      • no doubt. I think SC is the team to beat for the east next year. this sec is just loaded with running backs and Mike is certainly one of the better ones. whilel Missouri may not have a top running back in the league I hope we continue to be one of the top running teams. depending on how to Georgia and Florida bounce back I think MU could finish second next year. I wonder Vanderbilt will fall off some and I expect Tenn to make some headway. but really I think Tennessee is two seasons away from being a top contender.

      • I definitely respect SC

  • Mike Davis faded badly in the second half of the season, and has no business at #3.

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